Printroom Café and Bar, The Storey, Lancaster
In the 19th century, Sir Thomas Storey was a great benefactor of the city of Lancaster. One of his most impressive gifts was the Storey Institute, which now houses a technical institute, a free library, reading rooms and this rather excellent café and meeting place. Sample a decent bacon roll, the city’s best coffee, and some terrific made-on-site cakes.
The Library Restaurant, Norwich
Husband and wife team Nigel and Jayne Raffles have been running restaurants in Norwich for just over a quarter of a century. At the Library Restaurant the menu may jump around the continents (baked Vietnamese eggs rub shoulders with cassoulet) but dishes are smartly executed and the prix fixe lunch – two courses, £10.95 – is a bargain.
Hide, Piccadilly, London
Much has been written about Hide, wunderkind Ollie Dabbous’s new venture with Mayfair’s decadent and aptly named Hedonism Wines. The wine list includes everything available at Hedonism’s nearby store and yes, it’s easy to go a little crazy. However, exercise some willpower, or explore the menu more thoroughly, and you’ll quickly be reminded why Dabbous got a rare five-star review from Fay Maschler for his first restaurant, with a Michelin star following swiftly after. This new restaurant is a spectacular space, dominated by an incredible staircase, and split into three levels. “Above” is home to tasting menus (and a very good value set lunch).
“Ground” is an all day eating space serving from breakfast to dinner, while “Below” is home to a basement bar – you can imagine the quality of the spirits list – and three of the restaurant’s five private dining rooms, including the Reading Room. The menu for the Reading Room comes from Ground and what a menu it is. I dined with another former Michelin-starred chef in the process of opening a new place. After his first bite of home-cured goose charcuterie, with sage and fenugreek, he simply laughed, shook his head, and declared he’d be bringing all of his team in to see this.
Dabbous’s skill is in taking the familiar and elevating it with the simple application of some highly unusual ingredients – toasted asparagus with meadowsweet and hay buttermilk, for example, or beef tartare with tobacco, nasturtium and molasses. How about tarte fine of Kentish apples, homemade black pudding and mustard crème? Confused by the dishes? The staff are impeccable, calm, friendly, knowledgeable and carry out their tasks without an ounce of sanctimony.
The attention to detail is stunning too: order from the soft serve ice cream menu – and you should, because, well, sheep’s milk ice cream, fresh sorrel juice, rose petals and meringue – and your metal spoon will be replaced with a wooden one because metal conducts too much heat and will melt it too quickly. And if you thought the cronut picked up cult status, wait until you try the warm acorn cake, with smoked caramel and choice of liqueur. If there’s a better new opening in London – or anywhere – this year, I’d be very surprised. Dazzling.