Quo Vadis Soho, London
A Soho stalwart since the 1920s, this dramatic building was the epitome of 1990s celeb culture, thanks to then-owners Marco Pierre White and Damien Hirst. New owners Sam and Eddie Hart and, particularly, chef Jeremy Lee, serve up a simple celebration of classic dishes and comfort eating to kick-start any morning and bring a smile to the most Monday of faces.
The Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire
Heston Blumenthal’s experimental cooking at The Fat Duck put the British culinary scene firmly on the world map. These days lunch is the perfect time to visit as it leaves you several hours to digest your epic, multi-course tasting menu and to process what just happened. It may be much imitated, it may be expensive, but, seriously, you’ve got to do it.
Number One, Edinburgh
Celebrating 20 years – and 12 years of its Michelin star – Edinburgh’s Number One restaurant is, arguably, Edinburgh’s number one restaurant.
While the name refers to the address of The Balmoral Hotel, where executive chef Jeff Bland and head chef Brian Grigor’s deeply consistent restaurant can be found, the moniker is clearly apt. It may have sounded boastful in 1997, shortly after Sir Rocco Forte purchased the hotel, but then there wasn’t much competition. These days Edinburgh’s a very different kettle of locally-sourced fish – Timberyard, Ondine, The Dogs, Tom Kitchin’s restaurants, the brilliant Mark Greenaway to name but a few – but Grigor’s place continues to deliver, and in relaxed surroundings that don’t feel like a hotel restaurant.
While techniques nod to the French, the ingredients celebrate the Scottish “larder” and, at the right times of year, a generous selection of game – unsurprising as Grigor comes from a family of gamekeepers.
That sort of family connection is also what removes a lot of stuffiness from Number One. It may be an altar to world-class ingredients but it’s also a genuinely relaxed experience: no wonder so many of the staff have been here for years.
The Balmoral’s Tomatin smoked salmon is as mellow and fruity as the whisky that lends it its name, and as decadent as anything else so royally titled.
Elsewhere, wild turbot and beef fillet may be gilded with assorted culinary “trickery” – spring tabbouleh and lemongrass with the fish, hay cooked short rib and bone marrow fondant with the beef – but these sleights of hand are simply there to let the main ingredient shine.
The Scottish reputation for a general lack of vegetables and fruit is one of those silly, annoying myths. Scottish produce – berries and rhubarb in particular – are some of the world’s best, so even a vegetarian can eat contentedly here. A beetroot dish – with goat’s curd, onion ash and beetroot sorbet – looks suitably regal and purple, but could almost convert a carnivore to the cause. Mind you, a cracking little haggis truffle surprise will drag them straight back…
Cooking is assured, service is confident, the sommelier’s matches and general suggestions throw up some gems and the cheeseboard is really rather fine as well. Number One is simply a very good restaurant.
Dish of the day
Hand-dived scallops are among the locally-sourced but world-class ingredients on offer.