Neil Davey 7 Mar 2018 01:06pm

The best DIY restaurants

Neil Davey explores some top spots to get your three square meals this month
Caption: We explore where to get your three square meals this month


The Bertinet Bakery Cafe
Bath, UK

French baker Richard Bertinet runs courses that will improve your breadmaking at Bertinet Kitchen. Meanwhile, at the Bertinet Bakery Cafe, they sell the pro’s products. Rather brilliantly, given the potential preferences for every individual, they don’t serve toast: they deliver fat slices of bread that you singe yourself with an on-table Dualit toaster.


Shu Xiangge Chinatown
Soho, London

When it comes to DIY dining, few are as traditional, delightfully messy or delicious as
the hot pot. No, not Lancashire’s finest: it’s the Chinese art of dunking assorted raw foodstuffs into a cauldron of bubbling stock. The stock cooks the raw ingredients, the raw ingredients flavour the stock. It’s a great communal experience. And the more people involved, the more flavoursome the result.

In most cases, you can split the cauldron into two, allowing for a spicy side and a more sedate option. You order your chosen morsels – sliced meats, raw prawns, bits of squid, mushrooms, noodles, vegetables – drop them in, let them simmer, fish them out and revel in the spicy steaminess of it all.

Recently a few places have attempted to rebrand hot pot as a slick, modern thing – Shuang Shuang for example – but this is one style of dining where there’s no school like the old school and one of the best examples has long been Shu Xiangge in New Oxford Street. Service can be abrupt and the cash-only philosophy off-putting, but the lengthy queue and high percentage of Chinese customers speak
volumes about the terrific food. And now they have recently opened a second, more salubrious, more spacious and, dare we say it, friendlier outpost in Gerrard Street.

Shu Xiangge Chinatown’s hot pot comes with a few twists. The raw ingredients list is more
a novella, with some 80 items to choose from. These cover the conventional meats and cuts,
a lot of seafood and strong vegetable and tofu offerings, but also goes off at quite the tangent, from the luxurious – Wagyu beef, anyone? – to the economic and eclectic with options including beef tendon, ox tongue, brains and aorta.

The other big twist is that you’re not restricted to two stocks, and only cooking a couple of items at a time, thanks to nine-grid pots. For those seeking the communal eating experience, it’s a fine innovation. One word of warning: the spicy beef fat oil broth is seriously hot. For those who like their food with an endorphin rush though, it’s great.

Our advice? Go, take as many colleagues as you can muster – but leave the ties and scarves in the office.


Blackfriars Restaurant & Banquet Hall
Newcastle, UK

This converted 13th century friary houses a cookery school, including a Wednesday night casual class that covers some crowd pleasing subjects – pies, pudding, Italian to name but three – in very friendly, relaxed group sessions that will improve your skills and confidence, and send you home with enough food for supper.