What kind of establishment can edit the best restaurants in the UK? For us, they have to be places worth travelling to – the kind of places you can get to by train, road trip or even boat, and worth waiting weeks (sometimes months) to book. They don’t need to earn a Michelin star (though many on this list have at least one) or be expensive (though many on this list are special occasion, budget experiences).

Really, when we hand-pick the best restaurants in the UK, we’re looking for spaces that push culinary boundaries; that might take diners from Oxfordshire or mid-Wales to Japan or France, or keep them firmly rooted in the restaurant’s location. Some are newer names, some have stood the test of time – but all are places that Condé Nast Traveler editors will return to – time and time again.

The best restaurants in the UK right now

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, A Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire

Back in 1984, when Raymond Blanc opened Le Manoir in Oxfordshire, sustainable cooking and low-waste menus were still a pretty radical hippie concept. Fast forward nearly 40 years and things have changed – but Blanc continues to push the boundaries at his decades-old country house hotel and fine dining restaurant of the same name. It has two Michelin stars, as it earned them within a year of opening (still a feat), but those stars aren’t what draws people back here.

The restaurant is beautiful – glass walls overlook the lawn and vegetable patch where most of the produce used in the kitchen is grown. The seven-course tasting menu is completely seasonally driven, as its name suggests. It might include butter-soft Scottish langoustine, creamy truffle risotto and decadent roasted pigeon, or melted Wagyu beef. Many diners choose to extend their evenings to overnight stays. The hotel’s rooms are as mouth-watering as the restaurant’s tables. All of them are different and inspired by Blanc’s travels. Breakfast the next morning is a far more relaxed affair (while you’re here, indulge and order an exemplary full English breakfast) and don’t sleep in on one of the daily excursions led by a smiling gardening team.

Address: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD
Website: belmond.com

Opheem, Birmingham

Birmingham is hardly a fertile breeding ground for legendary cuisine. But times are changing; the city’s culinary stature is on the rise, and a few restaurants that were quietly making waves have turned into a large group of bookable tables. Opheem, located in the city center, is run by Aktar Islam, who grew up in Aston, Birmingham’s inner city, and cooked in his father’s restaurant, which opened after his parents moved to England from Bangladesh.

The 10-course and five-course tasting menus have earned the place a Michelin star – the cooking style and ingredients dance across the Indian subcontinent, and the menu runs throughout the geographical touch points. A Bengali-inspired dish might pair Orkey scallops with mooli (also known as radish) and apples, while a dish borrowed from Kerala cuisine might combine Cornish cod with curried brown prawns, daikon and raw mangoes. It’s a place to test the boundaries of what you think you know about Indian cooking.

Address: Opheem, 65 Summer Row, Birmingham B3 1JJ
Website: opheem.com

The Black Swan at Oldstead, York

Chef Tommy Banks, 34, was awarded a Michelin star here in 2012 – making him the youngest chef in the UK to receive the award at the time. While he may be front and center, Black Swan is largely a family affair. His farmer father, Tom, tended the two-acre vegetable garden, his mother, Anne, looked after the bar’s bedrooms and his brother, James, was front of house. The ingredient-driven 12-course tasting menu is constantly changing (you may find one of the chefs picking the last herb outside just minutes before the dish is served).

The tasting menu (£175 per person) might include miso ankang, pork with radish and black apple and beet and goat curd – simple, local ingredients cooked very, very well. Even the sourdough bread is delicious. Nine bedrooms to shake things up after dinner; a bar serving pre-dinner cocktails – this is not a one-time dining destination; more places to spend the weekend. Tabitha Joyce

Address: The Black Swan at Oldstead, Oldstead, York YO61 4BL
Website: blackswanoldstead.co.uk

Erst, Manchester

Tasting menus dominate this list of the UK’s best restaurants – but there’s no reason why great chefs can’t deliver delightful dishes through quality, old-fashioned à la carte settings. Enter The Ulster; a Manchester-based natural wine bar that’s raising the bar in the North. The menu is full of things you really want to eat – and it won’t take you too far out of your comfort zone or turn dining into a challenge. Think pandas with beef and chili, or black butter and sage, cavolo nero with ricotta and sourdough, sea bream crudo with orange or cold roasted beef with horseradish – classic combinations done with a brave attitude by the team.

Of course, the wine list is an important part of the attraction here. To your liver and wallet’s delight, you can order by the glass or bottle. This is not an overwhelmingly long list filled with bottles from the depths of the cellar. Instead, it is considered all-natural and reasonably priced.

Address: Erst, 9 Murray St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS
Website: erst-mcr.co.uk

SY23, Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth for a moment. Nathan Davies of Great British Menu drew attention to this sleepy Welsh seaside town in 2022 when his restaurant SY23 earned Aberystwyth’s first Michelin star and was named “Best Opening of the Year” by the guide, a coveted honor. Opening of the Year”, a coveted honor. The waiting list for a table in Davis’ intimate dining room quickly grew months.

We’re back in the realm of the tasting menu here: 10 dishes all made with foraged and locally raised ingredients. There are only two meetings; lunch is served at 1 p.m. and dinner starts at 7.30 p.m. sharp. Given its seaside setting, it’s no surprise that the chefs favour fish and seafood: scallops, turbot and clams are all likely to be present. The optional cheese set highlights Welsh cream and pudding, from the unusual – yuzu and meringue – to the decadent – chocolate and burnt butter.

Address: SY23, 2 Pier St, Aberystwyth SY23 2LJ
Website: sy23restaurant.com

Inver, Loch Fyne

Since the late 1960s, Lachlan Bay, on the remote and secluded shores of Loch Fyne (Scotland’s longest sea loch), has had a restaurant, and the view has remained the same: water and verdant bogs spilling over into 15th-century ruins – century castles draped with shiny purple berries. Across the way, on the far north shore, the hamlet of Melting Pot folds into green hills.

The tasting menu (paired with natural wines rarely served) is full of horseradish, wild garlic and white asparagus. One cocktail made with local rhubarb was so delicious, I saw a woman pour a glass over her face. Even the butter is homemade. There’s room here, too – which is great, because I can’t think of a more romantic destination restaurant – or mini-vacation – in all of the British Isles.

Address: Inver, Cairndow PA27 8BU
Website: inverrestaurant.co.uk

Ynyshir, Machynlleth

After four years as chef at Ynyshir, Gareth Ward took over the Victorian manor in 2017 and streamlined it: the previous owner’s sheep paintings were herded into the bedrooms, while sheepskins now lay comfortably in the main space, edged in F&B painting Studio Green and white, like a Gothic Wedgewood.

Surprisingly, the menu here is Welsh kaiseki, a multi-course small-plate dinner. Many of the ingredients (edelweiss, fennel, eucalyptus) are harvested from the garden or foraged from the ground. Dinner is a serious undertaking: 18 courses may highlight Welsh wagyu beef, stock and locally caught seafood. A quirky, completely one-off restaurant in the heart of west-central Wales.

Address: Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth SY20 8TA
Website: ynyshir.co.uk

Linden Stores, Cheshire

Narrowboat enthusiasts know about the lock-up Shroppie Fly in the village of Audlem, one of the best watering holes on the Shropshire Union Canal. Now there’s another reason to dawdle. Chris Boustead (former chef of the famous East London bar The Ten Bells) and Laura Christie (founder of the Turkish-facing Oklava in Shoreditch) originally opened Linden Stores in the capital, but decided to escape city life with their young son before the pandemic, getting out of the car to be to be closer to his family. The cozy, teahouse-sized space on Main Street has become a showcase for local products, Christie’s focus on interesting but reasonably priced wines, and Boustead’s relaxed, unpretentious style of cooking. Ingredients such as traditional carrots take center stage, tossed with hanging yogurt and plum puree; foraged wild garlic is used in a pesto mayonnaise to dip plump fried balls made of peas, mint and fettle (feta in English); a crispy red mullet fillet sits atop a slice of sourdough coated with red wine pickled onions and carrots. Boustead also likes to draw on childhood flavors from his Scarborough upbringing – hence the freshly flavored Bovril mayonnaise and ginger Yorkshire Parkin topped with rhubarb ice cream. A neighborhood restaurant worth a visit. Update 2023: At the end of May, Chris and Laura will be moving from Audlem to another location in Cheshire. Check the restaurant’s website for details.

Address: Linden Stores, 3 Shropshire Street, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0AE
Website: lindenstores.co.uk

Lunar, Staffordshire

The village of Barlaston may seem like the dark side of the moon to London’s foodies, but it’s easy to get to: just take the train to Stoke-on-Trent and turn right at the Josiah Wedgwood statue. The pioneering 18th-century potter gathered with other prominent thinkers of the time at a supper club called the Lunar Society, named after this new project by former Whatley Manor chef Niall Keating. In a warehouse-sized space on the Wedgwood estate, a giant moon rises over upcycled tables, ghostly ceramic molds line the shelves and a secret door opens to reveal a lawned cocktail bar. Keating grew up not far from here and is determined to showcase his county’s neglected produce, which he and chef Craig Lunn deftly incorporate into Asian-inspired dishes, each bit as delicate as the bone china they use (a rare example of kiln-to-table dining, in contrast to the potter’s studio). Black pudding and quail eggs are served with kimchi and herb porridge; miso sweetbreads are soft chunks of toffee; egg custard is adorned with crab meat and spring peas; and, in a scene of pure tableside theater, a chicken roasted in Wedgwood clay is smashed open and carved with a hammer, spilling precious rice. An out-of-the-box restaurant in this part of England.

Address: Lunar, Lunar World of Wedgwood, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent ST12 9ER
Website: lunarwedgwood.com

Bridge Arms, Kent

Back in 2018, former Clove Club chef Daniel Smith and his pastry chef wife Natasha took over the Arts and Crafts bar Fordwich Arms, drawing a whole new crowd to a small village near Canterbury that had been virtually silent since the Middle Ages. Gone are the shrimp and chips; in their place are raw cod roe, venison dumplings and ice cream from Daim’s bar. It has earned a Michelin star and has a loyal following. In 2021, the couple repeated the same trick a few miles away in their home village of Bridger, taking over an equally unpretentious pub and earning a star within a few months of opening. This sequel isn’t as formal as Fordwich – there’s no tasting menu or canapés – but takes the same approach, gathering local ingredients as rosy as May’s darling buds – -to create whimsical dishes that are both surprising and reassuring, drizzled with Kent rapeseed and scattered with edible flowers. Emerald green pea mousse, garnished with jelly and hazelnuts; a bouquet of crispy, oil-sealed chicken wings, carefully boned and served with a rich, roasted chicken butter sauce; perfect chunks held in place by crispy potato pizzas. While you’re here, grab a drink at The Pig on Bridge Place down the road, or stroll down Star Hill to Bourne Park and watch the bald eagles, egrets and winged storks. A gastro pub is only in the noblest sense of the word.

Address: The Bridge Arms, 53 High Street, Bridge, Canterbury CT4 5LA
Website: bridgearms.co.uk