It’s a truly lovely thing to be at the mercy of a talented chef via a tasting menu.
Indecision is banished: all you have to do is sit down and be served course after course of their most exquisite creations (and try not to roll out of the door after indulging in the matching wines). However, they're not usually easy on the pocket – especially when reviews start rolling in and Michelin stars start landing.
And so, we've forced ourselves to scour the UK for affordable tasting menus from critically acclaimed restaurants – all the ones you'll find here are under £50 a head. Not only that, but they've got a fair few stars between them.
Given some tasting menus scale remarkable heights for their beautiful culinary offerings (The Araki in London is £300 and The Fat Duck in Bray is £255), we've definitely got you covered for lunch and dinner with this lot.
Now, which to book first...
All excluding drinks unless otherwise stated, all dinner menus unless otherwise stated
“Seasonal and inventive is the only brief” of the set menu in Salon, which, situated in a Brixton shopping arcade, still seems something of a hidden gem, despite having been quietly earning itself plaudits since 2013. £33 per person bags you four courses (matching wines are available for an extra £25 a head) of creative, largely British food, such as nettles, Jersey Royals and cured egg yolk, or a dessert of Jerusalem artichoke, coffee and almond.
18 Market Row, Brixton, London SE9 8LD; salonbrixton.co.uk
A small restaurant (just seven tables) but it packs a punch with plates such as scallops a la plancha with sweetcorn pureé, spring onions and pancetta, and tea-marinated pork tenderloin with pork belly, apple, blackberry and radish salad on its £50, seven-course taster (the five-course menu is £40).
33a St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh EH3 5AH; purslanerestaurant.co.uk
Seven courses plus delicious-sounding “intros” at Anglo comes in at £45 a head, and those in the know say this is a total steal for a beautiful evening. You’ll be served British plates along the lines of autumn squash with burrata and chestnut, or sea buckthorn and brown butter, often by chefs Mark Jarvis and Jack Cashmore themselves (and don’t worry, by all accounts diners are spared long lectures in favour of brief descriptions).
30 St Cross Street, London EC1N 8UH; anglorestaurant.com
The Man Behind the Curtain
Unique, individual, skilled, original, creative, artful… All words used to describe this Leeds joint, forever booked up months in advance – initially thanks to chef Michael O’Hare’s winning turn on Great British Menu, then backed up by a Michelin star. The lunchtime ‘menu rapide’ is £45 per person, the number of courses seems variable with different reviews pegging it at six, seven or eight. One write-up described the food as “engagingly bonkers” – see smoked mackerel parfait shaped into bon-bons, dusted with chocolatey coffee powder and sat in a cup.
68-78 Vicar Lane (top floor of Flannels), Leeds LS1 7JH; themanbehindthecurtain.co.uk
“A mix of Asian dishes and British classics given ambitious modern makeovers,” says the Michelin Guide, having recommended chef Phil Fanning’s Paris House – and lucky for you, the six-course lunch menu is a mere £43 per person (matching wines are available from £36 per person) for the likes of octopus with grilled plum and fennel and a dessert offering the holy trinity of honey, pistachio and filo.
Woburn Park, London Road, Woburn, Bedfordshire MK17 9QP; parishouse.co.uk
The Great Portland Street original has proved so popular that the team behind Picture has opened a new Marylebone spot – and happily, the six-course tasting menu is on offer at both for the princely sum of £40 a head. Run by former Arbutus/Wild Honey alumni, you’ll find seasonal, British dishes on the menu, the summer incarnation of which includes 28-day aged beef with bone marrow crumb and red wine sauce, and glazed young beetroot with goat's curd and roasted hazelnuts. A proper steal in that there London.
19 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 9TZ and 110 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6PQ; picturerestaurant.co.uk
London’s Gymkhana may hold a Michelin star, but you can sample four courses of its north Indian fare for just £35 via its Taste of Gymkhana lunch menu: try wild mushroom, truffle and morel pilau or tandoori guinea fowl with mango ginger. Matched wines are £30 a head.
42 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4JH; gymkhanalondon.com
JSW is modern British cooking using seasonal produce, locally sourced where possible. Oh, and it’s got a Michelin star. Turn up here and you’ll find “the confident chef delivers well-judged, classical cooking with recognisable combinations of ingredients and a touch of originality”, such as watermelon gazpacho with crab mayonnaise and textures of lamb with shepherd's pie sauce. The six-course lunch tasting menu is £50 per person (£65 at dinner) and it’s also described as having a particularly interesting wine list.
20 Dragon Street, Petersfield, Hampshire GU31 4JJ; jswrestaurant.com
Creative, modern Scottish cuisine from chef Scott Smith. This Edinburgh eatery offers a series of tasting menus and the four courser is £40 per person (bump up to seven for £65). The line-up changes regularly as the kitchen focuses on seasonal produce and minimal waste: if it turns up, it gets cooked and by all accounts, precisely and wonderfully (reviews barely get past raving about the bread). Seasonality, foraging, natural wines – tick, tick and tick.
50-54 Henderson Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6DE; nornrestaurant.com
This modern Indian won Welsh Curry House of the Year in 2013 and boasts a seven-course feast including slow-cooked beef with tapioca and spices, and sea bass wrapped in banana leaf with Keralan-style masala. Chef Anand George’s menu is £45 a head and changes seasonally, and he even imparts his culinary wisdom on a monthly basis with a cookery school.
185a Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9AJ; purplepoppadom.com
Opened by chef Stevie Parle in 2015, Craft London runs Test Kitchen Tuesdays – an opportunity to taste new dishes in development and chat to the kitchen team. As they start from scratch and create an experimental, seasonal menu, it’s a blind tasting, but expect a feast of British produce, ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden and plenty of smoking, curing, pickling and the like for just £28 per person. Plus, it’s so beautifully designed by Tom Dixon that the bar is winning awards.
Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 0SQ; craft-london.co.uk
Sake No Hana
This modern Japanese restaurant in London is said to be “proof that you can occasionally find good food at the end of an escalator.” Gather some pals and go for Umai Sushi Saturdays – a seven-course lunch menu of subtly flavoured soups, delicate sashimi, tempura and steamed rice dishes. £47 gets you the lunch, your choice of cocktail and half a bottle of Louis Roederer Premier NV Champagne.
23 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1HA; sakenohana.com
The Manor is recommended in the Michelin Guide, praised for innovative, modern cooking which “bursts with flavour”. Neighbourhood bistro-style, British and yep, seasonal (nearby sister restaurant The Dairy has a rooftop garden and beehives), there are currently seven courses on the tasting menu at The Manor (plus an amuse bouche, petit fours and an optional cheese course) for £45 per person – maybe crispy pig cheeks with wild garlic and garden herbs or Jerusalem artichoke ice cream, Comice pear and sprouted wheat. The Dairy’s menu is £48 per person.
148 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6BX; themanorclapham.co.uk
Hakkasan Hanway Place
“Exquisite” Cantonese dishes and dim sum here at the original, super glamorous Hakkasan. You can enjoy four courses of Michelin-starred food for just £38 per person with The Taste of Hakkasan menu, which showcases some of Hakkasan’s signature dishes with a choice of cocktails and dessert. Think crispy duck salad and grilled Shanghai dumpling.
8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD; hakkasan.com
Holder of a coveted Michelin star thanks to chef Danni Barry, this is an elegant proposition with seasonal, modern, creative cuisine. Multi-course tasting menus, featuring such dishes as scorched halibut, celeriac and roasted bone sauce, and ‘cauliflower, comte and truffle’, start at a mere £40 per person.
28-40 Howard Street, Belfast BT1 6PF; deaneseipic.com
This Brighton hotel eatery is all about the set menu (clue’s in the name), and offers three different four-course propositions between a very reasonable £31 and £36 a head (with accompanying wine at £24). Expect brief menu descriptions (“Blackberry, Lemon, Chervil” is a parfait of all three served frozen on lemon curd with a mini pavlova and frozen meringue) and playful, British cooking.
33 Regency Square, Brighton BN1 2GG; thesetrestaurant.com