Out with soggy sarnies, in with lobster brioche; summer eating is getting a gourmet makeover. Here’s our pick of where to dine al fresco
Remember the first time you tried proper fish and chips, battered in beef dripping (probably on a beach while being softly buffeted by the North Sea breeze)? Or that baking afternoon on a Cotswolds riverbank where you chose pistachio gelato over a Mr Whippy and never looked back? Or maybe it was the sweet and unexpected addition of a Rocha pear popping up in a chicory salad that ignited your love of great British summer food?
Thanks to the recent and heartily embraced heatwave, these memories are very much in the forefront of our minds, because park picnics and curbside street snacking are the only way to eat while the temperatures continue to run high.
For us, when it comes to summer, there are four main food groups that we hanker after: super fresh seafood, succulent chargrilled barbecue dishes, inventive salads, all of which are best finished off with a scoop (or four) of delicious ice cream. Luckily for the food-lovers among us, our favourite seasonal eats have received a shot in the arm, meaning that unusual flavour combinations and exotic fusions can be found in almost every cafe, food van and beach shack on every street, promenade and summer festival across the UK. British food has never been more adventurous.
“The sun brings everyone out onto the streets and in the mood for grazing,” says Petra Barran, founder of London street food stalwarts Kerb (kerbfood.com). “Gourmet meat-in-a-bun comes as standard now and there’s so much diversity on offer. It’s Israeli hummus trading next to Gaza falafel, it’s pulled jackfruit tacos masquerading as pork, it’s ‘crabby kievs’, Mexican chocolate fro-yo, and sherry in your gazpacho…”
In fact, it’s such an exciting time for British food, there’s definitely a strong argument for cancelling all trips abroad and spending your holidays eating your way around the UK instead. With this in mind, we’ve put together a definitive list of places you should make it your prime purpose to visit this summer. Trust us; your taste buds will thank you.
A staple in the US, Bob’s serves indulgent lobster brioche rolls (toasted or chilled with mayo, £10) from a 1959 VW camper and pop-up restaurant (just off London’s Ludgate Hill). They describe themselves as ‘bourgeois dining on a paper plate’.
Go gourmet: Bob’s has started doing weekend brunch under Hungerford Bridge on the South Bank; hello lobster eggs Benedict and prosecco. 61 Carter Lane, London EC4V; bobslobster.com
Sat upon a working harbour, you’d struggle to find a fresher catch than at this family-run seafood shack. They specialise in shellfish, serving tiger prawns and crab sandwiches (£7.95) from a take-out hatch.
Go Gourmet: Stay for dinner in the little bistro; they’ve just added a Penclawdd cockle and smoky bacon chowder (£6.95) to their à la carte menu. Porthgain, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA62; theshedporthgain.co.uk
Wheelers oyster Bar
As the oldest restaurant in town (founded in 1856), Wheelers knows its seafood. Oysters come Japanese-style (soy and ginger), Bloody Mary-inspired (with micro celery) or with a sea lettuce mayo (six oysters from £5). Stylist’s deputy art director Natasha Tomalin insists Wheelers is “the best”. We believe her.
Go gourmet: Order a picnic and hire the restaurant’s beach hut for £50 a day. 8 High Street, Whitstable, Kent CT5 wheelersoysterbar.com
The Fish and Chip Shop
The city might feel a million miles from the coast but that hasn’t stopped former Ivy chef Des McDonald setting up shop there. As well as traditional fare, expect sea bass à la plancha ñ on the griddle (£15), and roasted squid with courgette, capers and chilli (£12). Stylist’s deputy features editor Lizzie Pook loves their “divine knickerbocker glories”.
Go Gourmet: Swap mushy peas for pickled wally (gherkins). 189 189 Upper Street, Islington, London N1; thefishandchipshop.uk.com
The best BBQ
Miss P’s Barbecue
A firm Kerb street-food festival favourite, Miss P’s will be leading the way at barbecue collective Meatopia (in London’s Tobacco Dock from 6-7 September) this year. Expect an authentic Deep South-inspired mix of dry-rubbed Black Angus Beef Brisket (£7), served with Scotch bonnet sauce, and jerk-infused pulled pork with BBQ mustard (£6).
Go Gourmet: Order the Cajun catfish special (£6) ñ a boneless Billingsgate Market fillet served in a brioche bun ñ and you could be in Atlanta. Sort of. facebook.com/misspsbarbecue
This 19th century style meat, bread and beer concept has just come out on top at the Cambridge Food Awards and it’s no wonder. Their newly released summer menu features charcoal-fired rib eye with whisky and raisin butter (£21), stuffed lamb shoulder with smoked lamb bacon (£15.90) and rainbow trout with barley, fennel and orange (£15.50).
Go Gourmet: They also specialise in gin, with over 60 flavours. You know what they say: when in Rome… 10 Peas Hill, Cambridge CB2; pintshop.co.uk
Korean food is having a moment so don’t miss this American-Korean pop-up throughout August at Liverpool Street’s Old Bengal Bar and Street Feast, Dalston Yard. Expect their classic Busan burger, dunked in soy and garlic bulgogi sauce and topped with mustard pickled onions (£7.50) and the pork belly bun with gochujang sauce, mooli and yoghurt pickle (£7).
Go Gourmet: Look out for the launch of the Prawn Po Boy - a barbecued prawn sub sandwich topped with yuzu mayo. busanbbq.co.uk
Almost Famous Burgers
Following their success in Manchester and Liverpool, these expert patty-makers are opening their latest restaurant in Leeds next month. Go all out with their double cheeseburger, ‘frickles’ (fried pickles), shoestring fries seasoned with caesar salt and chorizo aioli (£12) or try the brand new mouth-watering ‘Surfin’ California’ topped with jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, ‘million island’ dressing and a tempura fish taco (£12).
Go Gourmet: Order Love Hate Fries on the side - so called because they are served with a Marmite butter dip (£3). almostfamousburgers.com
Ice cream parlours
Ginger’s Comfort emporium
Manchester and nationwide
“All of Ginger’s ice creams are incredible,” declares Emerald Street’s Siobhan Morrin. And, like her, we don’t know where to start. Or stop. New summer flavours include honey, mint and cucumber; pear and hibiscus; and banana and sage (£2.50 per scoop). Catch Ginger year-round on the first floor of Manchester’s Afflecks (in the city’s Northern Quarter), or in her dessert wagon (a converted transit van) at UK festivals this summer.
Go Gourmet: The juniper berry sorbet tastes just like a G&T. Afflecks, 52 Church Street, Manchester M4; gingerscomfortemporium.com
Mary’s milk Bar
Owner Mary worked for five years as a chocolatier and is a graduate of Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna (that’s a real thing, honest). We can’t decide between the white chocolate and cardamom, pickled strawberry ripple, wheat beer and peanuts, or the gooseberry fool (£3 for two scoops). Siobhan says it’s an “Emerald Street fave”.
Go Gourmet: Book a gelato tasting evening or trufflemaking masterclass in Mary’s mini laboratory. 19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1; marysmilkbar.com
These sister gelaterias (in Blackheath and Greenwich), do more than salted caramel (although that is a menu staple). Try their new summer sorbets: wild strawberry and champagne; Valencia orange and Campari; Sicilian lemon and raspberry; or cucumber and wheatgrass (from £3 per scoop).
Go Gourmet: Discover a delicious Pimm’s sorbet at their summer pop-up in Knightsbridge Harvey Nichols. 5 College Approach, Greenwich, London SE10; black-vanilla.com
Outside this boutique hotel, just a few hundred metres from the North Norfolk coast, you’ll find a retro bicycle stocking the restaurant’s homemade ice cream. On offer are pistachio and brandy snap; lemon and elderflower; and yoghurt and local honey (£1.50 per scoop).
Go Gourmet: Join the queue for the Eton mess. Titchwell, nr Brancaster, Norfolk PE31; titchwellmanor.com
Manchester and Birmingham
These two modern vegetarian restaurants don’t serve up wishy-washy salads. Take these combinations for instance: Battlefield blue cheese, ciderbraised fennel, buckwheat, gooseberry and sorrel (£6.75), or salt-baked heritage carrots, homemade curd, pearl barley and yarrow (£7.75). Then there’s beer-battered halloumi with mushy pea emulsion and smoked lemon curd (£6).
Go Gourmet: Beetroot falafel? Yes please! Served with rosehip, smoked whisky and pressed honey yoghurt (£7.75). 58 Mosley Street, Manchester M2; 26 Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham B2; bistro1847.com
Their Berwick Street Market stall has seen 30-strong queues on recent Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes, but we’re still getting in line. Their experimental boxes (£5) include chargrilled aubergine, quinoa, pomegranate and rocket; green vegetables, crushed hazelnuts and grapefruit; as well as red cabbage, kale, sultanas, flaked almonds and orange zest.
Go Gourmet: They offer office catering (from £6.50), so can come to you laden with salads such as ham, apricot and mint. Berwick Street, London W1F; savagesalads.co.uk
Woburn Park, bedfordshire
Set in a 22-acre deer park, this Michelin-starred restaurant is running a summer garden tasting menu (until September) full of herbs, edible flowers and vegetables harvested on-site. We’re excited by the mackerel with oyster leaf, dill and cucumber, as well as the leeks with parsley oil and leafy celery (a six-course menu starts at £39).
Go Gourmet: Try the Anjou pigeon with pomegranate, black fig and turnip. Woburn Park, Bedfordshire MK17; parishouse.co.uk
The Deli at Edgbaston
Birmingham and nationwide
Former greengrocer Simon Dunmore has won awards for his salads – which include balsamic sweet potato, fig, spring onion and chilli; butternut squash, saffron and pomegranate; and cucumber with chilli, crushed peanuts and coconut (£5 per box). Try them at local food markets and festivals throughout the summer such as Brum Yum Yum in Kings Heath.
Go Gourmet: Order the crispy seaweed, cooked in Simon’s secret spice blend. Chamber of Commerce, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15; thedeliatedgbaston.co.uk