Bruton, Frome and Castle Cary form a culinary holy trinity, but the Somerton, South Petherton and Ilminster area is also starting to shine. Known for its cider makers and destination dining pubs, it’s also home to a growing crop of smart restaurants, artisan bakers and biodynamic wine cellars.
Order spring herb linguine with confit yolk, fried onions and Berkswell cheese (£19.50), or roast pistachio ice-cream and jasmine and lime sorbet (£7.50 for a selection) from the in-house parlour at light-filled 28 Market Place in Somerton. The on-site bakery has a cult following for its salted caramel and seasonal sourdough doughnuts, and also has a wine shop.
In South Petherton, Pip’s Railway Carriage is a family-friendly, laid-back cafe and bakery with tables in railway carriages and double-decker buses, and a bee-friendly garden. Meat eaters are welcome but veg is king here, put to good use in dishes such as sweetcorn fritters with smashed avo, poached eggs and spiced salsa (£10) and curry burgers with cucumber, coriander and lime salad (£14).
Just down the road, Holm, run by the team behind London’s Salon, Levan and Larry’s, will open this autumn. Plans are for snappy all-day dining – caramelised apple and miso breakfast buns, and Brixham mussels with lovage, creme fraiche and cider. In Ilminster, Phoenix Studios is a new venture from fashion designer Alice Temperley that’s home to a sister branch of the 28 Market Place bakery, and a coffee and cocktail bar, The Somerset.
Pick up orchard-reared chickens and bags of flower-speckled salad leaves from Hinton Harvest in Hinton St George; and locally grown apples and a rainbow of juices at North Perrott Fruit Farm, near Crewkerne. Detour to Teals, a gleaming new farm shop and restaurant off the A303 near South Cadbury, where the range includes Hurdlebrook’s creamy Guernsey yoghurts and stinky Renegade Monk cheese. For smoked cheese, sausages and fish there’s Brown & Forrest Smokery near Curry Rivel. Don’t leave the area without picking up a bottle of Pomona, Somerset’s answer to sherry, at Burrow Hill Cider; Alice Temperley’s father, Julian, has been making apple-based tipples there for decades and her sister, Matilda, makes honey-laced non-alcoholic Somerset Shrubs.
The Lord Poulett Arms in Hinton St George pairs six stylishly unfussy bedrooms with deceptively modest-sounding menus (doubles from £95 B&B). At the White Hart in Somerton the smallest of eight double bedrooms starts at £76.50 B&B.
Its long, sandy beaches have always drawn visitors, but a new wave of sustainable fish restaurants, artisan brewers and vegan bakers is a welcome addition to this coast.
At Riley’s Fish Shack, on King Edward’s Bay, dishes such as harissa-marinated skate wing (£19) make a full-flavoured match for the beach shack’s custom-brewed Oyster lager. Keep an eye out for the company’s new bricks and mortar restaurant – with wet fish counter – opening on nearby Percy Park Road later this summer.
In the meantime there’s Longsands Fish Kitchen for line-caught haddock and chips (£12), Dil & the Bear for lemon and cumin-laced pulled-pork ciabattas inspired by the owner’s Cuban heritage (£8.50), Square Roots for vegan bakes and the Surf Cafe for beers overlooking the water (including local brews from Two by Two and Flash House). All are in Tynemouth.
Further north, fill up with 12-hour beef shin and peanut curry (£15.50) or crispy oyster mushroom banh mi (£11) at Omni in Monkseaton; or tempura-fried aubergine with honey (£6) at SaltHouse tapas bar in Cullercoats. In Whitley Bay you can feast on masala fried fish pitta with Persian curry mayo (£10) at Papa Ganoush; courgette and feta fritters with chilli and lemon (£8) at Kith & Kin (visit on Fridays to pick up hand-rolled doughnuts from Proven Goods); or a six-course tasting menu (£55, Friday and Saturday) at dive bar-style restaurant The Roxburgh, where Gary Dall, once a chef to big-name rock bands, likes to pair his nose-to-tail menus with music from the likes of the Velvet Underground (£55). In North Shields, sip coffee at the Wheel House, then walk over to the Staith House, a dining pub on historic Fish Quay, for refined plates of grilled North Sea halibut with cauliflower puree, black pudding and anchovy butter (£27).
At Whitley Bay’s Pure Knead, the cinnamon buns sell like, well, hot cakes, and it’s also great for sourdough loaves and stotties. Stop at nearby Kork Wine and Deli for natural wines to take away (or to drink by the glass on site). In Tynemouth, Cook & Baker sells its own pastries and jams as well as store cupboard supplies; local produce includes fermented hot sauces from Belle & Herbs, and coffee from Baristocracy. In North Shields, the Good Tempered Chocolate Company hosts pop-up events at its factory; over the next few weeks it’s selling chocolate-dipped strawberries.
In Whitley Bay, Stay Coastal is a new community-focused hotel, with kitchenette-equipped suites (sleep two, from £88 a night, two-night minimum).
An hour’s drive north of foodie Ludlow, Shrewsbury may be better known for its medieval architecture and riverside charm, but the county town and its fringes offer rich pickings for visiting gastronomes.
The Walrus, a pint-size but precise little restaurant run by ex-Gidleigh Park chef Ben Hall and his partner Carla Ernst, makes the most of the garden in creative, seasonal dishes such as baby globe artichoke with cep cream, Comté cheese and wild garlic pesto (three courses £40).
For date-night dining outside town, it’s worth the detour to Wild Shropshire in Whitchurch or The Cross Keys at Kinnerley, while for brunch or lunch in town, try the panko fish cake with poached egg (£11) at Number Four. Or head to CSONS for porridge made from local Pimhill Farm oats (£3), labneh with poached eggs, harissa, za’atar and homemade flatbreads (£7.50), or Worcester hispi cabbage with kale, romesco, pickled chillies, goat’s curd and Shropshire chorizo (£15; also open Fridays and Saturday evenings).
Among many great coffee shops, The Colonel’s Son stands out for its sunshine-hued paintwork as well as roasted-in-house brews. Round off the day with small plates of local cheeses or charcuterie, and natural wines by the glass, at wine bar and shop Glou Glou. Or try the garden bar behind homewares store Wyle Blue World for Moroccan meze trays (£16 for two) or chargrilled skewers with flavoured yoghurts (from £6); book ahead for occasional pop-up events by guest chefs such as grill whiz Adam Purnell.
Shrewsbury’s Market Hall is a thing of beauty, despite its unpromising 1960s exterior. Among stalls ranging from traditional fruit and veg to fresh pasta and a modern spice merchants are street-food cafes Moli Tea House, Tom’s Table, St Pierre Seafood Bar and the Bird’s Nest. A farmers’ market takes place in the town square on the first Friday of the month: look out for fennel salami from Shropshire Salumi. Elsewhere, old favourites such as Aroma tea and coffee merchants, Appleyards deli and Tanners wines rub shoulders with artisan bakery The Bakehouse, eco grocery Rosie’s Emporium (look out for kimchi from local producers the Fermented Food Company and fresh pasta from @pueblo_shrewsbury) and, just out of town, farm shop and cafe Battlefield 1403.
Taking inspiration from Shrewsbury’s most famous son, (Charles) Darwin’s Townhouse has doubles from £90 B&B. East of town, The Haughmond is a dining pub close to scenic Haughmond Hill, with seven bedrooms, a self-catering barn and a micro-farm shop (doubles from £95 B&B).
With its Michelin-endorsed restaurants, sausage shops and gin distilleries, the Ribble Valley is Lancashire’s hottest food ticket. But the area around the city of Lancaster is nipping at its well-fed heels. And, with plans for an Eden Project North in Morecambe, the foodie momentum is set to grow as a sustainably minded culinary crew turns its sights on the county’s northwest corner.
Fuel up with apple and candied pecan-topped french toast (£6.75) and a cortado at Brew Lancaster, before climbing to the city’s magnificent castle. Veggie options include build-your-own salad bowls at the Whale Tail Café (£5.95); sweet potato, ginger and coconut soup (£6.95) at plant-based cafe and yoga studio The Herbarium; and tofu poké bowls (from £10.95) at Kokobento.
For street food there’s Charter Market, in Dalton Square (Wed and Sat, 9am-4pm): highlights include cooked-to-order piadina stuffed with Tuscan fennel salami (from £4) from Dal Fiorentino, and homemade vegetable biryani (£5.50) from Supper by Sanah (@supperbysanah). If you’ve space left, try a homemade plum sorbet at Leonardini Gelato Boutique in Morecambe.
For dinner, head to The Quarterhouse for seabass, Morecambe Bay shrimp, samphire and wild garlic risotto (£11), and Parmentier potatoes with garlic, sea salt and thyme. Or try the haddock and chips (£7.05) from Hodgson’s, a chippy so hot on provenance they’ll tell you where the fish was caught and the potatoes grown.
Five miles south in Cockerham, The Rewilding organises pop-up woodland feasts (£45) and wild-edged supper clubs with gin pairings (£65). Stop off for a pint at the taproom at Farm Yard Ales on the way, or at the Accidental Brewery in Lancaster.
Founded in 1837, Atkinsons is part-coffee shop part-museum piece, with antique roasting equipment and shelves holding golden canisters of beans and loose-leaf teas. It doesn’t rest on its historic laurels, though: if you want to try before you buy, Atkinson’s also has three modern cafes around the city (and another in Manchester).
Pick up sourdough loaves and cinnamony Morecambe buns at Filbert’s Bakery, toasted mueslis and flavoured granolas at The Cereal Box, organic and vegan-friendly wines at Chapel Street Wines, and Morecambe Bay potted shrimp, smoked kippers or game chorizo at Lancaster Smokehouse in Glasson Dock. Alternatively, head to Booths, in Scotforth, and track down everything from Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese to Lyth Valley damsons.
South of the city, the nine bedrooms at Lancaster Barn look as though they’ve been teleported in from Copenhagen (doubles from £130 B&B). Summer breakfasts include homegrown raspberries and tomatoes, and it’s five minutes’ walk from dinner at the excellent Bay Horse Inn.
The shore and hills of East Lothian have long attracted Edinburgh emigrants seeking more square feet for their shilling. And given all the sourdough loaves, flat whites and trawler-to-table seafood, it’s easy to see why it’s now on the food map.
Start with a culinary bang in Gullane, home of fine-dining big guns La Potinière and Chez Roux as well as Tom Kitchen’s The Bonnie Badger for dishes such as line-caught sea trout with East Lothian sea herbs and mussels (£22.50) or (slightly) more casual bar food.
Along the coast in North Berwick there are freshly roasted flat whites (£2.80) – or an affogato if the fancy takes you – at Steampunk, exemplary croissants at Bostock Bakery (its second site, at nearby East Linton, has a cafe and puts on sourdough pizza nights), or haddock tacos with lemon and sriracha aioli (£6.95) at the Lobster Shack. A short walk east of town, on the cliffs above Quarrel Sands, is Drift, a shipping container cafe serving scorched mackerel salads with marinated cucumber, dill creme fraiche and apple (£13.25).
At the Loft Cafe and Bakery in Haddington, everything is made from scratch, including breakfast shakshuka (£7.50) and squashage rolls (£6.50). The on-site shop also stocks locally made raw chocolate bars from Ailey Mae and bread from Dunbar’s Community Bakery.
In Musselburgh, East Coast is a well-loved chippy with a seafood-focused restaurant, making the most of its owners’ Italian heritage in dishes such as scallops in burnt orange, pickled fennel and lemon butter sauce (£12.95).
Then there’s surfy Dunbar, where the beer garden at the Station Yard micropub serves Peelywally IPA on tap; The Big Blu Sea does haddock and chorizo mac’n’cheese (£8.50); and you can fill up with spicy beans and toasted naan (£6.50) at Jay Bird’s Larder before (or after) a day spent zip-trailing or wakeboarding.
Pick up wines, whiskies and more at Lockett Bros in North Berwick; handmade oatcakes and Aye Pickled’s sweet dill pickles at Musselburgh’s Mint Fig deli; local cold-smoked salmon and charcuterie at the Store Room in Gullane; and the fruits of many local producers’ labours, including Fidra gin, at the monthly Haddington Farmers’ Market.
The two-bedroom Curlew Cabin (sleeps four, from £560 a week) in Belhaven Bay has been thoughtfully designed, with mid-century furniture, a woodburner and custom bunk beds.