Le Gavroche W1Â£136
â€œSteeped in classic Gallic traditionâ€, this â€œformalâ€ Mayfair basement is â€œimmune from trends and fashionâ€, and â€“ with Michel Roux Jr often very much in evidence â€“ â€œunsurpassedâ€ for those looking for a â€œmajesticâ€ old-school meal; â€œthe bill makes you cryâ€, though, so â€œbook months ahead for the fantastic lunch dealâ€.
Pied Ã Terre W1Â£99
Marcus Eavesâ€™s â€œfabulous food, beautifully presentedâ€ maintains David Mooreâ€™s â€œplushâ€ Fitzrovia fixture as one of the capitalâ€™s foremost foodie temples; the ambience can seem â€œstuffyâ€ though (going on â€œdullâ€, if you sit at the front).
â€œAn outstanding all-rounderâ€ â€“ Gordon Ramsayâ€™s Belgravia dining room may be a bit â€œcorporateâ€ in feel, but no oneâ€™s complaining about its â€œwonderful culinary creativityâ€, â€œlegendary wine listâ€ or â€œtip-topâ€ service.
Gauthier Soho W1Â£63
Ring the bell for entry to Alexis Gauthierâ€™s â€œwonderfully quirkyâ€ Soho townhouse â€“ a perfect venue â€œfor a luxurious dateâ€; the â€œdreamyâ€ Gallic cuisine (with much emphasis on vegetables) and â€œimpeccableâ€ service are far from secondary attractions, however, and the â€œsuperbâ€ wine list includes â€œsome real curiositiesâ€.
The Square W1Â£113
â€œDiscreet, quiet and well-spacedâ€, this Mayfair landmark has long been a top expense-account choice, thanks to Phil Howardâ€™s â€œbrilliantly focussedâ€ cuisine, and the â€œphenomenalâ€ wine list; the experience can seem â€œa bit soullessâ€, though, and it is of course â€œastronomically expensiveâ€.
â€œDeep flavours and lovely texturesâ€ from a â€œquirkyâ€ menu, plus Caves de PyrÃ¨neâ€™s â€œgloriousâ€ biodynamic wines, decidedly make this â€œfascinating and characterfulâ€ East End bistro the groupâ€™s star performer nowadays.
â€œJust the sort of place you look for in Paris, and only rarely findâ€ â€“ this bijou Bermondsey yearling may only have a â€œlimitedâ€ menu and â€œcrampedâ€ interior but itâ€™s â€œperhaps the best of the new-style old-style bistros!â€
Comptoir Gascon EC1Â£44
â€œA good, cheap alternative to Club Gasconâ€ â€“ the â€œattractiveâ€ spin-off from the famous Smithfield tapas bar, nearby, â€œdoes a nice line in duck and other meaty treatsâ€, plus â€œexcellent-valueâ€ wine.
â€œAnother local gemâ€ in the Caves de PryÃ¨ne (Terroirs and so on) empire â€“ this East Dulwich yearling mixes a â€œbrilliant selection of small plates for sharingâ€ with the wine importerâ€™s â€œlovely draught wines at amazingly reasonable pricesâ€.
Waterside Inn, BrayÂ£200
â€œChampagne and canapÃ©s by the Thames canâ€™t fail to seduceâ€ â€“ the Roux familyâ€™s â€œmagicalâ€ haven is at its romantic zenith on a sunny day; â€œit may not be at the culinary cutting edgeâ€, but a meal here offers a â€œdivineâ€ combination of â€œsumptuousâ€ classic cuisine and â€œseemlessâ€ service; the bill? â€“ â€œheart-stoppingâ€.
Le Manoir aux Quatâ€™ Saisons, Great MiltonÂ£190
â€œWorth the 300 mile round trip!â€; for â€œspectacularâ€ food in a â€œstunningâ€ setting, Raymond Blancâ€™s â€œimpeccableâ€ country house hotel and dining room offers â€œa sublime experienceâ€ thatâ€™s â€œworth pushing the boat out forâ€; â€œmake sure you leave time to explore the gardens before dinner!â€
Gidleigh Park, ChagfordÂ£139
Itâ€™s very hard to fault any facet of this â€œluxurious yet understatedâ€ Tudorbethan manor, â€œbeautifully situatedâ€ down â€œa magical mystery tourâ€ of windy lanes on the edge of Dartmoor; despite his many commitments, Michael Cainesâ€™s cuisine is absolutely â€œterrificâ€, and service is â€œflawlessâ€ too.
Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles Hotel, AuchterarderÂ£132
â€œWithout a doubt, one of Britainâ€™s best restaurantsâ€; this renowned dining room â€œspells luxury from the moment you enter its fashionably muted and spacious interiorâ€, and its cuisine is â€œtruly outstandingâ€ â€“ it is also â€œfrighteningly expensiveâ€, though, and there were a couple of â€œanticlimacticâ€ reports this year.
Paris House, WoburnÂ£116
â€œTop-notch cooking, interesting flavour combinations, beautifully presented foodâ€¦ and all in a magnificent parkland settingâ€ â€“ most reporters can find very little to fault at Phil Fanningâ€™s â€œinventiveâ€ restaurant, in a Tudor house on the Woburn Estate; no surprise, then, that itâ€™s quite â€œexpensiveâ€.
Thackerayâ€™s, Tunbridge WellsÂ£69
This â€œbeautifulâ€ Regency villa, near the town centre, is â€œa great place to take someone to make them feel specialâ€ â€“ â€œthe modern Anglo-French cooking showcases top local produceâ€ and â€œcan be outstandingâ€, although itâ€™s â€œlet down a littleâ€ by sometimes â€œrather randomâ€ service.
Restaurant Martin Wishart, EdinburghÂ£92
â€œConsistently near perfectionâ€; with its â€œwonderfulâ€ dishes and its â€œfirst-classâ€ but â€œunobtrusiveâ€ service, this Leith fixture is, say fans, â€œthe best restaurant in Scotlandâ€; if there is a criticism, it is that the style can sometimes seem a little â€œstiffâ€.
â€œMark Wilkinson is a brilliant one-of-a-kindâ€, and his â€œmarvellousâ€, â€œartfulâ€ cuisine made this â€œsereneâ€ but unshowy Wirral dining room this yearâ€™s UKâ€™s No. 1 in the survey; â€œin Tour de France parlance, Â«hors catÃ©gorie!Â»â€.
Harryâ€™s Place, Great GonerbyÂ£82
â€œIt should be on everyoneâ€™s bucket list!â€; Harry & Caroline Hallamâ€™s â€œuniqueâ€ 10-seat venture â€œnever fails to delightâ€, thanks to his â€œexquisite French-based cookingâ€ and her â€œexceptional attention to detailâ€; of necessity though, the atmosphere is â€œrather dependent on who else is dining that dayâ€.
â€œIn the beautiful cobbled streets of Old Amershamâ€, these converted 17th century cottages are â€œwell worth a detourâ€; Laurie Gearâ€™s â€œpresence at the pass in the open kitchen gives a wonderfully personal feel to the placeâ€, and his â€œintenseâ€ and â€œcreativeâ€ cuisine is amongst the UKâ€™s best.
Le Champignon Sauvage, CheltenhamÂ£78
â€œUnpretentious but perfectâ€; â€œdisarmingly humble yet utterly drivenâ€ chef David Everitt-Matthias â€œcontinues to amazeâ€ at this acclaimed dining room, where his â€œmagically intenseâ€ cuisine is served by wife Helenâ€™s â€œbrilliant and personableâ€ staff; as ever, though, the decor can seem â€œa less certain attractionâ€.
The Box Tree, IlkleyÂ£68
This landmark fine dining destination (since 1962) can seem â€œa little stuffyâ€ by contemporary standards, but the â€œfaultlessâ€ food offered by new head chef Laurence Yates is decidedly â€œ21st centuryâ€; â€œnot cheapâ€¦ but then for a restaurant with this heritage, producing food of this quality, it shouldnâ€™t be!â€
The Vanilla Pod, MarlowÂ£65
Michael Macdonaldâ€™s dining room can feel â€œa tiny bit crampedâ€, but its style can also be described as â€œintimateâ€, and it wins high praise for its â€œattentiveâ€ service and â€œabsolutely top-notch foodâ€ (which is at least as good as at the much-ballyhooed Hand & Flowers, nearby).
An â€œoutstandingâ€ restaurant-with-rooms thatâ€™s not just â€œby far the best place to eat (and stay) for miles aroundâ€, but of a quality thatâ€™s â€œvery unexpectedâ€ â€“ chef-proprietors â€œStÃ©phane Borie & Sarah Francis used to work at the Waterside Inn, and you get very similar quality at a fraction of the price!â€
â€œThe best cooking in the areaâ€; Bernard and Mary Lignier may have been in business for over 30 years, but his â€œauthenticâ€ SW France cuisine and her â€œcharmingâ€ and â€œefficientâ€ service make this the sort of â€œold-fashionedâ€ establishment thatâ€™s still very hard to beat; â€œgood wine selectionâ€ too.
Chez Roux, InvernessÂ£55
â€œAlways a great experienceâ€; a number of reporters express â€œsurpriseâ€ at the â€œvery high standard of traditional French cuisineâ€ on offer at this riverside outpost of the Roux empire; puddings are â€œparticularly superbâ€ â€“ â€œdonâ€™t bother to count the calories!â€
Maison Bleue, Bury St EdmundsÂ£54
â€œIâ€™m thinking of moving house so I could eat here every day!â€; Pascal and Karine Canevet's â€œprovincial French restaurantâ€, near the Cathedral, is â€œone of the best regional restaurants in the countryâ€, thanks to its â€œspot-onâ€ service and â€œperfectâ€ Gallic fish dishes.
Great House, LavenhamÂ£54
â€œItâ€™s so good I have now moved to the village to be close by!â€; the CrÃ©py familyâ€™s â€œextraordinaryâ€ venture is â€œtop drawer in every respectâ€â€¦ from the â€œbeautifulâ€ setting in an ancient house on the market square, to the â€œlovelyâ€ service and â€œexcellent Gallic cookingâ€.
Yalbury Cottage, Lower BrockhamptonÂ£53
â€œTruly wowâ€, â€œthe best meal weâ€™ve eaten in a long timeâ€â€¦ thereâ€™s no let-up in superlatives for Ariane & Jamie Jonesâ€™s â€œwonderfulâ€ (and remote) restaurant-with-rooms; only problem? â€“ â€œyou wants to eat everythingâ€, so â€œpace yourself to leave room for the wonderful puds!â€
French haute cuisine, the wellspring from which culinary magic seems to flow across the world, has been sidelined of late in favour of rusticity, simplicity and (let’s face it) dirty great burgers. But can the classics ever truly go out of style? Surely we all just need a gentle reminder of France’s culinary prowess? Well, as we near Bastille Day (14 July) Harden’s is here to champion champignons Ã l’ail, cry ‘confit de canard’ and promote pÃ¢tisserie. Here are the UK’s top French restaurants according to our 2015 survey…
£50 and over
“Steeped in classic Gallic tradition”, this “formal” Mayfair basement is “immune from trends and fashion”, and – with Michel Roux Jr often very much in evidence – “unsurpassed” for those looking for a “majestic” old-school meal; “the bill makes you cry”, though, so “book months ahead for the fantastic lunch deal”.
Marcus Eaves’s “fabulous food, beautifully presented” maintains David Moore’s “plush” Fitzrovia fixture as one of the capital’s foremost foodie temples; the ambience can seem “stuffy” though (going on “dull”, if you sit at the front).
“An outstanding all-rounder” – Gordon Ramsay’s Belgravia dining room may be a bit “corporate” in feel, but no one’s complaining about its “wonderful culinary creativity”, “legendary wine list” or “tip-top” service.
Ring the bell for entry to Alexis Gauthier’s “wonderfully quirky” Soho townhouse – a perfect venue “for a luxurious date”; the “dreamy” Gallic cuisine (with much emphasis on vegetables) and “impeccable” service are far from secondary attractions, however, and the “superb” wine list includes “some real curiosities”.
“Discreet, quiet and well-spaced”, this Mayfair landmark has long been a top expense-account choice, thanks to Phil Howard’s “brilliantly focussed” cuisine, and the “phenomenal” wine list; the experience can seem “a bit soulless”, though, and it is of course “astronomically expensive”.
“Deep flavours and lovely textures” from a “quirky” menu, plus Caves de Pyrène’s “glorious” biodynamic wines, decidedly make this “fascinating and characterful” East End bistro the group’s star performer nowadays.
“Just the sort of place you look for in Paris, and only rarely find” – this bijou Bermondsey yearling may only have a “limited” menu and “cramped” interior but it’s “perhaps the best of the new-style old-style bistros!”
“A good, cheap alternative to Club Gascon” – the “attractive” spin-off from the famous Smithfield tapas bar, nearby, “does a nice line in duck and other meaty treats”, plus “excellent-value” wine.
“Another local gem” in the Caves de Pryène (Terroirs and so on) empire – this East Dulwich yearling mixes a “brilliant selection of small plates for sharing” with the wine importer’s “lovely draught wines at amazingly reasonable prices”.
“Champagne and canapés by the Thames can’t fail to seduce” – the Roux family’s “magical” haven is at its romantic zenith on a sunny day; “it may not be at the culinary cutting edge”, but a meal here offers a “divine” combination of “sumptuous” classic cuisine and “seemless” service; the bill? – “heart-stopping”.
“Worth the 300 mile round trip!”; for “spectacular” food in a “stunning” setting, Raymond Blanc’s “impeccable” country house hotel and dining room offers “a sublime experience” that’s “worth pushing the boat out for”; “make sure you leave time to explore the gardens before dinner!”
It’s very hard to fault any facet of this “luxurious yet understated” Tudorbethan manor, “beautifully situated” down “a magical mystery tour” of windy lanes on the edge of Dartmoor; despite his many commitments, Michael Caines’s cuisine is absolutely “terrific”, and service is “flawless” too.
“Without a doubt, one of Britain’s best restaurants”; this renowned dining room “spells luxury from the moment you enter its fashionably muted and spacious interior”, and its cuisine is “truly outstanding” – it is also “frighteningly expensive”, though, and there were a couple of “anticlimactic” reports this year.
“Top-notch cooking, interesting flavour combinations, beautifully presented food… and all in a magnificent parkland setting” – most reporters can find very little to fault at Phil Fanning’s “inventive” restaurant, in a Tudor house on the Woburn Estate; no surprise, then, that it’s quite “expensive”.
“Consistently near perfection”; with its “wonderful” dishes and its “first-class” but “unobtrusive” service, this Leith fixture is, say fans, “the best restaurant in Scotland”; if there is a criticism, it is that the style can sometimes seem a little “stiff”.
“Mark Wilkinson is a brilliant one-of-a-kind”, and his “marvellous”, “artful” cuisine made this “serene” but unshowy Wirral dining room this year’s UK’s No. 1 in the survey; “in Tour de France parlance, «hors catégorie!»”.
“It should be on everyone’s bucket list!”; Harry & Caroline Hallam’s “unique” 10-seat venture “never fails to delight”, thanks to his “exquisite French-based cooking” and her “exceptional attention to detail”; of necessity though, the atmosphere is “rather dependent on who else is dining that day”.
“In the beautiful cobbled streets of Old Amersham”, these converted 17th century cottages are “well worth a detour”; Laurie Gear’s “presence at the pass in the open kitchen gives a wonderfully personal feel to the place”, and his “intense” and “creative” cuisine is amongst the UK’s best.
“Unpretentious but perfect”; “disarmingly humble yet utterly driven” chef David Everitt-Matthias “continues to amaze” at this acclaimed dining room, where his “magically intense” cuisine is served by wife Helen’s “brilliant and personable” staff; as ever, though, the decor can seem “a less certain attraction”.
This “beautiful” Regency villa, near the town centre, is “a great place to take someone to make them feel special” – “the modern Anglo-French cooking showcases top local produce” and “can be outstanding”, although it’s “let down a little” by sometimes “rather random” service.
This landmark fine dining destination (since 1962) can seem “a little stuffy” by contemporary standards, but the “faultless” food offered by new head chef Laurence Yates is decidedly “21st century”; “not cheap… but then for a restaurant with this heritage, producing food of this quality, it shouldn’t be!”
Michael Macdonald’s dining room can feel “a tiny bit cramped”, but its style can also be described as “intimate”, and it wins high praise for its “attentive” service and “absolutely top-notch food” (which is at least as good as at the much-ballyhooed Hand & Flowers, nearby).
An “outstanding” restaurant-with-rooms that’s not just “by far the best place to eat (and stay) for miles around”, but of a quality that’s “very unexpected” – chef-proprietors “Stéphane Borie & Sarah Francis used to work at the Waterside Inn, and you get very similar quality at a fraction of the price!”
“The best cooking in the area”; Bernard and Mary Lignier may have been in business for over 30 years, but his “authentic” SW France cuisine and her “charming” and “efficient” service make this the sort of “old-fashioned” establishment that’s still very hard to beat; “good wine selection” too.
“Always a great experience”; a number of reporters express “surprise” at the “very high standard of traditional French cuisine” on offer at this riverside outpost of the Roux empire; puddings are “particularly superb” – “don’t bother to count the calories!”
“I’m thinking of moving house so I could eat here every day!”;Pascal and Karine Canevet’s “provincial French restaurant”, near the Cathedral, is “one of the best regional restaurants in the country”, thanks to its “spot-on” service and “perfect” Gallic fish dishes.
“It’s so good I have now moved to the village to be close by!”; the Crépy family’s “extraordinary” venture is “top drawer in every respect”… from the “beautiful” setting in an ancient house on the market square, to the “lovely” service and “excellent Gallic cooking”.
“Truly wow”, “the best meal we’ve eaten in a long time”… there’s no let-up in superlatives for Ariane & Jamie Jones’s “wonderful” (and remote) restaurant-with-rooms; only problem? – “you wants to eat everything”, so “pace yourself to leave room for the wonderful puds!”