Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
Mr. Harper's Travel Guide
Almost 600 miles from north to south, Great Britain is the ninth-largest and third-most-populated island in the world, with about 64 million inhabitants. Despite its relatively small area, it contains immense scenic variety. Although much of southern England is crowded and heavily urbanized, most of ...
Almost 600 miles from north to south, Great Britain is the ninth-largest and third-most-populated island in the world, with about 64 million inhabitants. Despite its relatively small area, it contains immense scenic variety. Although much of southern England is crowded and heavily urbanized, most of northern Scotland is a wilderness of lakes and mountains, populated chiefly by red deer. During the most recent ice age, Britain was part of continental Europe and only became an island again when the glaciers retreated and sea levels rose, around 6500 B.C. Today the Channel, separating England from France, is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. The three nations of England, Wales and Scotland are politically united but still intensely protective of their individual identities.
WHEN TO VISIT
The weather is changeable and generally mild. Summers may be warm and sunny, but there is no guarantee of fine weather. On balance, the best months for a visit are June, July and September.
Recommended Luxury Hotels in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
Best Restaurants in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
The pioneer of upscale Indian cooking in London, this intimate place in Mayfair first won a Michelin star in 2001 and has maintained it to this day. Try delicious dishes such as broccoli cakes with potato and spring onions with gooseberry chutney; and slow-cooked lamb shank with turmeric, yogurt and a mix of freshly ground spices.
Located just off the Royal Mile with views down Victoria Street, this restaurant takes full advantage of Scotland’s superb seafood. Chef Roy Brett’s menu includes starters such as a platter of roasted seafood with lobster, langoustines, rock oysters, clams and Shetland mussels and cockles. Main courses might include native lobster grilled with garlic butter or served Thermidor style, and a fine grilled rib of Orkney beef with bone marrow, king oyster and thin-cut fries. Closed Sunday.2 George IV Bridge Edinburgh US$65 http://www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk/
Set in a Georgian townhouse, the restaurant is the vision of chef Agnar Sverrisson. Using British produce as well as that from his native Iceland, Sverrisson has created a menu featuring the likes of lightly salted Icelandic cod with avocado brandade, peppers and coriander; and char-grilled Black Angus rib eye with ox cheek and horseradish. The restaurant has a Champagne bar and a well-considered wine list. Closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday lunch.34 Portman Street W1 London US$90. Tasting menu, US$120 http://texture-restaurant.co.uk/
This sumptuously decorated establishment sets the bar for Cantonese food in London and has maintained a Michelin star for several years. Terrific dim sum are always available, plus the imaginative menu includes the likes of stir-fried spicy venison, jasmine tea-smoked chicken and Alaskan king crab in a rich XO sauce.17 Bruton Street W1 London US$130 http://www.hakkasan.com/
A legendary seafood restaurant since 1851, this was a particular favorite of 007 creator Ian Fleming and allegedly is the place where he discovered that martinis were better “shaken, not stirred.” A wonderful display of mollusks and crustacea includes a fine selection of oysters. The smoked fish is marvelous, and for main courses, watch for delicious dishes such as smoked haddock with Colcannon potatoes, poached egg and mustard; or slip sole with spiced brown shrimp butter.20 Mount Street W1 London US$95 http://www.scotts-restaurant.com/
Slightly off the beaten track near the Smithfield meat market in East London, chef Fergus Henderson’s restaurant serves traditional English food. You might start with the roasted marrowbones and parsley salad, a house classic; then a meat dish like braised rabbit with turnips and aioli, or maybe one of the savory pies such as hake and leek. Don’t miss the currant-filled Eccles cake or the bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce. Closed Sunday dinner.
It is always a pleasure to feast on a first-rate catch of the day at this Victorian-style seafood house in Covent Garden (which also makes it ideal for pre- or post-theater dining), with its softly lit, wood-paneled décor. Look for English classics such as potted shrimp and fish pie.28-32 St. Martin's Court WC2 London US$95 http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk/
The latest upscale Indian place is Karam Sethi’s clubby establishment in Mayfair. The menu is extremely imaginative. For example, delicious game dishes feature ingredients such as quail, pigeon, guinea fowl, roe deer and muntjac (wild Indian barking deer). If it’s on the menu, the wild boar vindaloo is outstanding. Closed Sunday.42 Albemarle Street W1 London US$75. Six-course tasting menu, US$80 and US$90 http://www.gymkhanalondon.com/
At his establishment on the Royal Mile, chef Paul Wedgwood combines the atmosphere of a French bistro and the superb produce of Scotland. Look for starters such as Isle of Mull cheddar-and-onion bread-and-butter pudding with tomato confit, fennel ice cream and soused fennel; or lobster Thermidor crème brûlée with smoked dulse Bloody Mary sorbet, Parmesan shortbread, caviar and lobster oil. Among the ever-changing mains, keep an eye out for fillet and shin of Buccleuch beef with parsnips, carrots, marrow crumb and a red wine jus.267 Canongate Edinburgh US$50 http://www.wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk
The best Indian food outside the subcontinent is generally reckoned to be in London. Once, the restaurants were mostly simple and the menus restricted. No longer. Elegant Amaya draws a well-dressed crowd, and chefs working in the attractive open kitchen prepare wonderful dishes that might include wild tandoori prawns; raan mussalam — leg of baby lamb, slow roasted with royal cumin and garam masala; and duck tikka with tandoori plum chutney.
Martin Wishart brought Edinburgh its first Michelin star. Set in the docklands of Leith, this sophisticated restaurant has wood accents, muted colors and gentle lighting. Look for starters such as Orkney scallop and black truffle with Jerusalem artichoke, sweet potato and hazelnut. Main courses might include glazed onglet of Black Angus beef with Comté and bone marrow crust, braised short rib, French beans Lyonnais and a bordelaise sauce. Closed Sunday and Monday.
In his waterfront restaurant, chef Tom Kitchin offers imaginative fare using seasonal produce in surprising combinations. Starters might include hand-dived Orkney scallops baked in the shell, served with a white wine, vermouth and wild herb sauce; or a rich game terrine served with celeriac and winter fruits. Among the main courses, look for dishes such North Sea turbot roasted on the bone and served with garlic potatoes, squid and garlic confit. No children under age 5. Closed Sunday and Monday.78 Commercial Quay Leith Edinburgh US$95. Seven-course tasting menu, US$105 http://www.thekitchin.com/kitchin/home
Chef Alexis Gauthier has opened a terrific restaurant in a handsomely renovated Georgian townhouse in Soho. His menus change with the season but run to dishes such as Scottish lobster with Jerusalem artichokes, poached rhubarb and a verbena-infused velouté; and Welsh lamb two ways — roasted loin and rack with lightly spiced butternut squash, dates and pistachio-braised spelt. Closed Sunday and Monday21 Romilly Street W1 London Prix Fixe, US$65-95 http://www.gauthiersoho.co.uk/
Though it is located in fashionable Fitzrovia, Dabbous has a postindustrial style more in keeping with evolving East London neighborhoods. A committed locavore, chef Ollie Dabbous strives to make the natural tastes of his produce as eloquent as possible. Dishes you might find on the changing set menu could include grilled mackerel with toasted grains, Muscat grapes and lovage; and barbecued haunch of venison with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and rye. Closed Sunday.39 Whitfield Street W1 London Four-course set menu, US$85 http://www.dabbous.co.uk/
Chef Dominic Jack has worked in some of Europe’s top kitchens, including as a sous chef at Le Taillevent in Paris. The restaurant is a model of comfortable contemporary style, and Jack makes full use of fine Scottish produce. Representative dishes might include seared hand-dived Orkney scallops served with a light curry sauce, and roasted rump of Inverurie lamb served with smoked eggplant, fennel and basil gnocchi. No children under age 5. Closed Sunday and Monday.33/35 Castle Terrace Edinburgh US$90. Seven-course tasting menu, US$105 http://www.castleterracerestaurant.com/
Chef Mark Hix’s place in Soho is perfect for a pre- or post-theater meal. The kitchen works exclusively with British-sourced produce, as seen in dishes such as soused Looe Bay mackerel with Yorkshire rhubarb and sea purslane followed by grilled Dorset blue lobster with fries and garlic mustard butter, or for meat lovers, hanger steak with baked bone marrow.66-70 Brewer Street W1 London US$75 http://www.hixsoho.co.uk/
The Adam Tihany-designed restaurant of chef Daniel Boulud on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is ideal for lunch after shopping in Knightsbridge (Sloane Street, Harrods and Harvey Nichols). Diners enjoy delicious charcuterie, coq au vin, salads and hamburgers.66 Knightsbridge SW1 London US$75 http://www.mandarinoriental.com/london/dining/bar_boulud/