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The seven restaurants dishing up some of the UK's finest and most innovative cuisine.
By Emma Al-Mousawi | June 11 2021
There is a grand total of 166 Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, but out of all of them, only seven have achieved the ultimate accolade of three Michelin stars.
Though the UK still has a bit of a way to go to catch up with Michelin’s favorite nations of France and Japan (30 and 22 three-Michelin-starred restaurants respectively), Britain has been steadily building its gastronomic reputation on the international stage, shedding British cuisine’s historically ‘bland’ stereotype. Though it must be said, French cuisine does feature heavily within some of the eateries on the list.
Despite a wealth of one-Michelin-starred establishments dotted outside London and the surrounding counties (and half a dozen two-starred eateries as well), all seven three-Michelin-star restaurants in the UK are concentrated in London and the South East. Two of which – Core by Clare Smyth and Helene Darroze at The Connaught, both helmed by female chefs – were awarded a coveted third star earlier this year. No mean feat during a global pandemic.
Elite Traveler takes a closer look at all seven three-Michelin-star restaurants in the UK.
One of the most esteemed of all French chefs, Alian Ducasse has built a culinary empire that spans 34 restaurants across seven countries, amassing a total of 21 Michelin stars, only surpassed by his fellow countryman, the late Joël Robuchon.
Claiming three of those Michelin stars is Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, the French chef’s only British restaurant. Located on the first floor of the iconic Dorchester Hotel overlooking Park Lane, it has held three Michelin stars since 2010.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is the shimmering ‘Table Lumière’, a luminescent curtain of 4,500 twinkly fiber optics, which acts as one of London’s most coveted private dining spaces. The dining room is elegant, as is the food. Ducasse’s signature stamp of sophisticated and contemporary French haute-cuisine is executed by executive chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, who like Ducasse, is a champion of fine seasonal produce. Classics like ‘sauté gourmand’ of lobster are served alongside more original dishes like caramelized celeriac with fermented hazelnut and citrus from the restaurant’s vegetarian menu (Menu Jardin).
Northern Irish chef Clare Smyth opened CORE in 2017 to high expectations. As Gordon Ramsay’s protege, she left his three-Michelin-star London restaurant to go it alone. And what a great decision that was.
CORE has a more laid-back vibe than many of the other restaurants on our list, something that Smyth describes as “casual luxury”. The dishes follow a similar theme; simple sustainably sourced high-quality British produce is transformed into beautifully crafted dishes.
Don’t let the simplicity of the menu fool you. Smyth has a unique knack for turning seemingly ordinary ingredients into something special (The ‘Lamb Carrot’ which features braised lamb but with the carrot front and center, is something of staple). The signature dish is the understated ‘Potato and roe’ which features decadent dulse beurre blanc and herring and trout roe.
Often lauded as one of the world’s best fine-dining restaurants, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck has been drawing foodies to the village of Bray, near Windsor, for over a quarter of a century.
Credited with taking molecular gastronomy mainstream (though Blumenthal is said to dislike the elitist connotations of the phrase), The Fat Duck is a delight for the senses as art, chemistry and ingredients all come together to take diners on a culinary adventure.
To sample Blumenthal’s latest offering, Anthology, which celebrates the eatery’s 25 years, one doesn’t reserve a table, instead, you must “book a ticket”. Anthology features a new seasonal menu – or Volume – each quarter, which explores the chef’s most celebrated and wondrous dishes. Volume 1 has seen the return of his famed Snail porridge as well as Nitro poached green tea and lime mousse. Booking in advance is a must.
French chef Hélène Darroze began her career working for Alain Ducasse at the famed Le Louis XV in Monaco in the early 1990s before going on to receive critical acclaim for her Michelin-starred Paris eatery. In 2008, the Connaught came calling and Darroze opened the doors of her namesake restaurant within the landmark hotel.
Following a multimillion refurbishment in 2019, the restaurant reopened with a slightly less formal look complete with two Damian Hearst butterfly collages and a beautiful pink marble chef’s table overlooking the kitchen.
The fourth-generation chef splits her time between her London and Paris restaurants with Darroze placing her UK restaurant in the capable hands of head chef Marco Zampese while she is away. The menu offers fresh seasonal produce, carefully selected by Darroze with French, as well as British and international, influences. The Cornish brown and spider crabs with pomelo and lampong pepper is a real highlight.
Retaining three Michelin stars since 2001, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is one of the longest-standing three-Michelin-starred restaurants in not only the UK but the world. Ramsay, who himself needs no introduction, now co-owns the restaurant with head chef Matt Abé, who channels Ramsay’s approach to culinary excellence into every dish that leaves the pass.
The menu features your more typical Ramsay modern-French-style dishes like the incredible Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon, alongside newer dishes such as Organic spelt with artichoke, maitake mushroom and black garlic from the vegetarian menu. Abé’s new Carte Blanche menu was introduced at the end of 2020 and features a bespoke selection of delights utilizing seasonal ingredients sourced from the best producers and artisans from across the globe.
Ramsay’s flagship London eatery has an intimate ambiance and with just 14 tables, diners are offered just the right level of attention.
The penultimate eatery on our guide to all seven three-Michelin-star restaurants in the UK is the Lecture Room & Library at Sketch.
Haute-cuisine by the remarkable chef Pierre Gagnaire is served up upon the second floor of the fashionable Grade II listed surrounds of Christian Dior’s former London HQ, just above the playful pink-hued parlor on the ground floor.
Gagnaire has entrusted head chef Johannes Nuding with executing a generous menu adorned with the famed chef’s trademarks. Finely executed dishes such as Scottish langoustines five-ways and salt-chamber duck marinated with coffee beans sit alongside delectable wine pairings. The sweet feast that is the ‘Grand Dessert’ is a must-try.
Another legendary eatery awaits diner’s in the Berkshire village of Bray: the beautifully situated Waterside Inn.
Guests are warmly welcomed to this Thameside restaurant, which was opened in 1972 by the late Michel and Albert Roux (five years after the brothers opened the iconic, Le Gavroche). The Waterside Inn is now one of the longest-standing Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK but it is still as relevant as it was nearly 50 years ago. Now helmed by Alain Roux, Michel’s son, the ambiance is elegant yet relaxed.
Carefully executed, classic French dishes prepared with a light, modern edge using carefully sourced ingredients is the order of the day. The pan-fried lobster medallions with white port sauce is particularly good.