When it comes to truly memorable meals, location is always a key factor: far better a panoramic vista of perfect countryside than the bland basement room in a fast-food outlet. Happily, Britain has an abundance of top-notch restaurants and cafes, both urban and rural, which boast perches to take a diner’s breath away. Your Instagram account will never look back!
All of Chaophraya’s high-quality Thai restaurants boast lavish locations, but its recent Edinburgh opening, located plum in the middle of Scotland’s capital city, quite literally sets a new high. 33 Castle Street is a rooftop establishment with spellbinding views – from the Glass Box, a transparent cube – of Edinburgh Castle, one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks. The playful menu, meanwhile, includes Scottish-Thai offerings such as seared scallops and black pudding with mango, chilli and palm sugar. Retire to the cocktail bar afterwards – the gorgeous skyline remains just as visible.
In the best tradition of English country pubs, the Pipe & Glass can be a bit hard to find. It’s only an hour’s drive from York, in north-eastern England, but situated along narrow, little-signposted lanes that twist and turn like telephone cables. But once you do locate this quaint, cosy gem – awarded a Michelin star in 2010 for its inventive take on local dishes – ask for a room in the glass annexe. Because, from there, miles of vintage farmland extend all the way to the undulating Yorkshire Wolds.
Sitting atop a Hilton hotel, Cloud 23 affords panoramas of one of Britain’s most energised cities. Set on England’s west coast, Manchester’s skyline has lately seen pioneering additions in the form of MediaCityUK, One Angel Square and urban regeneration project NOMA. Check how all are taking shape from this 23rd-floor bar while you eat afternoon tea (12-5pm), or sip a cocktail inspired by the Stone Roses, a legendary local band. The luxury bar’s zones are named after Greek gods, deities who knew a thing or two about sitting in the sky.
Fifteen is restaurant brand run by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and staffed with apprentice chefs. This Cornish outpost is arguably its most famous, thanks to a stunning position above Newquay’s romantic Watergate Bay. England’s far south-westerly county, Cornwall is renowned for its picturesque seasides like this. Reserve a window table for a summer evening, and watch surfers catch sunset waves as you devour Italian-inspired dishes made from local ingredients – including pastas using Cornish durum wheat.
UNESCO ranks Conwy Castle among Europe’s ‘finest examples of late 13th & early 14th century military architecture’ – making it not a bad building at which to stare during dinner! That’s one boon for eaters at The Grill, part of the Quay Hotel in Deganwy, an estuary village close to Llandudno on the North Wales coast. The other is award-winning meals based on fine, locally-sourced ingredients, from Menai mussels to the finest Welsh beef and lamb. Equally regional are the bar’s Great Orme Brewery ales.
Set on the craggy, dramatic west coast of Scotland near Oban, The Airds Hotel overlooks Loch Linnhe. Its acclaimed restaurant gazes across this seaside lake towards the Morvern Hills, and a west-facing position means the additional bonus of fantastic sunsets. Better still, this side of Scotland is known for offering some of the world’s finest seafood, and the consistent award of three AA rosettes proves that head chef Jordan Annabi certainly knows what to do with it.
The combination of sensational seafood and sea views is also promised in Northern Ireland’s easternmost settlement. Located on the pretty harbourside of Portavogie in County Down, about 25 miles south of Belfast, The Quays Restaurant cooks fish fresh off the local boats, with the seasonal specialities including crab claws, lobster, Dover sole and turbot. Watch the last fishermen return to shore while you feast; the family-friendly establishment faces across the Irish Sea towards the Isle of Man, which can easily be seen on a clear day.
What with it being Wales’ highest peak, one would hope Mount Snowdon’s summit offered a decent view. And indeed it does: the Isle of Anglesey and vast swathes of rugged Snowdonia are gloriously on show. Less predictable is the fact that they’re also visible from a cafe. Opened on the 3,560-foot summit in 2009, Hafod Eryri serves sandwiches and soft drinks inside a £8M glass-walled building which doubles as a visitor centre. Its customers aren’t confined to triumphant mountaineers, either – the Snowdon Railway terminates here.
Officially Britain’s remotest pub – even the Guinness Book of Records says so – The Old Forge is only reachable via a 18-mile hike across uncompromising hills, or a choppy 20-minute ferry around the Knoydart Peninsula. And all that solely from the port of Mallaig, five hours north of Glasgow by train. It’s well worth it, though: partly for the bygone village feel, partly for the hand-dived scallops and venison, and partly for the window-watching, with Loch Nevis on the doorstep. If you fancy putting off the return journey, cosy cottages are at hand nearby.
Found in the middle of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons is a beautiful range of hills boasting moorland, Norman castles, market towns and the odd neolithic stone circle. The wisest visitors hole up at Gliffaes, a cosy country-house hotel whose conservatory restaurant (also open to non-guests) overlooks a particularly scenic Beacons stretch, and which serves high-quality Welsh meat at affordable prices. Go in autumn or winter for seasonal game dishes; go anytime for the extensive wine cellar.
More info: www.visitbritain.com