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Tried & Tested: our favourite new UK restaurants right now

From a Catalan joint offering picture-perfect tapas in Manchester to a food truck-cum-restaurant in Birmingham, here are the openings that caught our eye

By National Geographic Traveller Food
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:50 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 14:52 BST
Bao Fricando
Bao Fricando

Tast, Manchester
I've always thought people who say a dish 'looks too good to eat' aren't very good at eating. And while I stand by this view, Tast's photogenic tapas does test my convictions. The L'exquisit tasting menu is virtually made for Instagram, and it takes a minute of lining up shots before we're ready to try the puckishly named Duck'in Donut — cloud-like rings of duck liver covered in perfectly tempered white chocolate. The combination of flavours is initially a little odd, but it grows on you. The Pop a La Boqueria is a highlight: hunks of tender octopus in a romesco and oloroso sauce; a single, insouciant tentacle draped over a divan of buttery potato mash. Elsewhere, Wagyu brisket is wedged into pillowy bao buns with a mushroom sauce. The lobster tempura is probably the least photogenic of the dishes, resembling something you might knock together at home, but it's the most satisfying. We're encouraged to puncture the poached egg and combine it with the chunky lobster, crispy potato and lobster mayo for a multi-textured mouthful. By the time dessert — a pineapple, toffee and mango architectural marvel — arrives, most of our table are too full to actually eat it. We take pictures, though. L'exquisit tasting menu £55pp without wine (from £22 a bottle). Zane Henry

Rovi, London
Rovi is something of a departure for Yotam Ottolenghi, with no smatterings of za'atar or sprinklings of pomegranate in sight. Overseen by head chef Neil Campbell (Ottolenghi himself is executive chef), it's less Middle East, more Europe with a hint of the Far East. The focus is on ferments and cooking over fire, with a veg-heavy menu that makes liberal use of the open kitchen's chunky, cast-iron grill. For a light bite, pull up a stool at the bar and order from the 'With Drinks' section. The crumpet lobster toast is a fluffy surprise, its flavours of sesame and soy echoing the Japanese-inflected dining room. The rest of the menu is primarily small plates, which, once we've ordered, come in thick and fast — a little too swiftly, if anything. A medley of grilled onions is enhanced by salty whipped feta and green gazpacho, while the runner beans are overshadowed by their plate-mates, a dream team of charred peach and goat's cheese. Certain dishes (I'm looking at you, hasselback beetroot with lime cream and herb salsa) seem a little mismatched, but it's all infinitely edible. The dish of the night — much to my wannabe-vegetarian chagrin — is the onglet skewers. The meat is tender and deeply savoury, countered by tangy fermented green chilli. Who needs pomegranate? Six sharing plates (for two people) with wine about £100. Nicola Trup

Baked in Brick, Birmingham
With street food having its moment in the sun, it's no surprise many vendors are transitioning from food trucks to restaurants. Latest to go down that road is Baked in Brick, which has a strong pedigree, having scooped the Best Street Food prize — and Best Main Course — at the inaugural European Street Food Awards in 2017. The year since has seen the team find a permanent place to lay their brick oven, after previously dishing up pizzas and spicy skewers out of the back of adapted Mini Coopers. The resulting restaurant opened its doors in Birmingham's creative hub, the Custard Factory, this July. The decor is all exposed pipework, bulkhead lights and chipboard walls — with one of those Mini Coopers bursting out of the wall. The menu, meanwhile, centres on pizzas, baked in the huge oven that dominates the open kitchen. Naturally, the thing to order is the award-winning main — a calzone with beef-shin ragu and wild mushrooms, with a Colston Bassett stilton dip. It's stunning, oozing seductively upon opening, and filled with a ragu that's meaty and profound, with earthy notes from generous quantities of wild mushrooms and barely wilted basil leaves. The dip is salty and rich, the perfect match. A main-course salad features oak-smoked burrata, tomatoes and peppery leaves spiked with pesto and crumbs of focaccia. A side of padron peppers, pan-tossed in the oven, is perfectly seasoned and charred. It seems Baked in Brick has a winning recipe. Two courses with a beer around £40 for two. Tim Burke

As featured in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.

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