Review of the best places we have 
eaten in the last 12 months

Over the last 12 months or so I have reviewed a number of diverse restaurants right across the country, some of them have been much acclaimed and some not known by many at the time of writing. What they all have in common is that while I may have heard of (some) of them I have no other present connection to them. This is on purpose; I do not review restaurants where I am known or where I know the owners or they are friends. I never want to be accused of favouritism or bias. I do not take payment for my reviews and have no axe to grind with any of them either. I try to be constructive and honest in what I write. I always said that if there was nothing good to say then say nothing, I have however broken that ethos a couple of times because sometimes saying nothing is not an option.

What I have realised recently however is that I have had some fantastic meals out over the same time period and I have not written about them as I know the owners, normally as good friends and not writing about them is as unfair as writing about them is. I now feel guilty for not recognising these superb experiences as well as the others but I still worry about being accused of bias so I am going to write about some of the very best in what will probably be a shorter composition than normal but of the ones I am about to mention please go and try them, you will not be disappointed.

The list of places we have eaten is quite long and varied, five restaurants all in the same city and all owned by the same person need to be mentioned first, I think. Terry Laybourne is a long-term friend and a real entrepreneur where food is concerned and a man of Newcastle if there ever was one, it is his city and he loves it, and it loves him too. From his pub Broad Chare serving some great bar snacks, proper ones at that, all made on the premises as well. Just around the corner his more formal restaurant, 21, and on to Fenwick’s department store where you will find two more of his stable, the Saltwater Fish Company along alongside Porterhouse, then back down to the riverside again to St. Vincent’s his newly re-opened Italian style restaurant (next door to the Broad Chare) is an awesome dining experience not to be missed. No matter which one you try first you will not be disappointed and then will want to go on and try the rest, and I urge you to do so.

We ate with Shaun Hill at his restaurant at the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny and it was everything we expected it, and wanted it to be, and more, – just fabulous. I’ve known Shaun for over 40 years now and have always admired him and his food, he did not let us down, great guy and great cook.

Trump Turnberry, yep I know! Their formal restaurant is very good as too is the food in the club house, as a person he may not be your cup of tea but as a hotel and as a meal experience go try, it is very good!

Staying in Scotland we recently ate at Knockinaam Lodge in the far far west of South West Scotland just outside of Port Patrick where Tony Pearce has presided over the kitchens for something like 29 years, unbelievable! He held a Michelin Star almost all of that time too until he lost it a few years ago, don’t ask me why he lost it as I have no idea, the meal we had deserved one that’s for sure. Clean flavours and combinations, classic presentation, nothing overly fussy, just great quality cooking, thoroughly enjoyable.

Another restaurant that not many outside of Scotland would probably ever have heard of is Craig Millar @16 West End in the tiny fishing village of St Monan’s in Fife, another fantastic chef and great person that I have known for a good few years now but have sadly only had the chance to dine there with him once so far. I sincerely hope to get back again before too long as it was first class and then some. This small restaurant deserves so much more publicity than it gets as is often the way sadly, Craig is a great cook, one that deserves so much more recognition.

Knockinaam                                                                                    Craig Millar

Let’s cross the water now and go over to Belfast to Michael Deane’s restaurant’s, yes in the plural. Michael used to be sous chef for me at our first restaurant in Kent back in the mid-eighties, he now owns 5 great establishments over there in Belfast the best being Eipic with a Michelin Star and the food is exactly as you would expect, marvellous. Alex Green of Great British Menu fame along with his edible book is his chef there and the dinner we had was stunning. His other restaurants are all more than well worth a visit, we visited them all but sadly, this time around anyway, we only got to eat in one more, Deanes Meat Locker, again a fabulous meal. The others include, Love Fish, Deane at Queens and Deane and Decano, if you are over there, just go! Go to them all.

EIPIC                                                                                                 Deanes

Down to Kent now, Reads at Faversham, or rather Reads at Macknade Manor in Faversham. David and Rhona Pitchford opened Reads at Macknade in 2000 and have been producing fantastic food alongside their fabulous rooms ever since. I first met them when I was Head Chef at Eastwell Manor, they came to eat with me lots then and when we moved to Canterbury and we went to them quite often too when the restaurant was just a restaurant in Painters Forstal a very small village just outside Faversham. David and Rhona set up in a bankrupt mini-market in this small isolated village with only 2nd hand equipment and went on to win accolades in all of the major food guides and held a Michelin Star for about 10 years. Although they no longer have that star (no idea why not), the food is still worth the visit. Undoubtedly.

Then there is the Lochgreen Hotel, in Troon. We love the Lochgreen and go there often. Why? Well we like the hotel, we like the owners, we like the staff, we like the rooms, we like the food, we always feel comfortable there. Holders of 3 AA Rosettes for about as long as the guide has been giving them out it is worth a visit, even if you are not in Scotland, got to be worth a visit even if it’s just a short break.

Lochgreen Hotel                                                                                      Reads

I am ending this piece with a restaurant that used to offer a fantastic experience but sadly one that can no longer be enjoyed by anyone. 21212, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh once the home of a real eclectic and eccentric chef, Paul Kitching, who has now sadly passed away at a desperately young age. Paul worked for me back in the 80’s in his formative years and then went on to make his mark in his first restaurant, Juniper in Altringham, then at 21212 in Edinburgh. Paul held a Michelin star in both and I will never understand why he never managed to get 2! He and his partner Katie built an enviable reputation in both restaurants but the last meal I had with him in September 2022 was superb. Then in a last meal before the restaurant eventually closed on 1st April 2023, his long serving sous chef Kate was at the stove without Paul for the last time, the meal we had was absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of people that now mourn the loss of a great eating house.

Outside of these mentioned here and the ones I have reviewed there have been more, but the ones I have not written, about some have been poor, and some were absolute shockers!

I am ending this piece with a restaurant that used to offer a fantastic experience but sadly one that can no longer be enjoyed by anyone. 21212, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh once the home of a real eclectic and eccentric chef, Paul Kitching, who has now sadly passed away at a desperately young age. Paul worked for me back in the 80’s in his formative years and then went on to make his mark in his first restaurant, Juniper in Altringham, then at 21212 in Edinburgh. Paul held a Michelin star in both and I will never understand why he never managed to get 2! He and his partner Katie built an enviable reputation in both restaurants but the last meal I had with him in September 2022 was superb. Then in a last meal before the restaurant eventually closed on 1st April 2023, his long serving sous chef Kate was at the stove without Paul for the last time, the meal we had was absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of people that now mourn the loss of a great eating house, Chef & friend, not least me.

Outside of these mentioned here and the ones I have reviewed there have been more, but the ones I have not written, about some have been poor, and some were absolute shockers!

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