Taste a different Britain: 11 culinary surprises all foodies need to try

written by
Emma Henderson

updated 22.02.2023

When one thinks of British cuisine, the first thing that often comes to mind is fish and chips or a traditional afternoon tea. But the UK has so much more to offer beyond its classic dishes. From VR wine tasting to innovative foraging workshops, Britain is full of unique culinary surprises that are just waiting to be discovered. So come and explore with us, as we take you on a journey through the diverse and dynamic world of British food and drink, and show you a side of Britain that you may not have expected.

1. Cardiff: Hensol Castle Distillery

Cost: £99 for one person, £150 for two, making one bottle of gin

You might have been to a distillery, but one in a castle is pretty unique. Set just outside of the city, this historic 17th century fortress has turned its cellar into the very professional Hensol gin's craft distillery. The experience starts with a castle tour, followed by learning about the distilling process and gin's all-important botanicals in the castle's dedicated botanical room. Next, get hands on with the opportunity to take charge of your own mini copper pot and produce your creation. Whether or not you share it with anyone else, is up to you.

Back in the Victorian Cardiff Market in the city centre, you'll find Pierogi Cardiff's polish dumplings stall. Run by Chris and Wioleta Orzechowska, they think the market is the real heart of the city, which Chris describes as being "full of quality food, no chains and mostly family businesses who give you their heart on a plate".

Find out more about Hensol Castle Distillery.

Cardiff Central Market © Richard Willimas/Flickr under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Cardiff Central Market © Richard Willimas/Flickr under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

2. Manchester: Curry mile and Mughli Charcoal Pit restaurant

Cost: Varies

Curry Mile on Wilmslow Road is one of Manchester's most famous food areas, but there's no prizes for guessing where the name comes from. Home to more than 70 curry houses, it's full of neon signs, buzzy restaurants, shisha bars and food markets. Head here for a real slice of the city's culinary beating heart and book a table at Mughli Charcoal Pit restaurant. It's been open since 1991 and is still family owned, where the menu is based on traditional royal Mughlai food, such as biryanis, lamb seekh and lamb and potato shorba. But it sets itself apart as it's given the humble curry house a contemporary update with its pop-culture inspired design and interiors.

Find out more about Curry mile and Mughli Charcoal Pit restaurant.

Mughli Manchester © Dunk/Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

Mughli Manchester © Dunk/Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license

3. Liverpool: Cheese Crawl

Cost: £25pp

Forget a pub crawl – instead swap pints for wheels and embark on a cheese crawl. It's a turophile's dream: the excuse to consume cheese for two hours (with a little walking in between), while learning about the art of cheesemaking and meeting some cheesemongers to find out their cheesy insider knowledge. Cheese-themed puns will be encouraged, and there will even be a cheesy-quiz along the way.

Aside from dairy products, Liverpool's seen the opening of plenty of food markets in the past few years, from Duke Street to the Baltic Market, where lots of experimental concepts begin at the latter. Louise Kissak, founder of the Liverpool Food Network, which connects and supports food businesses in the city, says what she loves most about Liverpool is "how easy it is to be an entrepreneur. We have a perfect storm of very creative people and very low rent", making it easier for new hospitality ventures to succeed, as they do.

Find out more about Cheese Crawl.

Cheese Crawl © See Your City

Cheesey pizza smiles on Liverpool's Cheese Crawl © See Your City

4. Bristol: Foraging walking tour

Cost: £40 pp

Step outside of the south west's food capital Bristol and embark on an exciting foraging workshop in Somerset's luscious countryside, Chew Valley. The experts from Living Wild's workshops, which educate and inspire people to reconnect with nature, will take you foraging and teach you what to look out for and when, and most importantly – how to use it.

"Bristol's food scene is a representation of Bristol itself...diverse, colourful and soulful," says Living Wild's founder, Leah Apostolou. "There's a good bunch of creative and conscious people creating food that's delicious and nutritious and doing it with flair." It's this creativity, in part, which also inspires some of her work. Leah adds the courses are "an opportunity for people to connect with food in a different way. Wild and free!"

Ready to go on a foraging walking tour? Book through Yupp, or direct.

Bristol_Chew Valley foraging - Leah Apostolou of Living Wild

British foraging with Living Wild © Living Wild

5. Glasgow: Eusebi Deli

Cost: Varies

Glasgow and the west coast of Scotland's cuisine has undeniably benefited from the wave of Italians moving here at the end of the 19th century. You'll see plenty of Italian ice-cream parlours and delis, which have been lovingly continued for generations through the same family. Eusebius in the city's west end has become an institution for just that. Instantly recognisable with its bright red and white awnings, the menu stems from its Scilian family heritage, using a mixture of local produce and excellent imported Italian ingredients. Head here for lunch, with dishes like risotto milanese or beef and gorgonzola crostini, and leave with a hearty selection from the deli, from creamy burrata to pistachio-piqued mortadella. It's impossible not to.

Find out more about Eusebi Deli.

Eusebi deli in Glasgow © Gerardo Jaconelli

Eusebi deli in Glasgow for a unique dining experience © Gerardo Jaconelli

6. London: M Restaurant symphony menu

Cost: £295 pp

The capital is rightly nicknamed the culinary melting pot of Britain: whatever food you fancy, it's got it – from Nepalese to Nigerian, and Burmese to Polish with everything in between. Food writer and author Bre Graham says London has "amazing diversity of produce… that caters to different communities". It also continues to innovate in so many ways, which is what Bre also thinks really symbolises the capital's food scene.

One such restaurant doing this is London's coolest new table, Canary Wharf's M Restaurant's new symphony menu. Each of the playful six courses uses texture, taste and even smoke to heighten the senses. The first course is blindfolded, and throughout the rest of the dinner, expect dishes like pine smoked venison tartare and Blackmore wagyu sirloin. It's cleverly paired not only with drinks, but an innovative symphonic soundtrack. From hearing the bustling city to calming forest sounds, through to tracks from Dusty Springfield and Sinatra, it's designed to enhance the dining experience and results in a one-off memorable culinary event.

Find out more about M Restaurant.

M Restaurant - blindfolded first course

M Restaurant - blindfolded first course © M Restaurants

7. Bath: Minerva wine VR experience

Cost: £99

Think of wine tasting, and it's unlikely that virtual reality springs to mind. But the team behind Bath's wine, Minerva, is bringing the unexpected pairing together. Based just outside of the city, its name is inspired by the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts.

Although, you won't actually be going to the Minerva vineyard, instead you'll be in the city centre. Eddie Sauvao, founder of Minerva, describes the experience as the "gamification of winemaking" where "traditional winemaking meets silicon valley". Narrated by goddess Minerva, you'll be taken on a VR educational tour of its vineyards to learn about all aspects of viticulture, from planting through to fermentation. After the headset comes off, you'll taste the wines with expertly chosen food pairings. It's due to launch in the summer, but if you can't wait for a wine tasting in Bath until then, there's also a cheese and wine tasting experience at Novel Wines.

Book now at Minerva wine VR experience. (Bookings open from late July)

Bath: Minerva wine VR experience

For something unique — Minerva wine VR experience © Minerva

8. Birmingham: Wilderness restaurant

Cost: Choose between £95 of £115 menu

With five Michelin star-restaurants, Birmingham knows a thing or two about fine dining, and it's finally being seen. The Good Food Guide named Birmingham as "Britain's most exciting food destination" and also ranked Wilderness restaurant in tenth place in its "Top 20 Most Exciting Restaurants" list. If that wasn't enough, Wilderness is Michelin Guide recommended and restaurant review site, SquareMeal, also included it in its "Top 100 Restaurants Of The UK" list, too. Wilderness is unmissable for its experimental tasting menu, which although changes frequently, one dish that often recurs – unsurprisingly – is its re-work of a Big Mac.

Find out more about Wilderness restaurant.

The Wilderness © Tom Bird?

The Wilderness — an exciting British dining option © Tom Bird

9. Edinburgh: Oink

Cost: From £4.95

Oink is one of the most under the radar eateries in Edinburgh. But it's clearly much loved as there's now three outposts in the city. At its most simplest, it's a hog roast bap, but it will be the best one you've ever had. The pigs have been lovingly reared on owners Sandy and Adam's, farms from the Scottish Borders, where they've been fed a natural diet, too.

It's so good, you'll no doubt find yourself having more than one in the time you're visiting Edinburgh. Our top tip? Don't wait until late lunch to order, as once the meat's gone, it's done for the day.

Roberta Hall-McCarron, head chef and owner of The Little Chartroom in Edinburgh's Leith, says the beauty of the city's restaurants, which range from neighbourhood cafes to Michelin stars, lies in the "diversity and quality of the restaurants, which is astounding when you consider the size of Edinburgh".

Learn more about Oink.

Owners of Oink in Edinburgh, farmers Adam Marshall and Sandy Pate ⓒ Oink

Owners of Oink in Edinburgh, farmers Adam Marshall and Sandy Pate ⓒ Oink

10. York: Afternoon tea river cruise

Cost: £27.50 pp (13+), £20 for children under 13

Famed for its traditional tea room Bettys, which has long been a stalwart of York, this afternoon tea river cruise is a fresh take on part of North Yorkshire's heritage. Skipton is just over an hour to the west of York, and taking to the water is one of the best ways to not only see the pretty market town but to experience a British delicacy in a different way – on a traditional narrow boat.

Throughout the two-hour cruise, expect finger sandwiches such as cream cheese and cucumber and ham, a cream tea (it's jam before cream, remember) and finish up with little desserts, like mini cheesecakes and homemade lemon drizzle cake. For those who prefer savoury, swap the sweetness for award-winning pork pies and sausage rolls instead. Of course, it all comes with unlimited tea (Yorkshire's local brew).

Learn more about taking an afternoon tea river cruise.

Skipton afternoon tea rivercruise

Skipton afternoon tea river cruise for something different © Skipton Boat Trips

11. Brighton: Vegan food walking tour

Cost: £75

With more than 240 vegetarian and vegan eateries in Brighton, it has long been renowned as the UK's vegan capital, and so it's absolutely the place to devour the UK's best plant based food. But don't let the sheer number of options overwhelm you. Instead of trying to choose just one or two to visit, a walking tour solves the problem. This vegan food tour really works hard to make a vegan diet inclusive too, as many of Britain's favourite dishes, from a Sunday roast to fish and chips, aren't plant-based. But the team behind this tour are changing that, and you'll get to try vegan versions of many of the country's favourite foods, as well as others like vegan sushi or scones. It also includes visiting vegan food shops too, supporting small and local businesses, which allows you to truly get under Brighton's skin.

Book your vegan food walking tour today.

Brighton Vegan food walking tour

Brighton Vegan food walking tour © Tours of Brighton

This article is brought to you in partnership with lastminute.com.

Emma Henderson

written by
Emma Henderson

updated 22.02.2023

Emma Henderson is a freelance journalist specialising in writing about food and drink, sustainability and travel, with a focus on two opposite ends of the UK, Cornwall and Scotland. Follow her on Instagram @emmahendy_ and Twitter @emmalouisehendy

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