The AA Guide 2021 is revealed showing the best restaurants in the UK

The AA Guide 2021 is revealed showing the best restaurants in the UK

The AA Guide 2021 revealed: Rustic forest restaurant in Cumbria and Scandi-inspired Manchester eatery are among three venues awarded highest rating of four rosettes

  • The AA has announced its 2021 Rosette Award winners with rustic forest-side restaurant in the Lake District named among the best in the country this year 
  • Three restaurants were awarded four AA Rosettes, while 16 were given three 
  • Forest Side in Grasmere, Cumbria, which includes eight-course tasting menus that evolve with the seasons was given the the prestigious four rosettes

The AA has announced its 2021 Rosette Award winners with rustic forest-side restaurant in the Lake District named among the best in the country.

In a  virtual ceremony yesterday, three restaurants were awarded four AA Rosettes, while a further 16 were given three AA Rosettes for the first time. 

Forest Side  in Grasmere, Cumbria, which includes eight-course tasting menus that evolve with the seasons was given the the prestigious four rosettes.

The AA has announced its 2021 Rosette Award winners with rustic forest-side restaurant in the Lake District named among the best in the country. Forest Side in Grasmere, Cumbria, which includes eight-course tasting menus that evolve with the seasons, for the prestigious four rosettes

The third eatery getting the top gong was Tuddenham Mill in Newmarket, Suffolk serves the likes of steak and pork buns in a working mill

Also winning the top prize was Mana in Manchester – which was also awarded the city’s first Michelin star since 1977for its 16-course tasting menu and uses locally-grown or foraged seasonal ingredients for its dishes.

The third eatery getting the top gong was  Tuddenham Mill in Newmarket, Suffolk serves the likes of steak and pork buns in a working mill.   

Those awarded three AA Rosettes include Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay  in London’s Belgravia,  new Glaswegian dining destination UNALOME by Graeme Cheevers  and French bistro L’Ortolan in Reading, Berkshire.

Establishments with three AA Rosettes are all outstanding restaurants achieving standards which demand national recognition well beyond their local area, while those awarded four AA Rosettes are considered among the top restaurants in the country.  

Also winning the top prize was Mana in Manchester.  Interior view of Mana restaurant on Blossom Street in Ancoats, central Manchester is shown

Those awarded three AA Rosettes include Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay in London’s Belgravia (pictured)

A country-house style restaurant set in an elegant red-brick former vicarage with Gothic-style front door and bow-fronted windows, L’Ortolan (pictured)  is a name synonymous with modern British gastronomy since the 1980s (pictured) 

Simon Numphud, Managing Director at AA Media told FEMAIL: ‘As the hospitality sector reopens after a challenging year, it is an honour to be able to recognise those restaurants achieving the highest levels of gastronomic excellence. 

‘All 2021 Rosette winners deserve to be celebrated, with each one demonstrating the exceptional culinary standards being offered to diners across the country.’

Now in its 65th year, AA Rosettes have been awarded to restaurants since 1956, with the top award of five Rosettes being introduced in 1991. The allocation of multi-Rosettes is determined by one or more visits by an AA inspector to a hotel or restaurant.

The announcement of the latest AA Rosette winners accompanies the release of The Restaurant Guide 2022 on 28th October 2021. The Restaurant Guide 2022 features all current AA Rosette holders, recognizing the top dining destinations across the UK and Ireland.

Which restaurants won AA Rosettes this year?  


Forest Side, Grasmere, Cumbria

As the name suggests, Forest Side occupies a verdant setting and the spacious dining room celebrates views of both the garden and surrounding forest. Elegant but rustic, linen napkins and local pottery wares are a talking point, as are tables fashioned out of old floor boards. Paul Leonard’s exciting modern approach includes 8- or 4-course tasting menus that evolve with the seasons. Expect solid technical skills and big flavours conjured from high quality local ingredients. Raw aged Cumbrian deer turns up with smoked fresh cheese, wood sorrel and swede before moving on to native lobster barbecued over forest pine with tomatoes, elder and fennel. Top drawer Lakeland Dexter beef appears with alliums from the garden and forest, with preserved raspberry, meadowsweet and custard a stand-out dessert. The carefully chosen wine list is full of interesting bottles and the knowledgeable sommelier is on hand should choices become too tricky.

Also winning the top prize was Mana in Manchester – which was also awarded the city’s first Michelin star since 1977 for its 16-course tasting menu and uses locally-grown or foraged seasonal ingredients for its dishes.

Mana, Manchester

Situated on a cobbled street in Manchester, Mana has a minimalist look with high ceilings and picture windows. Dramatic darkwood tables are unclothed and an open island-style kitchen is populated by chefs sending out some highly accomplished Nordic-influenced cooking. Multi-course menus deliver dishes that are highly technical, intelligent and masterfully constructed to balance flavours and textures, with fermentation and fire contributing to the skills set. Expect to find the finest raw materials underpinning the likes of unpreserved caviar with sorrel and caramelised cream; a trimmed oyster with iced dill, English Wasabi and macerated oyster leaf; ‘fillets’ of Devonshire blue mussel with garlic ‘cooked for two months’; smoked Scottish sea trout with ‘inoculated’ grains, and 100% outdoor raised Dexter Beef with ‘all the artichoke’. The sweet end of the menu brings wild fig soft serve with marigold and fermented honey, and ‘still-hot’ doughnut with Islay whisky custard.

Tuddenham Mill, Newmarket, Suffolk

From the outside, the weatherboarded 18th-century Tuddenham Mill looks solid enough to carry on its grinding career today, but a peek inside the doors reveals a seductive modern boutique hotel. Meticulous renovation means its heritage remains intact – the fast-flowing stream that turned its waterwheel is now a thriving wildlife habitat, while the impressive cast-iron wheel that was once its beating heart is atmospherically lit within glass walls to form a centrepiece to the first-floor restaurant. With its framework of exposed beams, bare black tables, gauzy curtain partitions and views over the millpond, it’s a classy setting for chef-patron Lee Bye’s confident cooking. As a local lad, he’s in touch with his East Anglian roots and has an instinctive feel for combining ingredients from the surrounding region to good effect, thus a typical opener strikes a balance between no-nonsense and contemporary refinement via langoustines with caviar, beurre blanc and Japanese cresses, a simple yet stunning dish in terms of texture and flavours. Fish dishes such as Gigha halibut with wild nettles, smoked eel and cobnuts are equally well handled. Desserts are executed with memorable dexterity, bringing entertaining plays of flavour and texture in ideas such bitter chocolate marquise served with tiramisù cream and honeycomb. Again, it sounds straightforward in terms of the simplicity of the dish, but a beautifully smooth, rich chocolate flavoured marquise and the well-balanced subtle flavour of the tiramisù cream is a great combination.


New Glaswegian dining destination UNALOME by Graeme Cheevers also got two rosettes

Chutney Mary, London, SW1

New meets old at this stylish St James’s restaurant with its hybrid of classical and modern décor. The smart doorman sets the tone at this classy venue, likewise the glittering Pukka Bar for cocktails. But its main dining room is the real jewel in the crown complete with mirrored columns and soft lighting. The creative Indian cuisine runs to inspiring combinations with luxurious touches and well-dressed presentation. Baked venison samosas, tamarind and date chutney might precede halibut tikka with dill and green chilli. A dark chocolate ‘bomb’ filled with milk chocolate mousse and passionfruit sauce is a skilful dessert.

Farmyard, Norwich, Norfolk

The philosophy at this modern and minimalist restaurant in the heart of the city is quite simple – find the very best Norfolk produce and serve it in a relaxed bistro setting. From the sourdough to the handmade butter, everything is made from scratch, with meat, fish and vegetables cooked over charcoal for added flavour. From the daily-changing menu, a tender piece of belly pork with Chinese-style XO sauce and BBQ onions might lead on to roasted rump of lamb with celeriac, mushroom and fenugreek. Finish with a home-made chocolate bar with miso caramel, candied peanuts and milk sorbet.

KOL Restaurant, London, W1

This hot-spot new Mexican feels unlike dining anywhere else in the capital. Warm tones and textures, beams, leather seating, eye-catching lighting and displays of heritage items create an engaging authentic buzz, reinforced by a centrepiece open kitchen. Uptempo, yet relaxed, Lastra’s kitchen turns out labour-intensive, prettily plated super-modern dishes on a repertoire of tasting menus (with a choice at mains) that express Mexican culture and innovation through British ingredients, while also championing wild foods and seasonality. Bright, fresh, colourful flavours dance on the palette with chilli used hyper-skilfully in many forms; witness a ‘tostada’ course of chalk stream trout with pasilla Oaxaca, courgette, berries and wild garlic

Pentonbridge Inn, Pentonbridge, Cumbria

Just on the English side of the border but closer to Scottish towns, this fully refurbished inn has built a sound reputation for good food. There’s a blend of modern and traditional inside, with exposed brick, log burning stoves and a stylish decor. Much of the produce used for the imaginative menus comes from the owner’s nearby estate and gardens. Solid technical skill underpins the dishes, which are big on flavour and precision presentation. Cornish crab with quail egg caviar and leek and potato foam might precede Cartmel Valley red deer, crispy haggis, neeps and tatties with bone marrow sauce.

Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay, London, SW1

Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay is very much a fine dining environment with service of the highest order. The dining room has a circular dynamic with a glass wine cellar in the middle. It’s comfortable, modern and light; think leather chairs and white linen, and pastel tones jazzed up by splashes of claret. All crockery, cutlery and glassware is of the highest standard. The menu may start with an organic egg with sweet corn, bacon and black truffle, continue to Cornish cod with violet artichoke, pine nuts, courgette and olive, and wind up in a delicious hazelnut souffle with salted caramel ice cream. Outstanding wine list.

The Clock House, Ripley, Surrey

The namesake signature clock above the front door of this imposing Georgian building certainly draws the eye on well-healed Ripley’s pretty High Street. Inside is equally elegant, with on-trend pastel shades and clean lines set against stripped-back old wall timbers and tall street-side windows. A relaxed vibe extends to the informed, sunny-natured service, while chef Paul Nicholson’s thoroughbred modern cooking delivers via a roster of fixed-price menus, including tasting options. Simplicity, lightness of touch and flavour reign supreme in dressed-to-thrill dishes of panache; take ‘sparkling-fresh’ line-caught plaice with coco beans, pork and fennel to a Bakewell dessert with cherry and almond, while formal-code amuse-bouche and in-house bread are equally classy.

The Grill at The Dorchester, London, W1

The revamped restaurant at the heart of The Dorchester presents a contemporary reworking of the legendary British grill room first established in 1931. The chandeliers, parquet floor and intricate gilded ceilings provide a glamorous backdrop for a meal here, with some diners seated close to the action in front of the open kitchen. Start with veal sweetbread, potato pancake, bacon and cabbage before a precisely cooked piece of first-rate Cornish turbot with borlotti beans and grelot onion. Yoghurt soft serve, apricots, London Honey and almonds is a clean and refreshing finale, although the soufflés are as good as ever.

Myrtle Restaurant, London, SW1

First solo venture from Irish-born chef Anna Haugh (known to a wider audience from her TV appearances on the BBC’s ‘Morning Live’ or ‘Saturday Kitchen’), Myrtle sees her deservedly step out into the limelight after working in some of London’s top kitchens for celebrated chefs like Philip Howard, Shane Osborne and Gordon Ramsay. Small, two-floored, light-filled and relaxed, Myrtle speaks with a soft, endearing Irish accent, with Haugh’s intelligently simple yet refined, elegant dishes driven by top-notch Irish produce: witness, Clonakilty black pudding wrapped in crispy string potato with Bramley apple and pearl barley, and to follow, Oat-crusted hake with smoked mackerel chowder and spinach.

Ormer Mayfair, London W1

Befitting of a hotel restaurant with a swanky Mayfair postcard, Omer ticks all the ‘luxury’ boxes with its marble tiles, distressed mirrors, linen-clad tables and sumptuous green leather chairs. Chef Sofian Msetfi offers a range of tasting menus at lunch and dinner, each showcasing his precise and technically skilled modern British dishes. Start with warm Ibérico ham jelly, Parmesan, Bramley apple and nasturtium before a meltingly tender rump and confit breast of Dorset lamb with cucumber and dill. Kentish strawberries, kefir and extra virgin olive oil is one way to finish, or perhaps the board of seasonal British cheeses.

L’Ortolan, Shinfield, Berkshire

A country-house style restaurant set in an elegant red-brick former vicarage with Gothic-style front door and bow-fronted windows, L’Ortolan is a name synonymous with modern British gastronomy since the 1980s. Now, talented young chef James Greatorex is the man in ‘whites’, delivering sophisticated, highly detailed, aspiring contemporary cooking via carte and tasting menus. Dishes come dressed to thrill, with flavour, texture, balance and precision to the fore; witness ‘melting’ citrus cured Cornish mackerel teamed with cucumber and buttermilk, or ‘sparkling fresh’ Cornish cod ballotine with clams, sea herbs and watercress. Fine-dining standards like canapés, bread, pre-desserts and petit fours round of a polished act, alongside professional and informed service.

Roots York, York

Sister restaurant to Tommy Banks’s celebrated Black Swan at Oldstead, this relaxed restaurant in the heart of York occupies a characterful 19th-century building. Light wood panelling, coloured glass windows and an open kitchen combine to create a relaxed and informal setting overseen by a well-drilled team. A seasonal tasting menu is the only option on offer, many of the dishes showcasing produce from the chef’s family farm. Menu descriptions are concise but hide the amount of work and skill involved. Inventive flavour pairings are evident in dishes such as ‘trout, carrot, whey’ and ‘monkfish, smoked butter, pickled mussel’.

SO LA, London, W1

Victor Garvey brings an authentic piece of California to this intimate Dean Street restaurant, where an abundance of greenery and warm lighting evokes memories of The Golden State. The contemporary cooking of America’s Pacific West Coast is served up with a dash of theatre. The cooking of top drawer ingredients is elegant and precise, as in a dish that celebrates Scombridae (the mackerel, tuna, and bonito family) in its raw, cured and smoked forms. It might be followed by a pairing of langoustine, foie gras, mushroom, ginger and dashi. Lemon, vanilla, yuzu, meringue and crème fraîche is a refreshing finale.

The Princess of Shoreditch, London, EC2

Dating back to 1742, this popular place is a lively pub with three rotating ales on hand pump, around 40 bottled beers and canned craft beers and a range of wines. On the pub menu there’s steamed Scottish mussels in chilli, garlic and parsley; and shepherd’s pie and roasted root vegetables. There is a 42-seater candlelit dining room accessed via a spiral staircase where the regularly changing menu might feature 35-day aged Hereford rib of beef to share with maple glazed carrots and buttered kale, followed by spiced sultana ice cream, honeycomb and orange jelly.

UNALOME by Graeme Cheevers, Glasgow

After working for Martin Wishart in Loch Lomond, Graeme Cheevers has returned to his home city of Glasgow to open his first solo restaurant. A light-filled corner site on Sauchiehall Street, it’s a classy dining room with brass and muted greens, a polished parquet floor and minimalist table setup. The kitchen is completely open, allowing diners to watch the focused chefs conjure tip-top Scottish produce into modern British dishes underpinned by classic technique. Veal sweetbreads, asparagus, pickled walnut and preserved lemon might lead on to a precisely cooked fillet of bass with caramelised onion and vin jaune sauce.

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