In certain UK cities, the winter holidays make for as good a visit as any other time of the year. While making the most of their culture, history, and surroundings however, just as important is what to eat and where to eat it.
If medieval architecture is your bag, make a beeline for Cardiff Castle or the out-of-town Castell Coch. For more of Cardiff’s iconic buildings in general, and the peaceful Wetlands Nature Reserve, wander over to the bay. Just make sure to stop by Cardiff Central Market before you head home, where almost anything can be found from laverbread to flat caps. You’ll want to plan where to eat – if the mood says ‘British inspired small plates’, Great British Menu finalist Tommy Heaney will set you up well at Heaney’s. For the more exotic, Vivo Latino’s South American approach is sure to wake up the taste buds, while Sri Lankan street food spot The Coconut Tree will do the job just as well.
Welcome to Manchester. Here for the music scene? Then make tracks to one of Manchester’s great gig venues (YES is usually a good start), or record stores such as Eastern Bloc. The sport-curious should check out the National Football Museum, while the Pankhurst Centre, exhibiting the history of women’s social movement, is an enlightening visit for all. As with music, Manchester’s other appetites are diverse: There’s BAB, serving all manner of good things on flame-grilled flatbreads; Hispi, Gary Usher’s follow-up to the impossibly popular Sticky Walnut and Burnt Truffle, and Bundobust – with its okra fries, broccoli and kale bhajis, and vada pav burgers – is one of the best meat-free options in town. If you fancy food on the move, you can grab a glühwein and a German sausage at the city’s famous Christmas market.
As the annual Fringe demonstrates, Edinburgh is fertile ground for culture, with The Festival Theatre, Scottish National (art) Galleries, and independent cinemas like Cameo Picturehouse all worth a look-in. It’s also a great city to explore by foot, so pack the walking boots especially for Arthur’s Seat – an extinct volcano a 45-minute walk from the city centre. Head back into town for dinner at local favourite Café St Honoré or The Gardener’s Cottage – once home to the Royal Terrace Garden’s handyman, now a restaurant influenced by its former life (fruit, veg, and herbs are grown on-site).
Known for its history, there are parts of York left largely untouched for 1,000 years or more. Soak it in by walking its ancient streets (most notably The Shambles), taking a tour of the Roman walls that once protected the city, and checking out Barley Hall, a particularly well-preserved Henry VIII-era townhouse. At some point in-between, you’ll want to fuel up with some of the country’s finest fish and chips on behalf of Millers. Taking afternoon tea on an old-school railway carriage is also recommended, or let shoe-box sized newcomer Shori warm your bones with top notch bao and ramen.
Many come here with eyes for punting and the cathedral, but there’s more to this historic city. You can spend a day pub-crawling the several-century-old boozers; browsing the shelves at The Chaucer Bookshop; or exploring the Roman Museum, revealing some of the city’s oldest remnants. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can tuck into British comfort food at Oscar & Bentleys or enjoy a meze feast at Zeus Ouzeri & Taverna. The Goods Shed – a farmer’s market, food hall, and restaurant – fulfils many a locavore’s dream, while a visit to The Falstaff is necessary for those late afternoon cravings of scones, jam, and clotted cream.
Travelling elsewhere this winter? Visit OpenTable to discover restaurants across the UK and beyond.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.