This is our aspirational restaurant list. It's biased towards London and the west of England, but not exclusively. I've only listed restaurants in the UK, because we'll probably never get to El Bulli, and we want to eat everywhere, really. Every year we go to some, and add new ones. Those in bold are the high priority ones. After this, I'll post the ones we've ticked off recently.
Chez Bruce - everyone says it's marvellous, but it's a long way from Rotherhithe.
Gavroche - is it as good as it used to be? is it worth the money? we'd love to find out...
Gay Hussar - the Good Food Guide's second longest serving restaurant:49 years of note-worthy food. Curiosity rather than food lust puts this on our list, and we regularly think "not tonight", but definitely want to go there one day.
Hakkasan - I've read some reviews that say you only get decent service there if you're famous in some way, and there's no shortage exactly of decent, even stylish chinese restaurants in London, but still, it would be nice to see if all the hype is justifiable.
Locanda Locatelli - Since moving to London we've yet to go to any "fancy" Italian restaurants. By all accounts this is the creme de la creme.
Maze - could be more celebrity hype, but sounds fun. sounds expensive, too!
Nahm - David Thompson's recipe book is one of my treasured possessions. The recipes are a lot of hard work, and I would dearly love to go to his restaurant to see how they should turn out.
Pied-a-terre - It burned down and they rebuilt it. Definitely a food-lust destination.
River Cafe - This puts us in a quandary: why pay lots and lots of money for simple Italian food? is it very very different from what you can make at home? But then, how can we call ourselves foodies if we haven't eaten there?
Tamarind - Recently refurbished, and full of rave reviews, and still not as expensive as the Cinnamon Club. definite must-try
Tom Aikens - This is one we've been to already, and the culinary fireworks he produced on the plate were so amazing that we've got to go back for more
Ubon by Nobu - The logic for this is that the menu is almost identical to the parent, the ratings are similar, and it's only highly expensive, rather than prohibitively expensive, and we walk past it on our way home every evening.
Glasshouse (at Kew) - We stared at the menu here, one day when we were far too scruffy for any decent restaurant, and it would have been slightly inconvenient to hang around until opening time. We've been regretting it ever since.
Agaric, Ashburton, Devon - We keep a keen interest in Devon restaurants, and this one sounds like a superb addition to the range there, in a town not previously noted for foodie excellence.
Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire - After everything heard about Heston Blumenthal, this is a must-do foodie destination. It is a sad reflection on our credentials that we've not been there yet.
Bell's Diner, Bristol - we had a lovely meal there years and years ago. In recent years, it seems that the reviews have been more and more compelling. This level of excellence in such a crumby* area of Bristol is something of an achievement. *It didn't look that bad, and it was years ago, but we've yet to persuade friends who live in Bristol to try it.
Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
This was once the site of our most blow-out expensive meal out ever, caused largely by excess enthusiasm for venerable cognacs, after no shortage of wine. We remember the meal fairly dimly therefore, but all memories are positive. It seems to be going from strength to strength, winning more and more awards (most recently Square Meal's: http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/news/display.php?CategoryID=100) so we must go back.
New Angel, Dartmouth, Devon - we had a lowsy miserable meal at the old Carved Angel, but it is a glorious location, and the reports are good, so we need to ensure we keep up-to-date with the eating scene in Devon
Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire - no comment
Lewtrenchard Manor, Lewdown, Devon - another one to keep up to date with Devon: highly rated, therefore must try
Arundell Arms, Lifton, Devon - long established, haven't tried yet, must do
Hibiscus, Ludlow, Shropshire - this is somewhere I've been with my Mum, trying the superb value cheap mid-week lunch. However, this is not good enough for Rupert. Ludlow is one of our favourite places and it riles him that I've been to Hibiscus and he hasn't.
Andrews on the Weir, Porlock Weir, Somerset- shortly after we left the West Country, this marvellous-sounding restaurant opened up. They serve quality local ingredients, cooked to a high standard, looking out over the harbour to the sea. www.andrewsontheweir.co.uk
Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire - this gets good reviews, most notably from the people at the next table who, like us, made the pilgrimage to the Merchant House at Ludlow just before it closed.
Willow Tree, Taunton - Another opening after we left the West Country that needs to be tried. It has a reputation for good sourcing and preparation of ingredients.
Creel, Orkney - This was on our list before my Mum went there. She remembered the sunset over Scapa Flow more vividly than the food, but this was probably not because the food was in any way lacking.