30 Best Restaurants in The Southeast, England

Blue Dolphin Fish Bar

$ Fodor's choice

The crowds line up all day to make their way into this small fish-and-chip shop just off the seafront, down near the fish shacks. Although the decor is humble, reviewers consistently rank the battered fish and huge plates of double-cooked chips (chunky fries) as among the best in the country. Everything is steaming fresh, and it's all cheaper if you get it to take out—the beach is just a few steps away.

61A High St., Hastings, TN34 3EJ, England
01424-547484
Known For
  • One of the best fish-and-chips in the country
  • Convenient take-out options
  • Beachside location

Due South

$$ Fodor's choice

One of the finest dining options on Brighton's seafront, Due South draws young professionals who also appreciate its celebratory atmosphere. The menu changes monthly and showcases clever takes on classic seafood dishes. You'll find everything from cured wild bass with wasabi crème fraîche to saffron monkfish with rock samphire, all fresh off the boat. Even the vegetables are sourced locally. Desserts are decadent. Big windows overlook the sea and let in plenty of light.

Gelato Gusto

$ Fodor's choice

No seaside town would be complete without an ice-cream store, and the delicious, housemade, artisanal gelato on sale here is a real treat. Everything is made fresh daily; try the cherry cheesecake flavor or maybe a scoop of the delicious chocolate and sea salt. There are also dairy-free options available, as well as a full menu of desserts, including the "gelato burger" (sandwiched between brioche with chocolate sauce) and the old-school British concoction known as the knickerbocker glory (a tall glass filled with a mixture of ice cream, whipped cream, fruit, and nuts). Alternatively, if you have high levels of self-control, you could just have coffee.

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Knoops Chocolate Bar

$ Fodor's choice

Despite the fact it has no hot meals, no waiters, and no tables, Knoops has been one of Rye's most consistently popular "restaurants" for years. Step inside and it's easy to see why: this unassuming little shop serves perhaps the best hot chocolate in England. You can select your chocolate from a dizzying array of clipboards that highlight cocoa percentages and tasting notes, then you have the option to add all manner of extra flavors, from herbs and spices to fruits. Knoops has become very successful, with five stores in London and another in Brighton, but this is where it all started.

Riddle & Finns The Lanes

$$ Fodor's choice

White tiles, bare metal tables, and sparkling chandeliers set the tone as soon as you walk through the door of this casually elegant restaurant. The house specialty is oysters, fresh and sustainably sourced, served with or without a foaming tankard of black velvet (Champagne and Guinness) on the side. Other options include squid and shellfish risotto and Sri Lankan monkfish and prawn curry. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, so come early or be prepared to wait. However, you can reserve a table at their sister restaurant, Riddle & Finns The Beach overlooking the sea. The menu is largely the same, with a few meaty options thrown into the mix.

Sankey's The Old Fishmarket

$$$ Fodor's choice

Serving the best of British seafood, as well as an extensive choice of champagne and sparkling wines, this intimate little restaurant has bar seating set around an open kitchen, so you can watch (and chat with) the chef preparing your food. But don't let the relaxed, friendly, and unstuffy atmosphere fool you; this is exceptional quality, fresh seafood cooked to perfection (or not cooked at all, in the case of the delicious oysters). Order from the catch-of-the-day specials pinned up above the bar, from the à la carte menu, or from the special oyster menu: it's just £1 a shuck every Friday between 4 and 5 pm.

Sundial

$$$$ Fodor's choice

Located near the castle in Herstmonceux and set within a 17th-century brick farmhouse with wood-beamed ceilings, this charming restaurant features imaginative, modern French fare. Opt for "Vincent’s 5-Course Menu Dégustation" (£70 per person); it changes with the seasons but may include pan-fried king scallops with pine nuts and tarragon, venison medallion with black peppercorn and juniper cream sauce, and Crêpe Suzette. For those who prefer to order à-la-carte, main courses are priced at £34.

Thackeray's

$$$$ Fodor's choice

Once the home of Victorian novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, this mid-17th-century tile-hung house is now an elegant restaurant known for creative French cuisine, with à la carte dishes like roast stone bass with artichoke sauce and confit pork belly with blue cheese ravioli. A starter, main (plus side), and dessert will easily set you back £65, so if you're feeling hungry, it's probably best to just opt for the prix fixe, seven-course "Chef's Tasting Menu" (£78 per person, plus £55 for wine pairing).

The Corner House

$$ Fodor's choice

Set just outside the medieval city walls, this historic pub turned restaurant serves locally sourced British produce with creative culinary twists. Mains include confit pork belly with burnt-ends croquettes and cod loin with creamed bacon and leak, but it's the "nibbles" (snacks) that are really inventive—try the sausage roll, served as three thick slices with housemade mushroom ketchup. It's a little pricey, but the food is excellent and the portions are very generous. There are also five appealing bedrooms available upstairs, with prices starting from £100, including breakfast.

Theion

$$ Fodor's choice

This excellent Greek restaurant is set within a gorgeous space in the city center, with brick walls and high ceilings. The à la carte menu features delicious Mediterranean dishes including fried zucchini "cakes" with fresh Greek yogurt, veal cheeks with potato purée, and roasted octopus with caramelized onions. Save space for a traditional Greek dessert.

Webbes at the Fish Café

$$ Fodor's choice

One of Rye's most popular restaurants, where most of the seafood is freshly caught nearby, occupies a brick building that dates to 1907, but the interior has been redone in a sleek, modern style. Sample the cuttlefish and noodle salad with fennel and orange or the pan-fried Rye Bay scallops with pancetta and chive vermouth sauce. The ground-floor café has a relaxed atmosphere and upstairs is a more formal dining room.

Bill's

$

What started in the early 2000s as a distinctly Lewes café-restaurant has since grown to become a full-blown chain, with dozens of restaurants across the United Kingdom. This is where it all began, and the casual, mostly Modern European food remains as reliably good here as it is everywhere. Start with a plate of garlic and herb flatbread, then move on to spiced crab cakes with chili, then a flavorful cheeseburger with grated black truffle. Breakfasts here are excellent, too.

City Fish Bar

$

Long lines and lots of satisfied finger licking attest to the deserved popularity of this excellent fish-and-chip shop in the center of town, where all orders are takeout. Everything is freshly fried, the batter crisp, and the fish tasty; the fried mushrooms are also surprisingly good. There's no seating, so your fish is wrapped up in paper and you eat it where you want, perhaps in the park. This place closes at 7 pm.

Don Vincenzo

$

This lively Italian trattoria in the center of Rochester specializes in delicious pizza and pasta, the best of which is the simple Napoletana, which is topped with mozzarella, anchovies, capers, and tomato sauce. If that's just not enough to satisfy your appetite, try a hearty calzone stuffed with two types of Italian cheeses, spicy salami, and tomatoes. There's also a good range of pasta, fish, and meat dishes. Best of all, the prices are reasonable.

Haydens

$

This incredibly popular High Street café serves high quality and great value meals and snacks from mid-morning to late afternoon every day of the week. Come early for an excellent full English breakfast or opt for a light lunch like homemade soup or Welsh rarebit (a fondue-like dish where a sauce of melted cheddar, ale, and mustard is poured over slices of toasted bread). And make sure you save room for a homemade cake or delicious cream tea (scone, jam, and clotted cream). Above the café are eight pleasant, individually themed bedrooms. Avoid peak lunch hours (12:30 to 2 pm) on weekends, unless you want to wait in line (it's not possible to reserve a table).

Iydea

$

This popular restaurant and café is a must for visiting vegetarians, though even the most ardent carnivores are likely to leave satisfied. The food is laid out cafeteria style (or "canteen" style in British English), so you choose your meal based on choices of main dishes, sides, and toppings. You could go for a chile bean enchilada or pea-and-goat cheese arancini (breaded and fried rice balls), maybe with some Cajun spiced potato wedges or sugar snap slaw. The restaurant also does a very popular vegetarian breakfast.

Kitsu

$

This tiny, unassuming restaurant might seem like an unlikely venue for exceptional sushi, but it's the best for miles. Everything is fresh and delicious, from the fragrant miso soup to the light tempura to the sushi platters that are big enough to share. For something heartier, try a bowl of steaming fried noodles or a katsu curry. Note that the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, although you're welcome to bring your own.

82A Victoria Rd., Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2PW, England
07425-900016
Known For
  • Excellent sushi
  • Good casual dining
  • BYOB policy
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

La Scala

$

This cheerful Italian restaurant in the center of Dover is much favored by locals looking for an authentic, inexpensive Italian meal without feeling the need to sit up too straight. The menu is mostly Sicilian influenced; you might start with a simple caprese salad of fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, before moving on to some homemade scialatelli pasta with swordfish in a tomato and white wine sauce or a whole rump of lamb cooked with garlic and rosemary.

19 High St., Dover, CT16 1DP, England
01304-208044
Known For
  • Delicious homemade pasta
  • Authentic and informal Italian cooking
  • Busy on weekends (so book early)
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

Purchases

$$$

This excellent bistro is popular with locals for a special-occasion dinner and with the pre-theater crowd, who enjoy the fixed-price early-bird menus. The food strikes a nice balance between hearty, traditional fare and contemporary stylings. The pre-theater menus, available before all performances at the Chichester Festival Theatre, are a good deal at £23.95 for two courses or £26.95 for three—especially considering mains alone normally cost between £20 and £30.

31 North St., Chichester, PO19 1LY, England
01243-771444
Known For
  • Bargain pre-theater menus
  • Traditional cooking with a contemporary edge
  • Tasty beef Wellington with parmesan and truffle mash
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: No dinner Sun.

Robson's of Lewes

$

Good coffee, fresh produce, and delicious pastries make this coffee shop one of the best places in Lewes to drop by for an afternoon pick-me-up. A light-filled space with wood floors and simple tables creates a pleasant, casual spot to enjoy a cup of coffee with breakfast, a scone, or a light sandwich or salad lunch. You can also order to go.

Rumwong

$

Considered by locals to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the region, Rumwong has an incredibly long menu, with dozens of choices from all over Thailand. Tasty dishes include the poh-taek, a "seafarer's soup" made with lemongrass, lime leaves, and shellfish, and kai pud krapraw, a spicy stir-fry made with ground chicken, fresh chilies, and basil.

18–20 London Rd., Guildford, GU1 2AF, England
01483-536092
Known For
  • One of region's best Thai restaurants
  • Spicy stir-fries
  • Delicious Thai curries
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Simply Italian

$

In a quiet, edge-of-the-center location, this popular Italian eatery packs in the crowds on weekend nights with its inexpensive but classic pasta and pizza dishes. Try the mixed seafood spaghetti with garlic and tomato sauce or the n'duja pizza topped with a spicy, spreadable pork sausage, red onion, mozzarella, and tomato. The atmosphere is cheerful and bright, and the food is straightforward and unfussy.

12 Strand, Rye, TN31 7DB, England
01797-226024
Known For
  • Excellent pizza and pasta
  • Cozy interiors
  • Relaxed atmosphere
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Tues.

Terre à Terre

$$

This inspiring vegetarian restaurant is incredibly popular, so come early for a light lunch or later for a more sophisticated evening meal. The food here has a pan-Asian influence, with dishes such as Korean fried cauliflower with kicking kimchi and steamed buns stuffed with ginger-braised halloumi. There's also an excellent collection of wines from around the globe.

71 East St., Brighton, BN1 1HQ, England
01273-729051
Known For
  • Asian-influenced cooking
  • Excellent vegetarian dishes
  • Great wine list
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Tues.

The Goods Shed

$$

Next to Canterbury West Station, this farmers' market restaurant with wooden tables is well known for offering fresh, seasonal Kentish food—think spring lamb leg with lemon and mint or wild bass with a crab and tarragon broth. Whatever is freshest that day appears on the menu, whether it's quail eggs, trout, or duck breast. The vaulted wooden space with stone-and-brick walls was a storage shed in Victorian times (hence the name); today the restaurant has huge arched windows overlooking the market and a butchers' stall.

Station Rd. W, Canterbury, CT2 8AN, England
01227-459153
Known For
  • Fresh local produce
  • Great seafood including a catch of the day
  • Cool historic design
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. No dinner Tues.–Thurs. and Sun.

The Mill

$$

Located eight miles southwest of Guildford, just a short hop down the road from Waverley Abbey and roughly halfway between the Sculpture Park and Watts Gallery, this unusually handsome country pub is in an old watermill; you can still see the working water wheel in the lobby. The menu nicely balances British pub classics and more ambitious restaurant fare; expect to find fish-and-chips and burgers alongside pan-roasted sea bass and Devonshire crab on toast. The huge beer garden is an extremely popular spot when the weather's nice, and it's also the venue for occasional open-air theater performances by local groups. Look out for the cute (but slightly intimidating) flock of ducks who are not only well practiced at begging for crumbs but will immediately pounce on any unattended meals.

Farnham Rd., Guildford, GU8 6LE, England
01252-703333
Known For
  • Good pub grub including Sunday roasts
  • Lovely riverside beer garden
  • Begging ducks that can be very persistent

The Mock Turtle Tea Room

$

Less than five minutes' walk from the Royal Pavilion, the Mock Turtle is a great old-fashioned, homey café. Alongside a decent selection of teas and coffees are four types of rarebit, soups, and scones as well as cakes and enormous doughnuts.

4 Pool Valley, Brighton, BN1 1NJ, England
01273-327380
Known For
  • Popular stop for tea and coffee
  • Excellent cakes
  • Location close to Royal Pavilion

The Old Buttermarket

$

A colorful, friendly old pub near the cathedral, the Old Buttermarket is a great place to grab a hearty lunch and sample some traditional English fare with a modern inflection. You can sip a pint of fresh English ale from the ever-changing selection while sampling a wild boar and chorizo pie or perhaps a warming bowl of Cheddar-crumbed mac and cheese. There's been a pub on this site for more than 500 years; historical records show that there were once secret tunnels connecting it to Canterbury Cathedral.

The Spotted Dog

$

One mile south of Penshurt, this historic pub first opened its doors in 1520 and in many ways hardly appears to have changed today. Its big inglenook fireplace and heavy beams give it character, the views from the hilltop are lovely, and the good food (a mixture of traditional pub grub and slightly more sophisticated fare) make it a pleasure to relax inside. Come on Sunday to try the popular lunchtime roasts.

6 Saint’s Hill, Penshurst, TN11 8EP, England
01892-870253
Known For
  • Mixture of casual and formal dining
  • Atmospheric old pub
  • Lovely beer garden in summer

The Witchez

$$

Owned by talented graphic designers and photo artists, the Witchez Photo Design Restaurant is certainly a unique concept: delicious German- and Polish-influenced comfort food served in the middle of a design studio (which means you can have your passport photo taken while you wait). Never mind the weirdness of the concept; this place is a whole lot of fun, and the food is good to boot—schnitzel, pierogi, German sausage, potato dumplings, and pizzas. It's only open in the evening (from 5 pm Wednesday through Friday and from 4 pm on Saturday).

16 Marine Parade, Brighton, BN2 1TL, England
01273-673652
Known For
  • Truly unique concept
  • Tasty German and Polish dishes
  • Great atmosphere
Restaurant Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon. year-round and Tues. Sept.–May. No lunch

Whitehouse

$

This chic, contemporary café serves delectable baked goods, all-day breakfasts, and tapas-style light bites. Come for the Turkish eggs, poached with yogurt and dill, or try the fancy bacon roll with spinach, chili jam, and aioli. Or you could just drop by for a delicious slice of fresh cake and a darn fine cup of Joe. There are also beautifully minimalist rooms here if you want to stay over.