I’m not a food expert and this is not based on any survey, vote or poll. Just 17 of me and my loved one’s favourites and a few words why.

rat-inn1) Eat at The Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland.

It’s my local and it’s also one of the top 50 gastro pubs in the UK. How lucky am I?
Rib of beef for 2 is amazing but their Scotch Egg with kimchi is world class.

form2) Holiday on Formentera. Our favourite place in the sun. Amazing beaches, incredible food and much quieter than its rowdy big brother, Ibiza.

Stay at Can Aisha, dine late at Marea, have a drink at the quirky beach bar on Cala Saona.

www.canaisha.com www.ristoranteformentera.com

drink-at-flor3) Go to Cuba before it becomes like the rest of the Caribbean. We once saw a performance by Buena Vista Social Club in a community hall just outside of Havana. It was incredible.

Commercialisation could rip the heart out of Cuba so go now – be like Hemingway with a daiquiri at La Floridita. www.floridita-cuba.com


4) If you’re in New York you must go to the legendary Union Square Café. It closed for a year, moved two blocks and was re-born last month.

Danny Meyer (one of the world’s greatest restaurateurs) is transforming the industry by introducing no tipping (service included) in his restaurants and focusing on ‘enlightened hospitality’. The food is awesome too. www.unionsquarecafe.com

41-conservatory-suite5) Stay in Hotel 41 London. You’ll be next door to Buckingham Palace and if you have a room at the front you can even peep in to the Queen’s London residence.

But the best bit?  You will be treated like royalty. Probably the best customer service hotel in the world. www.41hotel.com

Immerse yourself in a live performance at the legendary Ronnie Scotts. There’s something about this venue that makes the music sound even better.

You can enjoy a decent meal there too.



7) Still in Soho? Enjoy the best tapas ever at Barrafina. You will eat more than you planned and as soon as you see what other people have ordered you’ll want to try that too.
And because it’s tapas, you feel justified in having ‘just one more’. Be prepared to queue though, our record is 1 hour 45 mins.

gleneagles-28) Indulge yourself with a trip to the legendary Gleneagles Hotel.  I don’t play golf, believing it can ruin a good walk, so Gleneagles was never on my list.

A neighbour almost choked when I revealed, ‘No, I’ve never been to Gleneagles’. He insisted it was nothing to do with the golf, you just ‘have to go’ – so we booked a long weekend.

Gleneagles is everything you would expect and more. Definitely one for the bucket list. www.Gleneagles.com

rileys9) Yes I am biased towards the North East, but when Jay Rayner describes a place as ‘the eating experience of the year’ you know you’re not alone in your love for Riley’s Fish Shack at Tynemouth.

The freshest fish, simply cooked and served in cardboard boxes. It’s world class.

mark-birchall10) I’ve never been to Moor Hall. At the time of writing this blog it hasn’t opened, but I am expecting great things and it’s on my 2017 must visit list. Since leaving L’enclume (see no.12). Chef /proprietor Mark Birchall has been working on this project for close to two years.

You’ll not meet a more ambitious and creative chef. Mark, won the Roux Scholarship and worked at El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, a 3 Michelin Star Restaurant, twice voted the world’s best restaurant.

He looks determined to take dining to a new level. Watch this space, you read it here first. www.MoorHall.com

bellagio11) Go crazy at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But you’ll want to tell everyone about your Bellagio experience. It is exactly like the movies – but crazier.

I never thought Vegas would have been a place for us, but we loved it. Have a champagne brunch and take lots of power naps. www.bellagio.com

lenclume-212) Scoff the best meal of your life at L’enclume. Simon Rogan’s 2 Michelin starred restaurant in the Lake District has become a magnet for foodies from around the world.

Enjoy a mere 16-20 courses of the freshest, most delicious food you will ever consume.

The best – and second best – meals of my life have been enjoyed here.. www.Lenclume.co.uk


13) Fenwick’s Food Hall in Newcastle could give Harrods a run for its money. After a major refurbishment, it now boasts some amazing purveyors of fine foods and great eating concessions; including my favourite Saltwater Fish.

A member of Terry Laybourne’s 21 Hospitality Group, Saltwater Fish is part restaurant, part bar and part fishmonger. An excellent break from shopping. www.saltwaterfish.co.uk

hepple-gin14) Not so much a place to have a drink but a wonderful drink discovery. Hepple Gin!

They’ve got the spelling of the name slightly wrong 😉 but the gin is brilliant!

A fine mixture of Northumberland botanicals takes gin o’clock to a whole new level.

dome-tree15) Have a wee dram next Christmas at The Dome Edinburgh.

The main room, featuring a massive beautifully festooned Christmas Tree, is always packed; but you’d be crazy to go to Edinburgh any time in November and December and not call in for a glass (or two).




cheese-co16) Buy some cheese from the Fine Cheese Company.  I called here whilst walking through swanky Belgravia.  As you enter, the first thing you’ll notice is the amazing smell, Stinkin’ – like a good cheese shop should be.

You’ll receive an enthusiastic welcome from the lovely staff.  They’ll encourage you to taste a bit of this and try a bit of that.

Then you’ll spend a small fortune on delicious meats and cheeses. It’s brilliant! www.finecheese.co.uk

pie17) Harry’s Cafe de Wheels is a pie van. The fact it’s the on the other side of the world is a terrible inconvenience but good for my waistline.

I was first romanced by these legendary pies, peas and mash twenty years ago and I still compare every pastry treat to Harry’s.

What have I missed? I’d love to read your favourites for 2017. Please leave your comments below.


Michael Heppell is a customer service expert and the author of 6 books including 5 Star Service and How to Be Brilliant.
He works with individuals and organisations across the world who have a desire to be brilliant.
Website. www.MichaelHeppell.com
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  1. January 10th 2017 by Doreen louw

    Hi Michael
    Please visit South Africa with your loved ones and see what our country has to offer. You will be amazed.
    Warm regards
    Doreen Louw
    PS I can send you some links to awe inspiring places.

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Thank you. I’ve heard lots of great things about SA. Yes please send links that would benefit my readers.

  2. January 10th 2017 by William

    Great list – nakes me want to go off exploring (after my wallet recovers from Christmas).

    Well done.

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Start saving! Some great value places on the list too. Where would you add?

  3. January 10th 2017 by Olivia Vandyk

    What a great list – love the Bellagio – we watched Ocean’s 11 after a power nap 😉 while we were staying there and spent the rest of the time walking through the lobby saying “Mr Ocean’s in the West Slots!”
    thanks for sharing.

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Love that!

  4. January 10th 2017 by Angus Long

    I’ like to recommend The Ship Inn at Low Newton by the Sea. It’s one of my favorite pubs. It is regularly in the good food/pub guides, listed in the top 20 pubs of the country and has even had a visit from Prince Charles!!
    Great local food and has its own micro-brewrey too.

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Now on my list too. And just up the road!

  5. January 10th 2017 by Colette Rogers

    Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth Warwickshire is THE best hotel I have stayed in. The staff treat as though they really want you there. Offers of porterage to your room on arrival and refreshments laid on too! Tea/coffee/squash, home made cakes and biscuits and a huge basket of fruit to choose from in the Stratford room.
    The food is to die for! Not easy to refuse any of it.
    Lovely grounds to walk in and not far from Kenilworth Castle and Leamington Spa.
    The hotel has a pool and spa, also treatments.
    Highly recommend it Michael.

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Sounds wonderful! Good to have some places in the Midlands too.

  6. January 10th 2017 by Anna Belfrage

    Great list. Have already added some to my own list 🙂

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      That was my goal. Where would you add to the list?

  7. January 10th 2017 by Mick Heys

    My fave place to eat is the Kingfisher Restraurant near Milnthorpe (nr Kendal) http://www.kingfishersandside.co.uk/

    The views from here are amazing, I’ve never been disappointed with the food – it’s simply gorgeous. And the staff are so welcoming. And they even have a holiday apartment too now 🙂

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Just had a peep. Looks fab!

  8. January 10th 2017 by Jo Rammell

    One of my favourite places to eat is at The Start Bay Inn on Slapton Sands in Devon. Fabulous fresh fish and loads of other dishes too and all with a view of the sea.

    Talking of being by the sea, you really should stay at Pebbles Seaside Lodge, Kingsdown, Kent. Ok, it’s my business, BUT, I put into practice all I’ve read in ‘How to be Brilliant’ and ‘Five Star Service – Customer Service’ and from those i won awards with my business, so thanks for your help!

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      They sound great. Especially Pebbles 😉

  9. January 10th 2017 by Diane de sousa

    A yearly tradition of ours is dinner at the dome in December, absolutely superb! A real Christmas treat for the adults.

    Incidentally, The Rat Inn…would that be in Alnwick?? As opposed to Anick?

    1. January 10th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      What a lovely tradition. It’s 100% Anick. We walk there and I know where Alnwick is – too far for a pint!

  10. January 10th 2017 by Steve B

    Marshall’s at Tynemouth – real Formica!

    1. January 11th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Good news. Really can’t be doing with fake formica 🙂

  11. January 11th 2017 by Paul

    Delighted that I have actually knocked off a few of these already! Being a Glasgow boy I am slightly biased here but Finneston has become one of the trendiest places in the UK over the last 5 years, the best steak you will eat served at Porter & Rye and afterwards a Vesper Martini in The Finneston is a must for any visitor to Glasgow.

    1. January 11th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      That’s it. I’m on my way to Glasgow!

  12. January 15th 2017 by Helen Bennett

    Bovey Castle on Dartmoor – stunning location!

    1. January 15th 2017 by Michael Heppell

      Wonderful. Going to look it up now.

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