With an array of cuisines under one roof, food courts have long been great places to experience the world on a plate. In recent years, upscale versions have cropped up across the UK, from Brighton to Edinburgh and beyond, many of them offering smart interiors and sophisticated dining options (sometimes courtesy of big-name chefs and restaurants). Here are seven of the UK’s best.
1. Bonnie & Wild, Edinburgh
Chef-led concepts take centre stage at Bonnie & Wild, where diners can enjoy steamed Shetland mussels and grilled king prawns from Creel Caught (the first solo venture from the National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean), or a delectable katsu chicken curry from Salt & Chilli Oriental (the brainchild of TV chef Jimmy Lee). Plus, ingredients are chiefly sourced from local producers and purveyors committed to sustainability.
2. Mercato Mayfair, London
The hallowed halls of St Mark’s — a Grade-I church built in 1822 and deconsecrated in 1974 — were reborn as a hip food court in 2019. Inside, traders serve up divine dishes ranging from Neapolitan pizza to pad thai, all against a backdrop of beautifully preserved stained-glass windows and ornamental screens. Visit the altar bar for a pint of German pilsner or pale ale.
3. Mackie Mayor, Manchester
Housed in a Grade-II listed building that was once part of a Victorian meat market, Mackie Mayor is a stalwart of Manchester’s culinary scene. Beneath its massive glass roof, diners congregate at communal tables to feast on flat iron steak from Tender Cow, fried chicken burgers from Mumma’s, lamb tantanmen (noodles in a spicy, creamy broth) from New Wave Ramen, and much more.
4. Duke Street Market, Liverpool
A visit to this restored century-old warehouse means sinking your teeth into beef brisket burritos from Big Lola’s, fritto misto from Kelp or ham hock croquettes from Bone and Block, to name just a few of the tempting options on offer. And at weekends, vendors serve up brunch classics such as avocado toast and bacon sandwiches, alongside the requisite bloody marys and bellinis.
5. Cutlery Works, Sheffield
Cutlery Works — named for its location in a former cutlery factory — was crowned the best food hall at the 2022 British Street Food Awards. With 14 independent traders, you’ll be spoilt for choice: should you order Nashville-style chicken wings from Jailbird, some chana masala (chickpea curry) from Ma-Ba, or perhaps a kimchi grilled cheese sandwich from Rad Dude? There’s also a bottomless brunch every Saturday.
6. Shelter Hall, Brighton
For waterfront dining, head to this chic and cheery food court set in a two-storey seaside building built in 1888. There are seven independent kitchens helmed by up-and-coming Sussex chefs, where you can order everything from Montreal-style bagels to Vietnamese summer rolls and Japanese donburi (rice bowls), all best washed down with a cocktail or two. The food is delivered directly to your table — grab one on the second-floor balcony for the best sea views.
7. Eataly, London
Unlike other more cosmopolitan food courts, Eataly — as the name suggests — focuses solely on Italian flavours. Indeed, the London outpost of the global food hall brand is one of the best places in the capital for a taste of bel paese (‘the beautiful country’). After browsing the emporium’s shelves (and filling your basket with cured meats, wines and cheeses), stop by its food counters for a quick bite. There’s thin-crust pizza by the slice, toothsome pastries, freshly prepared salads and cooked-to-order pasta — all made with top-notch Italian ingredients.