The UK's flourishing foodie scene has been celebrated this week with the 2015 National Restaurant Awards.
Coming in at top-billing is intimate Tapas restaurant, Barrafina.
The annual awards, held by Restaurant magazine, rank the nation’s top 100 restaurants, judged by a team of chefs, restauranteurs and food writers.
Top London restaurants included Kensington’s The Ledbury, Mayfair’s Gymkhana which won best Indian restaurant, Lyle in Shoreditch, The Dairy in Clapham and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea.
London’s Grainstore won the Sustainable Restaurant of the Year.
But there’s plenty of good food to be found elsewhere in the UK. Outside London, The Sportsman in Kent came in at number two and won gastropub of the year, The Hand & Flowers in Buckinghamshire and L’Enclume in Cumbria.
Below are the top five and what you can expect from each. You can see the full list here.
1. Barrafina Adelaide Street, London
(National Restaurant and Best Spanish Restaurant)
Barrafina is a no-reservations Spanish tapas restaurant, headed by chief Nieves Barragán Mohacho. It opened in Adelaide Street last year, to rave reviews. It is actually the second branch of the restaurant and a third is due to open later in the year, on Drury Lane. Stefan Chomka, editor of Restaurant magazine, said: “This is the first time a no-reservation restaurant has topped this list and it demonstrates the changing face of the UK’s dining scene and a more casual approach to eating out. Barrafina Adelaide Street epitomises what a good restaurant should be – it is inclusive, vibrant and fun with excellent service and a great buzz about it. And, of course, the food is brilliant.” The menu encompasses classic Spanish dishes from cod fritters to pork ribs, and patrons can sit at the bar to watch the food being prepared. It’s the first time a restaurant with a female head chef has won the awards so, naturally we are thrilled.
2. The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent
(Gastropub of the Year)
Two miles outside of Whitstable, The Sportsman is a Michelin-starred pub to put all other pub lunches to shame. The Sportsman prides itself on its sustainable local sourcing of ingredients from the surrounding area – the Thames estuary providing oysters and fish from the North Sea, and the marshland’s fertile soil ideal for vegetables and game. Some ingredients are also grown by the restaurant itself. The menu is predominantly seafood, boasting home-cured herring, Mussel and bacon chowder and homemade pork scratchings. The Guardian’s food critic said: “The Sportsman offers a benchmark for how good, and how British, a British restaurant can be.” If you’ve got time, book the tasting menu for around £50.
3. The Ledbury, London
Austrailian chef Brett Graham’s Notting Hill eatery offers British ingredients – smoked eel, Cumbiran lamb - alongside French extravagance – foie gras, black truffles , with a contemporary twist. Prices range from expensive (lunch for £45) to a blow-out treat (£105 for the tasting menu). The flame-grilled mackerel served with pickled cucumber, mustard and shiso comes highly recommended, as do the wide selection of puddings. The Ledbury has been awarded two Michelin stars but doesn’t give-off the expected pompous vibe – instead, the ambiance is laid-back and friendly.
4. Gymkhana, London
(Best Indian Restaurant)
Gymkhana’s website states that it is: “inspired by Colonial Indian gymkhana clubs, set up by the British Raj, where members of high society came to socialise, dine, drink and play sport.” And the restaurant itself feels no different- with marble tables and photographs of Indian cricket teams. The food is a modern take on Indian classics – pork vindaloo, game briani and fried chicken wings – with more inventive dishes such as roe deer cooked in pickling spices and Tandoori-seared Guinea fowl.
5. The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
West Country-born-and-bred, down-to-earth chef Tom Kerridge (recognisable from the BBC’s Great British Menu) opened The Hand & Flowers with his sculptor wife, Beth, in 2005. The aim was to create a relaxed, casual restaurant, serving high quality British food. Within a year of opening, they’d earned a Michelin Star, and in 2001, were awarded a second. A three-course set lunch can be bought for a very reasonable £16.50 – with no compromise on quality. Try the roast hog with salt-baqked potatoes and apple sauce, or the slow-cooked duck breast with peas, duck-fat chips and gravy.
Words: Harriet Hall