Archive for September, 2014

Michelin Guide GB&I Press Release 2015

Posted on: September 27th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
 MIchelin Guide GBI 2015 CoverThe Michelin guide to Great Britain & Ireland 2015 is published today. Our inspectors have spent the year traversing the country in search of great places to eat or stay in – as well as ensuring that those establishments we already recommend still measure up. Within the guide’s pages you’ll find an enormous variety, from pubs to restaurants and guesthouses to hotels, and covering all points of the compass.So, how do we actually work?When it comes to accommodation, we have no set rules or criteria when deciding what to recommend – the inspectors simply ask themselves “is this somewhere our readers will enjoy staying?” We don’t have checklists to tick, we just want clean and comfortable rooms at a fair price. Who needs 40 channels on the TV if they’re on a Scottish island surrounded by stunning scenery? Who wants little sachets of coffee in their room when there’s a wonderful café next door?Whether you’re a townie wanting a farmhouse B&B for some country air or you’ve travelled to the city and want a cool, boutique hotel, you’ll find plenty of choice. Look through the guide and you’ll discover all sorts of accommodation – you can stay in a converted railway carriage, a former prison, a deconsecrated church, an adapted coastguard’s station, a retired post office or even a 13th century castle. We’ve got everything from small family-run operations to world-famous international hotels, little B&Bs to grand country piles –all of them rigorously inspected by our team of full-time inspectors.

And remember, no one pays to go into the guide.

When it comes to places to eat, we use the same principles – we’re not looking for any particular type or style of restaurant – we just want good food. We recommend over 2,200 places to eat, and they vary from local pubs to internationally acclaimed restaurants. We always pay our own bills and don’t feel it’s our place to make suggestions or give feedback to the owners or operators.

And unlike one of the scenes in the Helen Mirren movie “The One-Hundred Foot Journey” we don’t make notes surreptitiously under the table!

We’re perhaps best known for our Michelin Stars. They are awarded solely for the quality of the food. They are not for chefs and they don’t ‘belong’ to anyone – they are simply our way of alerting our readers as to where the best cooking is happening. The things we look for include the quality and compatibility of the ingredients, the technical skill and flair that goes into their preparation, the clarity and combinations of flavours and, above all else, the taste. Consistency is also hugely important which is why we have a number of meals in a restaurant before giving it a Star.

We have another less known award – the Bib Gourmand. This award is particularly popular with our readers as it highlights those establishments offering a simpler style of cuisine at affordable prices (£28 or less for three courses). We spend as much time seeking out candidates for a Bib Gourmand as we do Stars.

Our 2015 guide marks out a year of variety and contrasts. The new Stars are all so different from one another, which means our readers will hopefully find something they like.

London has always had great Indian restaurants and added to this list is now Gymkhana which has been virtually full since the day it opened. It’s owned by the same people as Trishna, which has had a star for a while. Ask for a table downstairs as it’s more atmospheric down there.

If you like Spanish food, then try Barrafina in Soho. You perch at a counter and watch the chefs as they go about their duties. Although it has been around for a few years, the cooking has simply got better and better – be prepared to wait, though, as they don’t take reservations. The good news is that they’ve recently opened a second branch.

A new generation of young chefs are beginning to make their mark in London – they’re easy to spot as most of them are enthusiastically tattooed. The seeds of the The Clove Club were sown in a series of pop-up restaurants before the three friends opened at Shoreditch Town Hall. Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs is a hidden gem, where you take a seat at a horseshoe-shaped bar and are served a modern, no-choice menu of around 12 courses.

Fera at Claridge’s is unlike any restaurant this iconic hotel has hosted in the past. There’s a purity and unforced, natural style to the cooking and the room is now more informal yet still manages to dazzle. And with a new star at City Social, Jason Atherton shows that it’s all about recruiting great talent when building up an international portfolio of top quality restaurants.

Elsewhere in the British Isles the standard of cooking keeps getting better and better. If you want to enjoy great food with wonderful landscapes then head to Scotland for Isle of Eriska and The Three Chimneys & The House Over-By. In Wales, Ynyshir Hall and the Crown at Whitebrook both regain a star.

There are three more pubs with stars which we’re very pleased about. For many chefs, buying the local pub represents a better prospect that trying to open a restaurant and many are now actively promoting regional produce and rediscovering local recipes, and are doing so in an environment where every British person feels at ease. Perhaps the most interesting new starred pub is the Treby Arms as it is owned by a former winner of MasterChef.

Stars are awarded annually, based on our first-hand experiences, so inevitably we also take Stars away. It’s not something we enjoy doing but we have to be honest with our readers. Standards go up every year and those who eat out know more about food now than they ever have. Owners of restaurants and pubs can’t afford to stand still. Mind you, in this business, standing still is something few find time to ever do.

Michelin Star & Awards Summary PDF 2015

AA Restaurant Guide Interview: Simon Numphud (2014)

Posted on: September 26th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


Simon Carter interviews Head of Hotel Services at AA, Simon Numphud, who has responsibility for the production of the AA Restaurant Guide.  Interview took place September 2014, days before the 2015 Guide launch at The Grosvenor.

What are your exact roles and responsibilities with the AA?

I look after AA Hotel Services, the business responsible for running the UK classification schemes.  These include the Rosette scheme which fuels the restaurant guide and the star rating scheme for hotels and guest accommodations.  The schemes and awards encompass circa 10,000 hospitality establishments from which we produce a suite of guide books and mobile applications.

Tell us about the launch dinner of The Restaurant Guide (22nd September)

An annual event that has been going for over twenty years, most recently a black tie gala dinner to celebrate the hospitality industry.  The event is extremely well attended by chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers and leading figures of the hospitality industry.

The event will be at Grosvenor House this year, a return after five years at The Hilton, Park Lane.  The dinner was last held at The Grosvenor for The AA Centenary event in 2008.  We’re delighted to be back there, it is a superb space for these events with around 1,100 guests expected, which represents a record number (even more than attended our Centenary).

Each year we have a tradition of inviting a top chef to present the food for the dinner and this year we’re delighted Tom Kerridge is on board.  Tom’s had an amazing couple of years; he was awarded four AA Rosettes and made AA Chef’s Chef of the Year last year so we felt it would be fitting to invite him to be part of the event.

Tom’s food will be complimented by Taittenger champagne aperitifs served from magnums plus a range of superb wines chosen by our sponsor Matthew Clark.

There will be 24 feature awards such as restaurants of the year, hotels of the year, pubs of the year, a service award (which The Waterside were the inaugural winners of last year) and so on.  We have one new award ‘The Spirit Award’ aimed at those establishments that have been most proactive, imaginative and successful in promoting spirits to the consumer.  There has been something of a renaissance in the market and this award reflects that trend, as an example The Feathers at Woodstock holds a world record number of gins, but there are so many places that have made a real effort, so we’re delighted to present the award sponsored by Balvenie.

The evening will also include a range of new multiple Rosette award presentations as well as new AA Red Star hotels.  The two pivotal awards to close the evening are the Chefs’ Chef, which is a unique award in that it is chosen by every chef who holds a rosette in the scheme (rather than by us!) and The Lifetime Achievement Award.  The ceremony coincides with the Guide launch date with each attendee taking away a guide on the evening of the ceremony.

Fiona Bruce will be hosting the event and helping me present the awards.

What are the criteria for the awards of each Rosette?

It is a tricky question as to how do you distill into a discernable paragraph the difference between each of the Rosette categories?  Essentially it is a benchmark as to how well a chef applies a technique whilst maintaining maximum flavour.  For us the Rosettes are all about the flavour; the clarity of- the preciseness of- the balance of- and so on.  In addition, a chef may have great skill but must also have the right quality (and preparation) of the right ingredients.

These days the consumer is very knowledgeable, with the plethora of TV programmes, books and web access, and this has pushed standards up even higher; we are now a nation far better educated about quality of cooking, quality of ingredients and efficacy of provenance in producing the best of finished dishes.

Customers appreciate the written descriptions that feature in The AA Restaurant Guide?

The written descriptions tend to focus on the feeling and atmosphere of a restaurant and give guidance to the consumer on the type and style of a restaurant as well as an overview of the style of cooking.  The Guide will also feature examples of the cooking from the meals we’ve sampled without going in to too much detail as the menu may have changed by the time the consumer pays a visit.

The AA Restaurant Guide will also want to point out anything that is particularly distinguishable about the restaurant, for example, if it has a cracking wine list or some stunning architectural feature.  As a further example, the Guide may convey if a restaurant is big, bustling and with bookings required.  Anything that can help build an appropriate picture of the restaurant for the consumer, in an open and balanced way, reflecting our own experiences.

What do you make of the restaurant scene for the rest of 2014 and beyond (as reflected by guide)?2015 3D cover Restaurant_web

The UK restaurant scene is getting stronger and stronger, there is strength in depth wherever you look – perhaps not something you would have found ten years ago.  A recent development is how widespread geographically quality is to be found.

The combination of awareness, competition and momentum have seen the rise of cities like Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham who display strength in depth or towns like Marlow (being the rule rather than the exception) as a countryside gastronomic centre, attracting more and more food-led ventures, feeding an ever growing demand from consumers.

Diversity of choice is another feature including every type of ethnic food to every type of social experience in venues.  The UK has culturally adopted a lifestyle change in eating out which is marvelous to witness, an appreciation of good food is now so widespread, and the determination to eat out a conscious lifestyle choice.

Kitchen gardens are now a feature in their own right and the field to fork mentality is now so well managed to fulfill restaurant needs, there are countless examples.

There are also the continued rise of the independent restaurateur in London with both sheer volume and quality of openings impressing and will continue to impress the consumers of all ages.

Are you aware of what the awards mean to chefs and customer alike?

We’ve just finished recording VTs for the ceremony on Monday 22nd October and one set of them is about what is the impact of receiving an AA Award.  Each of the establishments we filmed spoke very kindly of the awards and the positive impact that they’ve had on the whole team, not just the proprietors, as the awards serve to motivate and recognize all the teams involved.

One leading chef has also pointed out that it helps to retain and recruit staff as chefs see the Rosettes as a benchmark of quality, which credibly reflects their skills and so may appear on their CVs.  Once you add the trust, robustness and respect as elements of the AA Guides, you can start to understand the value of a brand, to consumers and industry alike, an institution that has been professionally in the hospitality business since 1908.

What is the decision making process for the making of awards of Rosette – both promotions and demotions?

A robust system: An inspector awards or removes one or two rosettes on the basis of an inspection.  With respect to the top ten percent (three, four and five Rosettes) there would be a series of visits to promote or remove Rosette awards.

The system enables a view of the meals across the menu and across the seasons – an area inspector would have to be very confident of a meal to put it forward (the starter, main and dessert would all have to show the consistent strength required) as he/she would be followed by a senior inspector and a further visit to ratify decisions.

There is a hospitality industry panel which I chair and sits twice a year (to review top end decisions).  When awarding at the highest level we have a careful approach as consistency is vital – we would not want to award one year and remove the next year for example.

Are all inspectors full time or is there a mixture of contractors?

We have a small number of freelance employed inspectors who also write for the guide but 95% of inspectors are full time employed by The AA Restaurant Guide.

Is there a particular process by which a restaurant is inspected? And where/how do you source your pool of restaurant knowledge?

You will not be surprised to learn that we are inundated with requests from consumers, restaurants and pubs to make inspection visits.

The Guide covers 2,200 establishments across the UK and there are only so many inspectors – we couldn’t possibly visit every restaurant or pub so there will be a judgment call where a number of factors will apply.  Perhaps one of the lesser known aspects is that we might visit an establishment in an area where we currently have a low concentration of entries, or filter listings in high concentration areas:  A classic example is that we would not list every restaurant in Soho but instead highlight the top four or five that are worthy of note and where our customers can expect a good meal.

In general, we look at the web, talk to chefs, listen to reader feedback, read the press and cover our regions thoroughly.  We tend to be on the list of the PR agencies as well as links to publications like Caterer and The BHA (British Hospitality Industry) – so a broad network – from which to make reasoned judgments about where our inspectors should spend their time.

What role does reader feedback play?

We take all feedback in the context in which it is given.  Should you get a trend of positive or negative differences from our last visit we will pay it some attention.  A feature of consumer-led web tools like trip advisor is that you find feedback is naturally polarized.  After all why would you bother to log on to write you had a satisfactory meal, which simply met expectations and represented reasonable value?  The fact of life is that you will be moved to write by strong emotions, positive or negative.  So long as you put the right filters in place then all feedback is useful in gathering a picture of an establishment.  The final decision on any award is with the professional inspector following an inspection visit.

What are the latest digital developments with the AA Restaurant Guide?

The design of the apps have won a couple of awards and  all have been refreshed.  In fact, all things have been refreshed across all platforms.

Michelin Guide 2015: Bib Gourmand Defined and Listing

Posted on: September 26th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Bib GourmandIn the unique “language” of the Michelin Guide, the Bib symbols indicate the inspectors’ favourite establishments, offering high-quality products and services and good value for the money.

For even though the Michelin Guide is known and recognised for its “star” system, these restaurants represent only 5% of the selection, the rest of which is comprised of good, small, affordably priced establishments.

Among these establishments are the “Bibs,” with the Bib Gourmand symbol for restaurants and the Bib Hotel symbol.

Bib is short for Bibendum, the character created in 1898 from the imagination of the Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, and the pen of cartoonist O’Galop. Over the years, Bib—the one and only Michelin Man—has become the Group’s “mascot.” In the Michelin Guide, Bibendum’s head is a familiar, widely recognised red symbol.

The Bib Gourmand symbol was created in 1997. It indicates a restaurant offering good food at moderate prices. For the 2015 Guide, the price of a full meal (excluding drinks) is under £28 (40 euros in the Republic of Ireland).

The Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2015 includes Bib Gourmands of which 26 are (N – New) Bib Gourmand restaurants, the full list is below:-

Format: Town County Establishment

EnglandMichelin Man

Aldeburgh, Suffolk, Lighthouse
Belbroughton, Worcestershire, The Queens
Blackpool/Thornton, Blackpool, Twelve
Brighton and Hove, Brighton and Hove, Chilli Pickle
Brighton and Hove, Brighton and Hove, 64° N
Bristol, Bristol, Flinty Red
Bristol/Long Ashton, Somerset, Bird in Hand
Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire, Red Lion
Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, The Joiners
Bruton, Somerset, At The Chapel
Bury, Greater Manchester, Waggon
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Pea Porridge
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, The Tavern
Chester, Chester, Joseph Benjamin
Christchurch, Dorset, Kings Arms
Cirencester, Gloucestershire, Made by Bob N
Clyst Hydon, Devon, Five Bells Inn N
Cookham, Windsor and Maidenhead, White Oak
Darlington/Hurworth on Tees, Darlington, Bay Horse
Derby, Derby, Ibérico World Tapas N
Donhead St Andrew, Wiltshire, The Forester
Drighlington, West Yorkshire, Prashad
Droxford, Hampshire, Bakers Arms
Durham, Durham, Bistro 21
East Haddon, Northamptonshire, Red Lion
Exeter/Rockbeare, Devon, Jack in the Green
Gedney Dyke, Lincolnshire, Chequers
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, Three Oaks N
Hastings and St Leonards, East Sussex, St Clements
Hitchin, Hertfordshire, hermitage rd
Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, Fox and Hounds
Ingham, Norfolk, Ingham Swan
Jersey/ Beaumont, Channel Islands, Mark Jordan at the Beach
Kelvedon, Essex, George & Dragon
Keyston, Cambridgeshire, Pheasant
Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, Lighthouse
LondonMIchelin Guide GBI 2015 Cover
Brent, Willesden Green, Sushi-Say
Bromley, Pett’s Wood, Indian Essence N
Camden, Bloomsbury, Gail’s Kitchen
Bloomsbury, Salt Yard
Bloomsbury, Honey & Co
Bloomsbury, Barrica
Bloomsbury, Barnyard N
Camden Town Market, Camden Town, Made Bar and Kitchen
Holborn, Great Queen Street
Swiss Cottage, Bradley’s
Hackney, Dalston, Rotorino N
South Hackney, Empress
Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith, Azou
Islington, Archway, 500

Barnsbury, Roots at N1 N
Canonbury, Trullo
Clerkenwell, Comptoir Gascon
Clerkenwell, Polpo Smithfield
Finsbury, Medcalf
Finsbury, Morito
Islington, Yipin China N
Islington, Drapers Arms
Kings Cross St Pancras, Grain Store
Lambeth, Clapham Common, Bistro Union
Stockwell,  Canton Arms
Redbridge, Wanstead, Provender
Southwark, Bermondsey, Zucca
Bermondsey, José
Southwark, Del Mercato
Southwark, Elliot’s
Southwark, Anchor & Hope
Tower Hamlets, Bethnal Green, Brawn
Bethnal Green, Corner Room
Spitalfields, Galvin Café a Vin
Spitalfields, St John Bread and Wine
Whitechapel, Cafe Spice Namaste
Wandsworth, Battersea, Soif
Putney, Bibo N
Southfields, Earl Spencer N
Westminster (City of), Bayswater and Maida Vale, Hereford Road
Bayswater and Maida Vale, Kateh
Regent’s Park and Marylebone, Picture
Soho, Brasserie Zédel
Soho, Bocca di Lupo
Soho, Polpetto N
Soho, Polpo Soho
Soho, Copita
Soho, Palomar N
Soho, Koya
Strand and Covent Garden, Terroirs
Strand and Covent Garden, Opera Tavern
Strand and Covent Garden, Polpo Covent Garden
Strand and Covent Garden, Green Man & French Horn
Victoria, A. Wong
Longstock, Hampshire, Peat Spade Inn
Maidenhead, Windsor and Maidenhead, Crown N
Marazion/Perranuthnoe, Cornwall, Victoria Inn
Masham, North Yorkshire, Vennell’s
Mells, Somerset, Talbot Inn N
Moreton-in-Marsh/Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire, Horse & Groom
Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, Broad Chare
Newlyn, Cornwall, Tolcarne Inn
North Shields, Tyne and Wear, David Kennedy’s River Cafe
Nottingham, Nottingham, Ibérico World Tapas
Oxford, Oxfordshire, Magdalen Arms
Oxford, Oxfordshire, Rickety Press
Padstow, Cornwall, Rick Stein’s Café
Porthleven, Cornwall, Kota
Preston Candover, Hampshire, Purefoy Arms
Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, Hearth of the Ram
Ramsgate, Kent, Age & Sons
Ripponden, West Yorkshire, El Gato Negro
Romsey, Hampshire, Three Tuns
St Ives, Cornwall, Black Rock
St Ives/Halsetown, Cornwall, Halsetown Inn N
Stamford, Lincolnshire, Jim’s Yard
Stanton, Suffolk, Leaping Hare
Stathern, Leicestershire, Red Lion Inn
Tavistock, Devon, Cornish Arms N
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, Gumstool Inn
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, Owens
Thorpe Market, Norfolk, Gunton Arms
Upper South Wraxall, Wiltshire, Longs Arms
Wells, Somerset, Old Spot
West Hoathly, West Sussex, Cat Inn
Wootton, Oxfordshire, Killingworth Castle
Wrington, North Somerset, The Ethicurean
Wymondham, Leicestershire, Berkeley Arms
York, York, Le Langhe N
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Galvin Brasserie De Luxe
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Dogs
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Passorn N
Glasgow, Glasgow City, The Gannet, N
Glasgow, Glasgow City, Ox and Finch N
Glasgow, Glasgow City, Stravaigin
Kintyre (Peninsula)/Kilberry, Argyll and Bute, Kilberry Inn
Peebles, Borders, Osso
Peebles, Borders, Restaurant at Kailzie Gardens
Brecon, Powys, Felin Fach Griffin
Northern Ireland
Ballyclare, Antrim, Oregano
Belfast, Belfast, Bar + Grill at James Street South N
Belfast, Belfast, Deanes at Queens N
Belfast, Belfast, Home
Belfast, Belfast, Coppi
Holywood, Down, Fontana
Lisbane, Ards, Old Schoolhouse Inn N
Republic of Ireland
Carrickmacross, Monaghan, Courthouse
Clonakilty, Cork, Deasy’s
Clonegall, Carlow, Sha-Roe Bistro
Dingle, Kerry, Chart House
Dublin, Dublin, Pichet
Dublin, Dublin, Pig’s Ear
Dublin, Dublin, Etto N
Dublin/Clontarf, Dublin, Downstairs
Duncannon, Wexford, Aldridge Lodge
Kinsale, Cork, Fishy Fishy
Lisdoonvarna, Clare, Wild Honey Inn
Malahide, Co Dublin, Brasserie at bon appétit

AA Guide 2015 (Sept 2014) New 3/4 Rosettes

Posted on: September 23rd, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


The AA has announced which of the country’s top restaurants have been achieved the higher AA Rosettes awards.  Seven restaurants are celebrating being awarded four AA Rosettes while 28 have seen their ratings rise to three AA Rosettes.

These restaurants have shown that they are outstanding and demand recognition well beyond their local area.  The four Rosette establishments also show intense ambition, a passion for excellence, superb technical skills and an appreciation of culinary traditions combined with a desire for exploration and improvement. 


  • Bohemia , Restaurant – St Helier
  • The French, By Simon Rogan, Manchester
  • Restaurant Nathan Outlaw – Rock
  • Restaurant Story, London
  • Texture, London
  • Le Gavroche, London
  • The Greenhouse, London



  • Stovells, Chobham
  • Cannizaro House, Wimbledon
  • Sixtyone Restaurant,  London
  • Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford
  • Llangoed Hall, Llyswen
  • Yorebridge House, Bainbridge
  • La Belle Époque, Sofitel Heathrow
  • Red Lion, Pewsey
  • Cliveden, Taplow
  • The Hambrough, Ventnor
  • Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens , Glasgow
  • Cotswolds88 Hotel, Painswick
  • Caxton Grill, St Ermins Hotel, London
  • Kitchen Table, London
  • The Packhorse Inn, Moulton
  • Manchester House Bar and Restaurant, Manchester
  • Hell Bay , Bryher
  • Turners, Birmingham
  • Amberley Castle , Amberley
  • Buckland Manor, Buckland
  • Ynyshir Hall, Eglwysfach
  • The Crown at Whitebrook, Whitebrook
  • Lainston House, Spartsholt
  • Chiltern Firehouse, London
  • Roka, London
  • The Clove Club, London
  • The Hinds Head, Bray
  • Mark Greenaway, Edinburgh

The new Rosettes were awarded at the AA Hospitality Awards held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London .  The awards, often referred to as the industry’s ‘Oscars’, were hosted by Fiona Bruce and guests were treated to a sensational gourmet meal created by 2013 AA Chefs’ Chef, Tom Kerridge, as well as entertainment from Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists Light Balance.

The award event also sees the launch of the 2015 AA guides to UK hotels, restaurants, pubs and B&Bs which contain details of all the winning establishments. 

The full list of winners of the AA Hospitality Awards 2014-15 are:

AA Lifetime Achievement – Ruth Rogers MBE

AA Chefs’ Chef – Nathan Outlaw

AA Hotel of the Year for England – Dormy House, Broadway

AA Hotel of the Year for Wales – Ynyshir Hall, Eglwys Fach

AA Hotel of the Year for Scotland – Meldrum House Country Hotel, Aberdeen

AA Hotel of the Year for London – Rosewood London

AA Hotel of the Year for Northern Ireland – The Bushmills Inn Hotel, Bushmills

AA Restaurant of the Year for England – Sticky Walnut, Chester

AA Restaurant of the Year for Wales – Bully’s, Cardiff

AA Restaurant of the Year for Scotland – Timberyard, Edinburgh

AA Restaurant of the Year for London – Berners Tavern, London

AA Small Hotel Group of the Year – Eden Hotel Collection

AA Large Hotel Group of the Year – QHotels

AA Wine Award for England and Overall Winner – The Queensberry Hotel, Bath

AA Wine Award for Scotland –The Peat Inn, St Andrews

AA Wine Award for Wales – The Grove, Narbeth 

AA Eco Hotel of the Year – Waterton Park Hotel, Walton Hall

AA Eco Hotel Group of the Year – Red Carnation Hotels

AA Pub of the Year for England –  The Pheasant, Gestingthorpe

AA Pub of the Year for Wales – Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd

AA Pub of the Year for Scotland – The Bridge Inn, Ratho

AA Housekeeper of the Year – Geraldine Maursy – The Landmark

AA Food Service Award –  Galvin at Windows, London

AA Spirit Award – The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

AA Restaurant Guide 2015 Press Release

Posted on: September 23rd, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


Nathan Outlaw

Pictured Nathan Outlaw winner of AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year 2014

The great and good of the country’s hospitality industry were out in force last night at the AA Hospitality Awards.   Twenty four award winners were celebrating after being presented with their coveted titles at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London ’s Park Lane including a new award for this year, The AA Spirit Award.

Often referred to as the industry’s ‘Oscars’ the AA Hospitality Awards is a key date on everyone’s calendar – a rare time when major players in the Hospitality world can get together – and recognise the commitment to excellence that so many establishments and individuals strive to provide their guests.  Drawing on the unrivalled knowledge and expertise of the AA inspectorate and other industry professionals involved in the judging process, winners are selected in recognition of excellence and success within their chosen category, having shown a significant improvement in the preceding 12 – 18 months and proving their dedication to raising industry standards and enhancing both their guest and diner experiences.  From top hotels and restaurants to the best of British pubs the AA Hospitality Awards celebrate everything that is great in British hospitality.  All the winners will appear in the latest edition of the 2015 AA Hotel, Restaurant and Pub Guides which were launched at the event.

Guests at the awards ceremony, hosted by Fiona Bruce, were treated to a sensational gourmet meal created by 2013 AA Chefs’ Chef, Tom Kerridge, as well as entertainment from Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists Light Balance.

Last night’s winners include:

AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year 2014 (sponsored by

A unique award that offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition.

Winner: Nathan Outlaw

Nathan’s career has gone a long way from his childhood days buttering toast to help his chef father with breakfast service in Kent .  With spells in London , Cornwall and Gloucestershire under some of the industry’s great names, Nathan’s love of seafood, and his West Country wife, brought him back to Cornwall opening his first restaurant at the age of 24.  Nathan has become a firm fixture in the Cornish restaurant world, as well as on our TV screens and is now helping chefs of the future at the Academy Nathan Outlaw. 

AA Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognises a lifetime commitment to the pursuit of perfection within their discipline. Along with the highest quality of service and standards, a track record of constant improvement and an unswerving dedication.

Winner: Ruth Rogers MBE

Over 25 years ago, Ruth Rogers, together with the late Rose Gray, started The River Café, inspired and influenced by their experience of living and cooking in Italy .  With names like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver among her protégés and over a million cookery books sold, it is no wonder that Ruth Rogers’ name is synonymous with hearty rustic Italian cooking.  The Italian influence came from her mother-in-law who opened her eyes to cooking and inspired her to use fresh seasonal ingredients.  The River Café, over looking the River Thames in London and designed by Ruth’s husband architect Richard Rogers, has its own kitchen garden that is filled with Italian vegetables and herbs and stretches to the river bank. 

Commenting on the award, Ruth said, ‘It is a great honour to be recognised for the work we all do at The River Café.  I accept this award on behalf of my team and late partner Rose Gray.’

AA Hotel of the Year

Introduced in 1992, and awarded to hotels that are recognised as being outstanding examples in their particular market.

Winner, England (sponsored by Temple Spa ) – Dormy House, Broadway

Winner, Wales – Ynyshir Hall, Eglwys Fach

Winner, Scotland – Meldrum House Country Hotel, Aberdeen

Winner, London (sponsored by BriefYourMarket) – Rosewood London , London

Winner, Northern Ireland – The Bushmills Inn Hotel, Bushmills

AA Restaurant of the Year

While the standard of cuisine is at the very heart of the selection criteria for these awards, innovation, ambience, and hospitality are all part of the equation that determines the eventual winners.

Winner, England – Sticky Walnut, Chester

Winner, Wales – Bully’s, Cardiff

Winner, Scotland – Timberyard, Edinburgh

Winner, London (sponsored by Food & Travel Magazine) – Berners Tavern, London

AA Wine Award (sponsored by Matthew Clark)

Nominees are judged on the quality of their wine list and their ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices.

Winner, England and Overall – The Queensberry Hotel, Bath

Winner, Wales – The Grove, Narbeth

Winner, Scotland – The Peat Inn, St Andrews

AA Pub of the Year

Combining the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere, and a warm welcome with a high standard of management

Winner, England – The Pheasant, Gestingthorpe

Winner, Wales – Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd

Winner, Scotland – The Bridge Inn, Ratho

AA Small Hotel Group of the Year (sponsored by Beacon)

This award recognises the consistent dedication and development of a small hotel group in terms of improvement to service and operational standards. Eligible groups are assessed on quality of food and accommodation and efforts made to improve the overall guest experience.

Winner – Eden Hotel Collection

AA Hotel Group of the Year

A hugely prestigious award presented in recognition of the hotel group that has a proven track record of striving to ensure the very best levels of service, food and accommodation across the range of properties. Attention to detail is imperative and a committed and structured approach to future development is essential.

Winner – QHotels

AA Eco Hotel and Eco Hotel Group of the Year

These awards recognises a clear commitment to sustainability, demonstrated through good practice and policy to make a positive contribution to reducing impact on the environment

Winner, Eco Hotel (sponsored by D-ENERGi) –  Waterton Park Hotel

Winner, Eco Hotel Group – Red Carnation Hotels

AA Food Service Award

Introduced last year, the AA Food Service Award recognises establishments who not only deliver excellent standards of restaurant service and hospitality but also have technical service skills, food and beverage knowledge of the highest standard and a clear commitment to staff training and development.

Winner – Galvin at Windows

AA Housekeeper of the Year Award (sponsored by Northmace & Hendon)

The award recognises outstanding commitment and performance, identifying a Housekeeper who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Winner – Geraldine Maursy – The Landmark

AA Spirit Award (sponsored by The Balvenie)

This award is new for 2014 and has been introduced to recognise the professional promotion, education and service of spirits in the hospitality industry.

Winner – The Merchant Hotel, Belfast


Details of all the award winners:-

AA Hotel of the Year

Winner, England (sponsored by Temple Spa ) – Dormy House, Broadway

Dormy House is a privately-owned hotel near Broadway in the picturesque Cotswolds.  Originally a 17th Century farmhouse the hotel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment last year to completely transform and redesign the interiors to the highest standard and create a destination spa.  The team at Dormy House set out to create refreshingly different, informal but attentive hospitality. 

Andrew Grahame, CEO of Dormy House said, ‘This award recognises the achievements of so many people and it’s a fitting reward for everyone who has contributed to the project and worked so hard to create the new Dormy House.  Our original aim to be a modern beacon of modern, relaxed hospitality in the Cotswolds, has struck a note with travellers far beyond our locality.  Winning Hotel of the Year for England in the AA Hospitality Awards 2014-15 so soon after opening the new Dormy House Hotel and Spa is a dream come true.  We would like to thank the AA for its support and recognition at this critical time in our evolution.’

Winner, Wales – Ynyshir Hall, Eglwys Fach

Ynyshir Hall is a charming house with a history going back to at least the 1500s.  Previous owners have included Queen Victoria and William Mapin of Mapin and Webb silversmiths.  A hotel since 1970, Ynyshire Hall has been run by artist Rob Reen and his wife Joan since 1989.  With a brief period under the ownership of the von Essen group, Joan and Rob bought back the hotel in 2012 and this year are celebrating 25 years of being at Ynyshire Hall.  The hotel today is the culmination of Joan and Rob’s vision with the whole style of décor, including many of Rob’s stunning paintings, the service and even the cuisine in tune with their own personal philosophy.  Being small, but special, is rare these days and they believe they can offer a very personal service and take genuine care of guests.

Joan and Rob commented, ‘We are delighted to win such a prestigious accolade!  After the trauma of the last few years, this is a triumph to establish that Ynyshir is firmly back on the map.  It is just reward for our wonderful staff who worked above and beyond the call of duty to help us through the difficult times.  It is also a wonderful way to celebrate our 25th Anniversary.’

Winner, Scotland – Meldrum House, Aberdeen

Meldrum House is a unique hotel and golf course located in stunning countryside near Aberdeen .  Over the past four years the hotel has undergone a major refurbishment programme turning a tired three star hotel into one of the finest country house hotels in the country.  The team at Meldrum House are committed to ensuring the hotel exceeds the customer expectations and becomes recognised as a shining example of Scottish hospitality. 

Andy Burgess, Chief Executive at Meldrum House Estate, said: “To receive recognition from such a prestigious national award is huge testament to both our hotel owners, who have provided the foresight, vision and financial support to make our success possible; and to General Manager, Peter Walker, and his team on the ground whose energy, dedication and enthusiasm for delivering our vision has been outstanding.”

Winner, London (sponsored by BriefYourMarket) – Rosewood London , London

Just moments from London ’s Covent Garden , Rosewood London is the Capital’s newest ultra-luxury hotel.  Combining English heritage with contemporary sophistication and maintaining many original architectural features including the original carriageway entrance to the grand inner courtyard, the hotel has the feel of a stylish London residence.  The Grand Manor House Wing is the only suite in the world to have its very own postcode and provides residential style living in central London . 

Michael Bonsor, Rosewood London Hotel Manager said, ‘We’d like to think we’ve been included in this prestigious list owing to the many elements of surprise and discovery found within Rosewood London.  Rosewood London is conversational, intriguing and the design is quite unexpected – but it’s essentially modern and metropolitan while still keeping the essence of this heritage building that has graced London for the past century.’

Winner, Northern Ireland – The Bushmills Inn, Bushmills

Dating back to the early 1600s when the Coaching Inn was a favourite stop off for saddle sore visitors en route to the Giants Causeway, The Bushmills Inn Hotel has had an interesting and varied history.  Today the fully renovated 41 roomed hotel epitomises the true spirit of Ulster hospitality, with friendly local staff and a myriad of thick walls, oak beams, real turf fires, a gas lit bar and lots of nooks and crannies.

Alan Dunlop, Managing Director of The Bushmills Inn Hotel said, ‘The AA award are amongst the most prestigious national awards and we are greatly humbled and honoured to have won the AA Hotel of the Year for Northern Ireland this year.  Even to have been nominated is an incredible honour, but to have won against such strong competition is amazing.  I feel very proud to be recognised by industry professionals for the contribution the The Bushmills Inn has made to promoting tourism on the Causeway Coast .  I would like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution made by the whole team at the hotel, without which, none of this would have been possible.’

AA Restaurant of the Year

While the standard of cuisine is at the very heart of the selection criteria for these awards, innovation, ambience, and hospitality are all part of the equation that determines the eventual winners.

Winner, England – Sticky Walnut, Chester

In the heart of Chester , Sticky Walnut is a welcoming neighbourhood bistro.  Head Chef and owner Gary Usher has worked in many restaurants in the North of England and in London .  He and his team now use top notch produce to put together imaginative dishes that do all of the ingredients proud. 

Speaking of the award, Gary said, ‘Knowing how prestigious the award is, we still can’t believe it.  Our efforts have remained consistent over the last three and a half years and it is an honour to be recognised for them.’

Winner, Wales – Bully’s, Cardiff

In 1996 Paul Bullimore opened Bullys Restaurant in Llandaff and was joined by son Russell in 2003.  In 2009 Russell and his wife Vicky took over the restaurant and moved premises to Pontcanna, Cardiff .  Russell has become well known for his quirky way of describing dishes to customers.  Bullys prides itself on combining an intriguing atmosphere with excellent, interesting food. The mission is not only to have great tasting food, but to provide efficient and friendly service because customer satisfaction is paramount.                             

Russell said, ‘Winning such a prestigious award allows us to realise we have touched the hearts of our customers and makes us stronger with a desire to achieve much more.’

Winner, Scotland – Timberyard, Edinburgh

Timberyard is a truly family affair run by Andrew and Lisa Radford, eldest son Ben is the chef, Jo is in the bar and daughter Abi helping with all aspects of social median and photography.  The family strongly believe in sourcing seasonal produce locally using the best ingredients at the peak of their growth.  This thinking covers the kitchen and the bar where all the cordials and mixers are prepared on the premises using ingredients native to Scotland and Britain . 

Jo Radford said of winning the award, ‘Fantastic, utterly delighted, a real team achievement.’

Winner, London (sponsored by Food & Travel Magazine) – Berners Tavern, London

Originally built in 1835 as five luxurious townhouses in the heart of Fitzrovia, the architecture at Berners Tavern still shows the Georgian hallmarks that characterise London ’s finest residences.  The houses were combined to form the Berners Hotel in 1908.  The team at Berners Tavern under chef Phil Carmichael, have worked so hard to make sure everything right from breakfast all the way through to the late night menu.

Berners Tavern Executive Chef, Jason Atherton said, ‘I couldn’t be happier right now for the team at Berners Tavern.  I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in such a competitive market and long may that continue.’

AA Wine Award (sponsored by Matthew Clark)

Nominees are judged on the quality of their wine list and their ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices.

Winner, England and Overall – The Queensberry Hotel, Bath

The Olive Tree Restaurant at The Queensberry Hotel is on of Bath ’s longest established independent restaurants and has been servicing locals and visitors to Bath for over 25 years.  Owners, Laurence and Helen Beere having been running the business for over a decade and have created a restaurant serving outstanding modern British food and great wines in an informal setting.  The wine list had always been held in high regard but new Restaurant Manager Joss Roussanne has brought a fresh eye to the list and is constantly looking for interesting wines to accompany the tasting menu.

Laurence Beere said of the award, ‘We are delighted to receive recognition for all the hard work that the team has put in over the years.  We have always prided ourselves on offering a varied and balanced wine selection and Joss has brought the finishing touches to the list with his passion for interesting and small suppliers that he introduces via our tasting menu.’

Winner, Wales – The Grove, Narbeth

The Grove was a derelict building just seven years ago and now it is a stunning five star Restaurant with Rooms with 3 AA Rosettes.  In order to continue to improve a new experienced Sommelier Michal Dumnay has been brought in, this has seen the wine list be transformed as he has developed an exciting range of over 200 wines from a diverse cross section of wines and regions.

Owner Neil Kedward said, ‘ Wales is full of great places to eat fabulous food and drink world class wines.  We are delighted to be part of a growing hospitality sector in Wales and excited about the future.’

Winner, Scotland – The Peat Inn, St Andrews

The Peat Inn is a former 18th Century coaching Inn near St Andrews .  The team at The Peat Inn offer top quality ingredients from pioneering smaller providers whilst still offering value for money.  The staff have been trained to encourage guests to expand their horizons and select wine they will enjoy from a producer or region new to them, this can be by the bottle or from their strong wine by the glass selection.

Chef Patron Geoffrey Smeddle said, ‘Our restaurant manager Ian Macrae works tirelessly to construct a wine list that is exciting yet still accessible and this award is national recognition of his success.’

AA Pub of the Year

Combining the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere, and a warm welcome with a high standard of management

Winner, England – The Pheasant, Gestingthorpe

The Pheasant sits between Halstead and Sudbury amid rolling Suffolk countryside.  Since 2006 owners James and Diana Donoghue have completely redecorated as well as undertaking building work to create five luxury en-suite bedrooms and a Smoke House.  In 2011 they purchased an additional acre of land which, using James’ gardening expertise, they have transformed into a fruit and vegetable garden that supplies the restaurant.  The Pheasant menu has evolved around traditional, freshly-prepared food, using their fresh garden produce as much as possible.

James and Diana said, ‘It is a great honour and a privilege to win this award.  We are very pleased to receive such recognition for all of our hard work and gives us confidence to continue and develop our business further.’

Winner, Wales – Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd

The Bunch of Grapes has been in the same family for 30 years and has evolved to survive as the climate changes and has become a thriving gastro pub and real ale mecca that continues to develop and react to the changing market and the needs of people.  The Bunch of Grapes of today is a far cry from it’s former back street boozer image from it’s days serving the nearby canal and chainworks.  The introduction of an in-house delicatessen, cookery classes, tutored beer tastings, a beer academy and regular beer and food festivals have all helped establish this pub as the best in Wales .

Speaking of the award, owner Nick Otley said, ‘To be awarded this prestigious award is a pat on the back to the team for all the hard work they have, and continue to, put in at the Bunch of Grapes.’

Winner, Scotland – The Bridge Inn, Ratho

Whether it is summer barbeques on the terrace or winter evenings by the roaring fires the Bridge Inn in Ratho is the place to be.  Overlooking the Union Canal , and even with its own canal barges, this is a truly unique pub offering the best of Scottish produce including home grown vegetables, herbs and saddleback pigs.  Owners Graham and Rachel Bucknall have an unswerving commitment to customer service and believe that if guests are buying a pint at the Canal Bar or enjoying dinner in the restaurant they deserve the best experience possible.

Graham Bucknall said, ‘This is the industry Oscars and means a colossal amount.  It is the most significant announcement since we bought the Bridge Inn four years ago and is vindication of our investment of both time and money, and entire strategy.  To the team, it’s deserved recognition of the amazing job they all carry out on a daily basis and will give them enormous pride that their very own local is now an acclaimed AA Pub of the Year.’

AA Small Hotel Group of the Year (sponsored by Beacon)

Winner – Eden Hotel Collection

The Eden Hotel Collection has a portfolio of carefully chosen hotels each one offering unique qualities, from beautiful architecture and peaceful surrounding to outstanding food and the sense of total escape. 

Mark Chambers, MD of Eden Hotel Collection, said ‘We are surprised and delighted to have won the AA Small Hotel Group of the Year Award.  If anyone had asked me which award we would most like to win as a group it would have been this one.  We are particularly thrilled to be recognised by such a prestigious establishment as the AA who know our industry inside and out.  It simply makes the award much more valuable to us and we are incredibly proud of our achievement.’

AA Hotel Group of the Year

Winner – QHotels

QHotels is a UK hotel group operating 21 unique, four star provincial hotels throughout the country.  The group was started in 2003 with just two hotels and over the past decade has continued to develop and build on the sound foundations that saw the QHotels win this award back in 2008. 

QHotels MD, Michael Purtill said of the award, ‘To win the AA Hotel Group of the Year award for a second time in our short history is something I’m very proud of.  The QHotels people, the whole team, are the secret to our continued success.  Lots of brands claim to put the customer first but at QHotels this is the cornerstone of our culture.  We are inspired by our customers, we listen and respond accordingly and it’s fantastic that our efforts have been recognised by the AA Awards.’

AA Eco Hotel and Eco Hotel Group of the Year

These awards recognises a clear commitment to sustainability, demonstrated through good practice and policy to make a positive contribution to reducing impact on the environment

Winner, Eco Hotel (sponsored by D-ENERGi) – The Waterton Park Hotel, Walton Hall

Walton Hall is the former home of Charles Waterton, a pioneering 19th Century traveller and naturalist who created the world’s first nature reserve by building a three mile, nine foot high wall around the estate.  The hall, which, being on an island in a 26 acre lake, is accessed only by an iron bridge became a hotel in the 1970s.  The team at Waterton Park Hall are committed to following Charles Waterton’s environmental legacy using 21st Century technology.  This legacy includes the installation of a Geo Thermal heating system using the lake to provide all the hot water and heating for the hotel.

Debbie Taylor, Sales Director at The Waterton Park Hotel said, ‘We are absolutely delighted that our commitment to ensuring the future of this unique and historic hall has been recognised by the prestigious AA Awards.’

Winner, Eco Hotel Group – Red Carnation Hotels

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is a family run collection of 17 award-winning boutique hotels in UK , Ireland , South Africa , Switzerland and the USA .  Central to the core values of the collection is a keen awareness of the problems facing the environment and consequently they have instituted a Green Team to investigate and implement the ways they can tackle environmental issues.  A great example is their new Living Wall at the Rubens Hotel in London which is packed with plants and flowers selected to not only be in bloom all year but also attract wildlife.  In addition the wall’s design enables it to capture rainwater from the roof of the building in dedicated storage tanks and thus helps to reduce the risk of flooding in the Victoria area.

Jonathan Raggett, Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels said, ‘All of our teams across each of our hotels put great efforts into their Green initiatives.  Our wonderful Living Wall at the Rubens Hotel demonstrates our commitment to the environment and green issues, as does our work through our non-profit organisation TreadRight which is dedicated to sustainable tourism.  We are extremely proud and honoured to have won the AA Eco Hotel Group of the Year Award.’

AA Food Service Award

Introduced last year, the AA Food Service Award recognises establishments who not only deliver excellent standards of restaurant service and hospitality but also have technical service skills, food and beverage knowledge of the highest standard and a clear commitment to staff training and development.

Winner – Galvin at Windows

Located on the 28th Floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane , Chris and Jeff Galvin have created one of London ’s most sought after dining destinations.  With interiors evoking the golden age of the 1930s and outstanding views over the capital, dining at Galvin at Windows is a truly memorable experience.  The team pride themselves on providing a service that guests will be left talking about for years to come. 

General Manager at Galvin at Windows, Fred Sirieix said, ‘It is a great recognition and we are very proud to have won this wonderful award.’

AA Housekeeper of the Year Award (sponsored by Northmace & Hendon)

Winner – Geraldine Maursy – The Landmark

Geraldine has been with The Landmark for 13 years and leads a team of over 100 housekeeping staff.  Geraldine knows everybody in the hotel by name and takes a genuine interest in their wellbeing. She creates a sense of family within the hotel, and engages with all our guests. She is always on call, and frequently calls in to the hotel on weekends to support the team.  Geraldine has been influential in many decisions across the hotel group she currently works for, such as heading a taskforce dedicated to improving the amenties offered to our guests.  Geraldine is very well respected within the industry, and has mentored and developed many individuals throughout her career. She often receives calls for advice from other Executive Housekeepers, and is an active member of the UKHA.

AA Spirit Award (sponsored by The Balvenie)

This award is new for 2014 and has been introduced to recognise the high quality and varied range offered by establishments.

Winner – The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

The former headquarters of the Ulster Bank was transformed in 2006 to become a luxury five star hotel.  Further expansion in 2010 saw the introduction of a wealth of new facilities including a luxury spa, rooftop gym and a fabulous jazz bar.  From the beginning the Cocktail Bar was a key consideration for the hotel, with the aim of establishing itself as one of the best cocktail bars in the world.  This award winning cocktail bar, now under the management of Michael Patterson has certainly achieved its aim.  With a strong focus on recruitment and training to ensure that their staff are highly capable mixologists, The Cocktail Bar has over 100 drinks on its list. 

Gavin Caroll, General Manager at The Merchant Hotel said, ‘We are delighted to have won the first AA Spirit Award.  We believe The Cocktail Bar at The Merchant Hotel offers a truly unique experience with perfectly poured drinks and outstanding service but to be recognised by the AA is such an honour.  We are very proud of this achievement.  It always means so much to the hotel and to our staff when we are recognised by our customers, the industry and our peers.’

Interview: Elizabeth Carter, Waitrose Good Food Guide

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
GFG Photos 2015 Guide (2)

Elizabeth Carter Editor Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015

Elizabeth Carter is in the planning stage for a ninth book as Good Food Guide editor, here she speaks to Simon Carter of fine dining guide over lunch at 2015 Best Newcomer, Andre Garrett at Cliveden.

How are you continuing to enjoy your tenure at The Good Food Guide UK?

What can I say? I love it.  There’s something about this book, I don’t know quite how to describe it – a national treasure, an iconic publication? – but it is an honour to be custodian of the Good Food Guide.

I know when we first met for interview, when I had just taken over as Consultant Editor of the then Which? Good Food Guide, I said “give me three books”. But then I found I couldn’t imagine wanting to work anywhere else and now it’s eight books later (with a ninth in the planning stage) and I’m still loving it.

It’s not as though I’ve had a particular long term plan, I focus purely on the book in hand in order to make it the best book possible; an approach, I find, that keeps things fresh and keeps me focused. Researching and writing the Guide means six months of meeting challenges, deadlines, and it can be intensely stressful, but when it is all done the sense of satisfaction is enormous and that’s a great feeling. I must add a big thank you to the editorial and inspection teams who have worked especially hard over the last year as we settle into our new environment.

In what way has the Waitrose takeover affected The Good Food Guide?

Not at all.  Having said that from an editorial team perspective we were pushed out of our comfort zones a little (as I have told chefs in the past, no bad thing from time to time). If anything it has only been a challenge in the sense that the working environment was new to us, and that took some getting used to.

In the same way that our founder Raymond Postgate had reasons to sell the Good Food Guide to what was then The Consumers’ Association (now Which?) in the 1960s, we were looking for new marketing possibilities. It was the right time to find The Good Food Guide a new home and I’m delighted that Waitrose have welcomed The Good Food Guide with open arms. We’re mutually very happy!

Update us on the current and planned status of all digital aspects of the Guide?

We’re taking our time on the website front; we want to get it right, and that meant going through at least a full year’s cycle with Waitrose before committing to a digital strategy.  There are no plans currently to integrate the Good Food Guide website with, although as you can imagine that may be subject to change.

For certain there is investment in a new iPhone app which should be published and available in November.  The app has historically sold very well without affecting book sales, so we’ve been delighted with that area of development.

From a social networking platform perspective, there are currently in excess of 123,000 twitter followers, which has an enormous reach and something we’re very proud of having achieved.

For 2015 pre-release, the Good Food Guide website published a Top 50 pub list – this is a new feature!

This is the first year we’ve produced The Good Food Guide from scratch for Waitrose, last year they purchased the finished content.  We found there was an opportunity to do something new, and a Top 50 Pub list made sense, as food-led pubs remain very much part of the readers’ culture.

We expect to continue working on this in future editions. Our readers want the best talent highlighted, whether restaurants or pubs. And as pubs are very popular, it seemed a natural thing to produce.

What do you see as the state of play in the restaurant scene in 2014?

There’s everything to play for!  For example, the renaissance of the country house hotel as the economy picks up.  There’s a wave of talented young chefs coming through to challenge the established order.  We have spoken before about this, and I remember expressing concern that there didn’t seem to be a talented new generation coming to the fore. Now they are, with a vengeance.

I believe the ones who prove successful are likely to be supported by astute restaurateurs and hoteliers – it really is asking too much to take on chef/patron responsibilities too young, too soon.  Gareth Ward is a truly worthy winner of our chef to watch in the 2015 Good Food Guide; a young chef who has found a great stage at Ynyshir Hall and the support of one of the best hoteliers in the business, Joan Reen. Liam Finnegan at the Castle, Taunton, is another good example. I have to say that this year was one of the strongest for this award, so Gareth has done extremely well.

When you see our high-end restaurants dispensing with table clothes and waiters’ ties, you know there’s a move toward a more relaxed kind of formality.  In addition, front of house have ‘a growing personality’, they engage in conversation, which adds to the accessibility of the top-end experience.

At the other end of the spectrum, new for 2015, is the Upton Fish Shop in Lincolnshire.  It is a takeaway, open just two days a week and, as far as we are aware, has the only coal-fired range in the country. Fresh fish, beef dripping and the best Lincolnshire potatoes are what Upton is about. And shows that The Good Food Guide is about good food period, regardless of the surroundings or costs.

What about for the future – 2015 and beyond?

Well that is such a difficult question as the market is so open, there’s pretty much something for everyone today.  I would say that quite a number of our top chefs are focused on tasting menus.  These menus are designed to demonstrate the skills and repertoire of talented chefs such as Sat Bains, Simon Rogan, even the up-and-coming Sanchez Iglesias brothers – and I find them exciting. Elsewhere, my heart sinks when I see a tasting menu. This particular trend does not translate well at mid-market level where a kitchen committed to à la carte and a daily menu is simply not equipped to offer a tasting menu and do it well.

How are the readers awards working out, well received?

Fabulous, very well received.  We’re delighted with the awards and envisage them getting stronger and stronger.  The Guide is about reader feedback, so in a way these awards encapsulate the Good Food Guide. The 2015 winner is, for example, Carters of Moseley, which we consider to be the perfect neighbourhood restaurant.

Anonymous inspectors still determine the final mark in the guide?

Yes, to a large extent.  They go out and report back, there is often a ratification process to check out some of the more exciting/newer venues.  We also have trusted reader feedback which will feed into the decision making process.

The write up each entry is given is important, too.  I regard myself as the custodian of the Good Food Guide’s writing style, a way with words that has entertained and informed readers for decades.  We are lucky to have a strong inspector, writer and editorial team and their input ensures the final entry is what makes the Good Food Guide unique.

Regular readers will also realize that in terms of the marking system a restaurant receiving 1/10 or 2/10 is still a very good restaurant.  We cover only 1300 or so addresses in the Good Food Guide, so there’s 30,000 plus that don’t reach the standards to be included.

There are also ‘Local Gems’ this year.  I specifically wanted to change from ‘Also Recommended’ to ensure we promoted those quality local restaurants that didn’t quite merit a score but were nonetheless well regarded on a local level.

What do you see as the future of the ‘Guides’ marketplace and the Waitrose Good Food Guide role in that market?

We all know that the hard copy publishing marketplace has taken a huge hit in the increasingly digital world.  I am delighted to say that the Good Food Guide is currently bucking that trend with great sales figures.  Waitrose have been magnificent in making this possible, with supermarket sales generating well over a third of total sales.  The combination of the profile of the book and profile of Waitrose are a happy combination. Long may that continue.