Archive for September, 2019

AA Restaurant Guide 2020 Press Release, September 2019

Posted on: September 24th, 2019 by Simon Carter


  • Jason Atherton crowned Chefs’ Chef of the Year
  • Restaurant of the Year and Pub of the Year announced
  • The Ritz, London named best restaurant in UK for service
  • New Rosettes awarded

London. 23 September. The best hotels, restaurants and pubs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were celebrated at the AA Hospitality Awards tonight in a glittering ceremony at Grosvenor House in London.

The twenty-second annual awards were presented by Kate Silverton and honoured the best establishments in the UK across twenty-three categories, including Chefs’ Chef, Restaurant of the Year, Pub of the Year, Hotel of the Year, Food Service, Win, Lifetime Achievement, College Restaurant of the Year, and beyond.

AA Hospitality Awards 2019 Winners:

Chefs’ Chef

Restaurant of the Year

Pub of the Year

Lifetime Achievement Award

Wine Award

Food Service Award

College Restaurant of the Year

New 5 Rosettes

  • Lympstone Manor, Exmouth

New 4 Rosettes

  • Coworth Park, Ascot
  • Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead
  • Hipping Hall, Lancaster
  • Hrishi at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Windermere
  • Old Downton Lodge, Ludlow
  • Roganic, London
  • Sorrel, Dorking
  • The Angel at Hetton, Hetton
  • The Greenhouse, London
  • The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, Malmesbury

The full list of this year’s AA Hospitality Awards winners can be found at

Quotes & Award Details

Restaurant of the Year

The AA Restaurant of the Year recognises restaurants that provide cuisine of a truly excellent standard, as well as demonstrating innovation and ambience and providing a high standard of hospitality.

  • Restaurant of the Year, England – Fordwich Arms, Canterbury

Guy Palmer-Brown, Daniel and Natasha Smith, Owners of Fordwich Arms: “When we opened the Fordwich Arms we could not have imagined such a phenomenal first 12 months. We feel truly blessed and it has proven to us that the hard work and dedication from our team in such a young business has paid off. This will only spur us on to achieve as much as we possibly can going forward. A huge thank you to our team for their continual hard work, without whom none of this would have been possible, as well as our guests for their never-ending support of us.”

An AA Inspector said of Fordwich Arms: “The 1930s country boozer with a terrace and garden looking over the River Stour was begging for a makeover, and that’s just what it got when high-flying young chef-patron Dan Smith took the helm in 2018 and immediately turned the place into a foodie destination. Smith’s cooking is firmly in the new-wave modern British camp, allying sharp technique with intriguing combinations of first-class materials.”

  • Restaurant of the Year, London – Cornerstone by Chef Tom Brown, London, E9

Tom Brown, Chef Patron of Cornerstone by Chef Tom Brown commented: “I’m thrilled to have won the ‘AA Restaurant of the Year London’ award, it is such an honour to be recognised by such a prestigious association. I’m so proud of our fantastic team who work tirelessly to ensure we are constantly evolving and delivering a memorable experience to all our guests. Thank you to all the inspectors who have visited us since opening, this award means so much to us.”

An AA Inspector said of Cornerstone by Chef Tom Brown: “This new seafood joint is making big waves. The vibe is super cool, light and relaxed; a handsome monochrome, industrial look with retro bow-back chairs and black tabletops and dominant central-hub kitchen. Confidently exposed, Brown’s team turns out dazzling seafood sharing-plates in the simple but brilliantly executed genre, backed by standout ingredients, flavour and balance.”

  • Restaurant of the Year, Wales – Bryn Williams at Porth Eirias, Colwyn Bay

Bryn Williams, Co-Owner of Bryn Williams at Porth Eirias said: “We are extremely thrilled and excited to win this very special award and to be recognised by such a prestigious organisation within our industry. This is all down to the dedication and hard work of our team at Porth Eirias.”

An AA Inspector said of Bryn Williams at Porth Eirias: “Floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of Colwyn Bay, and exposed steelwork, pendant lights and industrial-chic create the feeling of a hip, big-city eatery. Bryn Williams made his name alongside celebrated chefs and has been chef-patron of Odette’s in London’s Primrose Hill since 2008, so you can expect sharp modern British bistro ideas.”

  • Restaurant of the Year, Scotland – Sugar Boat, Helensburgh

Will Smith, Owner of Sugar Boat commented: “This award is an incredible achievement by the whole team and is testament to the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that has gone into opening and building the restaurant.  Thrilled, elated, blown away, astounded and so very proud to be recognised at a national level. Thank you to everyone who has helped us on our journey.”

An AA Inspector said of Sugar Boat: “On a square in the heart of town, with tables out front and back, Sugar Boat is done out in natural colours of earth and sea, with a marble-topped bar and viewable kitchen. The hearty modern bistro cooking features big flavours and an essentially simple approach.”

Pub of the Year

The AA Pub of the Year is awarded to great all-rounder pubs or inns. They successfully combine the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere and a warm welcome with a high standard of management.

  • Pub of the Year, England – Three Daggers, Edington

Richard Smith, General Manager of Three Daggers commented: “It’s a huge compliment to be awarded AA pub of the Year. It is true testament to the hard work of all the staff and the vision and its owners. Hospitality is a tough business and it’s great to see the long hours, sacrifice and passion being recognised by the AA.”

AA Hospitality said of Three Daggers: “A pub with its own microbrewery, farm and farm shop, The Three Daggers has plenty to offer locals and destination diners. Bare tables, mismatched wooden chairs, exposed brick and heritage colours add to the informal country pub feel, as does the seasonal modern cooking.”

  • Pub of the Year, Wales – Glynne Arms, Hawarden

AA Hospitality said of Glynne Arms: “This fine-looking old coaching inn’s success is down to Charlie and Caroline Gladstone. Charlie’s great-great grandfather was 19th-century prime minister Sir William Ewart Gladstone, who married into Hawarden Castle’s Glynne dynasty. Meat, fruit and vegetables come from the couple’s Estate Farm Shop down the road.”

  • Pub of the Year, Scotland – Meikleour Arms Public House, Perth

Claire Mercer Nairne, owner of the Meikleour Arms commented: “We could not dream of winning such a coveted award! Giving a new lease of life to a rural Scottish country pub has been a marvellous journey for our team and now attending a prestigious event in Mayfair to collect an award recognising our hard work is just surreal. The AA Quality standard is the highest in the industry and we are so honoured and over-joyed.”

An AA inspector said of Meikleour Arms Public House: The inn’s own Lure of Meikleour real ale inhabits the bar, as does an extensive wine list; with one of the pub’s owners coming from Bordeaux expect some good clarets, as well as wines from off-the-beaten-track vineyards elsewhere. Eat in the traditional flagstone-floored bar, the woodland-themed stone barn, the more intimate private dining room, or in the garden. The restaurant serves country food, including venison from estate woods, beef from Aberdeenshire, white fish from the East Coast, mussels from Shetland and rod-caught trout from local lochs.”

Chefs’ Chef – Jason Atherton

A popular and coveted title, this unique award, introduced in 1996, offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition of their performance over the past twelve months.

Jason Atherton started out working alongside chefs including Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria at el Bulli, before joining the Gordon Ramsay Holdings in 2001 and launching ‘Maze’, first in London and then another five globally. Jason opened ‘Pollen Street Social’ in April 2011 and now runs 16 restaurants internationally. Jason is married to Irha Atherton who works alongside him as co-director at The Social Company.

Jason Atherton commented: “When you win Chef’s Chef of the Year it’s that award where the chefs vote you, so for me to be voted by my peers it’s just incredible. I was not expecting it, I’m absolutely thrilled to bits.”

Simon Numphud, Managing Director of AA Media said: Jason is one of the UK’s most respected and successful chefs, a reputation hard earned through his relentless commitment and passion for his craft. Given his success and commitment to the industry, he is an inspiration to many and hence no surprise that the AA rosette chef community has voted for him to become this year’s AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year.

Lifetime Achievement – Robin Sheppard, Chairman, Bespoke Hotels

The AA Lifetime Achievement Award, introduced in 2006, recognises professionals within the hospitality industry who have committed their lives to the pursuit of perfection within their discipline. Winners of this award are to be congratulated for making significant fundamental contributions to the industry which have had a notable impact and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress in their field.

Robin has been an hotelier for 40+ years winning many Hotel/Hotelier of the Year awards.  In 2000 he co-founded Bespoke Hotels which has grown into the UK’s latest independent hotel group with over 200 properties, including the multi-award winning Hotel Gotham.  Most recently he won the Hotel Catey and the Oxford Brookes awards for Outstanding Contribution to the Hospitality Industry. 

He is also the Government’s Hospitality Sector Champion for Disabled People.

His greatest achievement, though, has been to fight back from GBS, a totally paralysing illness.  His slow recovery inspired him to launch the Bespoke Access Awards in conjunction with RIBA encouraging better design and empathy from architects, interior designers and hospitality professionals alike.

Robin Sheppard commented: “I just got married, and it doesn’t get any better to spend the second night of your honeymoon winning a lifetime achievement award, so I’m thrilled to bits, astonished and just absolutely delighted.”

Simon Numphud, Managing Director of AA Media said: “An incredible and engaging hotelier for over 40 years, his contribution to the industry speaks for itself and has been recognised by various personal awards in recent years. His success is an inspiration to us all, made even more remarkable given the determination to overcome significant disabilities and his continuing achievements.”

Wine Award

This award recognises an outstanding contribution to promoting, understanding and appreciating wine. Nominees are judged on the quality of their wine list and their ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices in selecting wines.

·         Overall Winner / Wine Award England – Hampton Manor, Solihull

James Hill, Managing Director at Hampton Manor commented: “Winning this award is a special moment that is shared with our friends running other restaurants, families growing vineyards across the world, wine makers treating their fruit with love and passionate importers caught up a rich conversation about the future of our soils and the sustainability of our farming systems.  A special nod goes to our friends Sam and Lucy who are leading the natural wine conversation in our region through their ground-breaking business Wine Freedom. They have significantly shaped our thinking.  Natural wine is a movement and a dialogue that is capturing the imagination of a new generation of wine drinkers.”

An AA Inspector said of Hampton Manor wine list: “Super impressive list and is wonderfully curated. Features include funky producers, difficult to source wines via innovative keg system. A list that is totally engaging. Amazing, very stylish and one that takes you on a journey and story. The wine list is a feature in its own right and an innovative way to organise a list, very helpful. A list that pushes the boundaries, such personality.”

  • Wine Award Wales – Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel, Dolgellau

Mark Watson, Director at Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel commented: “It is an honour to be recognised by the AA for the hard work which goes into the formulation of our wine selection.”

An AA Inspector said of Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel wine list: “A list full of passion and much effort. The hotel clearly knows their market and customers, love the tasting notes and the vintage chart is a nice addition. Really good pricing and nice sherry selection. You sense there is a real personality behind the list, and it’s very accessible.”

  • Wine Award Scotland – Castle Terrace Restaurant, Edinburgh

Joel Bastian, Group Head Sommelier at Castle Terrace Restaurant commented: “Passion, curiosity and hard work always pays off.”

An AA Inspector said of Castle Terrace Restaurant wine list: “A beautifully laid out list that is really accessible and easy to read. Whilst leaning towards French wines, overall it is nicely balanced with a strong New World selection. Vintage selections were excellent, pricing appropriate and great magnum selection. A list packed full of Interest.”

Food Service Award – The Ritz, London

This award recognises restaurants that deliver excellent standards of restaurant service and hospitality. Teams will deliver technical service skills and food and beverage knowledge of the highest standard.

Simon Girling, Director of Food and Beverage at The Ritz London:It is the greatest honour for the hotel to have been recognized by the AA, the leading authority in the hospitality industry, with this prestigious award – thank you! I am extremely proud of the entire Front of House service team whose passion is to deliver the very best experience, and demonstrate the highest quality of personalised service and technical expertise, to every guest who comes into The Ritz and The Ritz Restaurant, every day.”

An AA Inspector said of the Ritz: “Hospitality and service are delivered so fluently, that the overall experience feels completely seamless and service just happens at all the appropriate points.  It is all underpinned by a passionate, professional team that have a well-deserved reputation of being one of the best in the industry.”

College Restaurant of the Year – Academy, Cheshire Colleges South & West, Cheshire

A new award in 2016, the AA College Restaurant of the Year Award has been developed in conjunction with our partner People 1st to recognise accredited colleges within the AA College Rosette Scheme that have shown outstanding achievements in a realistic working environment.

Academy, Cheshire Colleges South & West commented: “We’re overwhelmed – it means the world to us but it’s not just us three, we’re three members representing a bigger team, the college our industry and our members.”

New Rosettes

The long-established Rosette scheme recognises successful cooking at different levels across the UK. Success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on one or more visits by an AA inspector to a hotel or restaurant. Essentially, the visit is a snapshot, whereby the entire meal, including ancillary items (when served), is assessed. About 10% of restaurants nationwide reach a standard that is worthy of one Rosette and above. This is indeed a huge achievement, and not to be underestimated.

The full list of this year’s AA Hospitality Awards winners can be found at

All AA Hospitality Awards winners will be included in The Restaurant Guide 2020, published by AA Publishing.

The Boxing Hare, Swerford, September 2019

Posted on: September 23rd, 2019 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The Boxing Hare in Swerford is a relatively new and exciting addition to the north Oxfordshire dining scene. Having opened only two years ago, it is located on the A361 between Chipping Norton and Banbury, in a region of highly competitive dining pubs. Its chances of long term success are ensured by the distinguished pedigrees of its owner and head chef. Restaurateur Antony Harris has 30 years’ experience in central London, notably at the Canal Brasserie (1987) and the highly acclaimed First Floor Dining Room and Private Dining Rooms in Notting Hill from 1998. Equally successful is head chef Nick Anderson, who was given his first head chef role by Antony some 30 years ago. His career, after working four years with Antony in the 90s, included the winning of three AA rosettes and two Michelin stars. Moving to Oxfordshire, he spent seven years cooking in Hampton Poyle before being reunited with Antony in 2017, when both were seeking new challenges. They saw encouraging opportunities in the Masons Arms which they rechristened the Boxing Hare, a name chosen by Nick and which, unlike many country pubs, is unique in the UK, (except for a pizzeria in Belfast!)

With ample parking space and spacious gardens with scenic Cotswold views, the handsome red bricked building, embellished with a giant white hare above the door and a huge model of the animal on the pathway, is entered through a cosy bar. The main low ceilinged, oak floored dining room features handsome panelling in the darker raised level and Cotswold blue green tones in the lower level window area. Well-spaced, undressed pine tables accommodate 80 diners when the restaurant is full. Discrete lighting and monochrome prints of the grounds of Blenheim Palace by Peter Seaward adorn the walls of this room and the smaller dining area adjacent to the bar and kitchen. Rather than pumping major expenditure into creating a luxurious ambience, the owner has retained the charming, rustic atmosphere of a country pub: warm and inviting, relaxed and informal. The focus is very much on the food.

[Left Antony Griffith Harris and his partner Stacey C Elder, alongside chef Nick Anderson and his partner and sous chef, Kate Anderson, right]

Locality and seasonality are paramount in the sourcing of top quality produce. In particular, ribs of beef are bought from nearby Paddock Farm and dry aged for 50 days in two cooling cabinets. Indeed, speciality steaks are a very popular choice on the menu. Autumn sees a variety of game dishes offered, with deer sometimes supplied by local farmers. However, quality may necessitate buying from further afield such as Scottish girolles, Creedy Carver Duck from Devon or Jamon from Spain.

Sharply honed skills are shown in the harmonious composition and execution of dishes. Balance of flavours, tastes and textures are much in evidence. Accurate timing, whether in preparing a la minute, as with the steak dishes, or in long slow cooking, as with slow roast pork belly is precisely gauged. Saucing is another strength, whether in a red wine jus for duck confit or mustard sauce for smoked haddock. Desserts, the speciality of Kate, sous chef and wife of Nick Anderson, are equally accomplished. Presentation of dishes are clean, avoiding any contrived, and portions are generous.

With only four in the kitchen, the menu offers a surprisingly wide choice. Unlike other places, a good value prix fixe menu, £15 /£19 for two / three courses features smaller portions from selected choices from the carte rather than separate dishes. The main menu has 3 appetisers. Seven first courses, 13 main courses including, three steak options, and seven desserts.

In a September menu, a variety of tastes are catered for, from humble comfort food to ambitious, luxurious creations.  Choices include a range of British and French classics, such as sausages and mash, fish and chips, Provencal fish soup and duck confit. There are some Italian and Spanish influences – witness Burrata Pugliese with Isle of Wight with heritage tomato and olive oil salad, basil oil, pecorino and summer truffle, and Jamon de Teruel DOP, rocket, shallots, shaved parmesan and Arbequina olive oil. Essentially, the Boxing Duck cooks what people like to eat, shunning outlandish or fashionable dishes which have minority appeal and a limited lifespan.

Prices are sensibly realistic given the skill in cooking and the excellent ingredients. First courses range from £7.50 to £12; mains from £14.50 to £40, with a 300 ounce cote de beouf at £68 for two; and desserts £2.50 per scoop of ice cream or sorbet to £8 for chocolate fondant. Cheese is priced individually at £4 or £9 for three.

Given the varied nature of the clientele, from butchers and farmers to the well-heeled guests of the nearby Soho Farmhouse and families who flock to the popular Sunday lunch, both the wide choice menu and the attractive pricing are well-judged to maintain customer loyalty.

Fine Dining Guide visited on a midweek evening in September, finding much to admire in the cooking and service. Although tempted, we decided to avoid the steak dishes and sides, which probably did not need starters or desserts, opting instead for three courses which show the breadth and depth of the cooking skills.

The first courses did not disappoint and augured well for the following courses

Twice baked soufflé, with its rich, mature cave aged cheddar, parmesan crust and accurate seasoning, had a perfectly balanced flavour and light, soft texture, with not a hint of egginess. Blanched spinach added contrast in taste and texture with a degree of freshness, whilst the sauce was mercifully not too creamy, unlike another famous version. This dish, perfected by sous chef Kate, was indeed, a tour de force of vegetarian cookery.

Classic Provencal fish soup was fittingly thick and deeply flavoured. Accompaniments of croutons, grated gruyere and a brilliant saffron and garlic rouille, invited the diner to float the anointed bread on the soup creating an even richer, more indulgent mouthfeel.

Both these starters could be viewed as acid tests for an accomplished kitchen: tests passed here with flying colours!

Duck confit is ubiquitous in many pub menus, but rarely executed as well as here. Creedy Carver duck was properly salted and marinated with star anis, fennel seeds and other spices for extra flavour. Slow cooked in fat to produce succulent flesh falling off the bone and finished in the oven to crisp the skin, it was a model of its kind. Partnered with gratin dauphinoise and fresh peas and broad beans, the dish was bought together by a deep red wine jus reduced to a smooth, rich consistency and pronounced flavour.

Smoked haddock and mash was another accomplished dish. The fish, sourced from Alfred Enderby in Grimsby, had been gently poached in butter to add richness and balance the gentle smokiness of the delicately flaking fish. The potato mash and spinach were well seasoned whilst the poached egg enhanced the wholegrain mustard sauce which finished the dish.

For dessert, chocolate fondant is one where there is nowhere to hide. Perfectly timed to produce that much anticipated oozing centre, the salted caramel sauce helped balance the richness and sweetness. Chocolate and almond crumb gave contrasting texture as did a silky smooth, well flavoured vanilla ice cream.

Peach Melba is a dessert which, over the years, has often been adulterated with superfluous garnishes. Here it simply presented in stemmed glass dish, allowing the three main ingredients to shine: soft poached peach, the same velvety vanilla ice cream and a sieved, smooth and not overly sweet raspberry coulis.

Cheerful, welcoming and knowledgeable service was at pains to put us at our ease and enhanced the whole experience.

The Boxing Hare is certainly worth a second visit, perhaps to try a signature starter of Cotswold gin and beetroot cured sea trout, or a 50 dry aged steak, or iced peanut butter parfait with honeycomb and caramelised banana or all three! Fine Dining Guide will monitor its fortunes with interest, confident that its reputation will increase as time progresses.

Chef Interview: André Garrett, Corinthia London, September 2019

Posted on: September 16th, 2019 by Simon Carter

[Above: André Garrett, Executive Chef, Corinthia London]

Since January 2019, André Garrett has been settling into his new role as Executive Chef of the 280 bedrooms Corinthia London Hotel, which is situated just off Embankment in the heart of London.  The hotel epitomises definitions of modern luxury in every aspect, while at the same time maintaining a sense of accessibility and lightness of touch, traits which are much in line with the natural requirements of the day and likewise happily complemented by the food offerings of their new Executive Chef.

André previously honed his skills, most recently, as Executive Chef at Cliveden House, having also worked with Nico Ladenis, Bruno Loubet, Guy Savoy (post Roux Scholarship win) and the Galvin Brothers.  With natural charm and humility in equal measures, André is proud to have been inspired by his grandmother, who once worked in the Pump Room restaurant in his hometown of Bath.  As the 1980’s drew to a close, André was qualifying from City of Bath College and taking a position as commis chef at Hunstrete House Hotel. With a natural inkling towards long stays, partly through loyalty and partly through a desire to see a job through, André’s subsequent curriculum vitae displays strong foundations at every turn.

After those initial three years, André moved to London as commis chef to Nico Ladenis at Simply Nico, before rising to Chef de Partie at Nico Central.  He then achieved the same at the three Michelin starred Chez Nico at ninety Park Lane (1992-1994). To further round his experience, André spent two years with Bruno Loubet at Bistrot Bruno, before returning to Nico Ladenis as head chef of Nico Central.

The next major step in his career was joining the Galvin brothers from 2000 until 2013 where André was to hold various positions within the Galvin Group. From 2002 to 2006 André was Head Chef at Orrery and from 2006 to 2013 Head Chef at Galvin at Windows. These restaurants respectively retained and gained a Michelin star. He then opened Restaurant André Garrett at Cliveden House, which proved a great success, gaining early accolades such as Best Newcomer from the likes of The Waitrose Good Food Guide. 

With natural self-effacing modesty, André would credit a continual desire to self-improve, while at the same time helping the next generation to grow and succeed as keys to bringing him career satisfaction.  He has sat on the board of the Academy of Culinary Arts, having received a Master of the Culinary Arts (MCA) in 2005. He is also patently humbled and proud of what he describes as the honour of the increasing leadership, mentoring and judging roles held at the prestigious Roux Scholarship.  The extended Roux family have clearly welcomed André with open arms since he became a Scholar in 2002 – an immediate prize of which was the opportunity to spend time in the kitchen of Guy Savoy – the subsequent bond has continuously strengthened, which is testament to both his ability and character.  In 2007, André was selected to represent his country at the Bocuse d’Or, arguably the world’s most recognised and prestigious international chef competition.  With an on-going thirst for knowledge, André has also successfully completed a Level 5 management and leadership diploma.

[Above: Corinthia London]

The current role at The Corinthia London Hotel takes on board responsibility for the breadth of F&B, which at 280 bedrooms, perhaps makes it the largest of the roles held by Executive Chefs in London’s set of the elite, top end luxury hotels.  Covering The Northall restaurant, room service and in room dining, events, conferencing and banqueting (two rooms, one sits 180 and the other 80), a mezzanine floor for private dining and meetings, two all day dining lounges and a beautiful afternoon tea offering.  André is delighted to have an Executive Sous Chef who operationally oversees F&B to ensure the smooth running of each of the cogs in the wheel of the hotel offerings. Ioannis Polychronakis has previously held positions such as Executive Sous at The Connaught, senior sous chef at Jumeira Carlton Tower, and senior chef de partie at The Square, which have collectively rounded his experience in both luxury hotel F&B as well as high performance independent restaurants.

Dominic South is the head chef of The Northall, having previously worked in luxury hotels in Hong Kong as well as independent restaurants such as Hibiscus, Tom Aikens Group, One Aldwych and Nobu in the UK.  Dominic will drive the development of the market menu, which changes monthly and is seasonal.  André oversees the creative process to evolve and develop the a la carte menu with Dominic’s input.  The style of cuisine is continuously evolving along side André’s signature, “there’s more flexibility given a London clientele and a cosmopolitan feel to the signature of the house,” André observes.  Provenance wise he finds there’s so much to tap into in the capital, with an audience to match.  Suppliers from his Galvin and Cliveden Days have complemented a rich roster of producers and suppliers on the books of the Corinthia London Hotel.

[Above: The light and airy Northall Restaurant, Corinthia London]

The Northall lunch times see a significant business trade where the customers will look for one or two courses from the market menu with ultra seasonal, lightness of touch and precisely cooked food.  Dinner times perhaps tap more into the resident based audience, while there is scope to cater for the likes of pre-theatre diners with the lunch menu for early sitting dinner from 5.30pm, an offering which gets The Northall dining room and bar buzzing in the early evenings.

[Above: Selection of a la carte dishes from Northall Restaurant, Corinthia London]

There is also a Head Chef for Conference and Banqueting and an Executive Pastry Chef, so the overall management team is experienced and strong and supports the luxury hotel operation perfectly.  So while there’s a great base that meets the shared objectives of the hotel strategic team regarding food and beverage, projects are continuously scheduled to drive forward and ever improve the offering to guests.  Over time, some of André’s objectives are to have his attention to detail, signature and style palpable across the breadth and depth of the hotel F&B offering. 

Over the next year, for example, along with building standards generally, André will be looking to develop the room service offering as well as work with a reconceptualised events side of the business, an area where The Corinthia London Hotel sees significant future opportunities.  The team, menu and offering at The Northall Restaurant will see André further stamp his name on the product.  The bar area may become more interactive along with a refurbishment of the front of house.  The service side of front of house at The Northall Restaurant works very well thanks to the astute recruitment of Gold Service Scholar Daniele Quattromini and Gold Service Scholarship Team Gold Member James Dainton who maintain high standards of service throughout the restaurant.

[Above: Gold Service Scholar, Daniele Quattromini demonstrates the cheesboard, Northall, Corinthia London]

Overall, André Garrett finds himself in a strong leadership position at The Corinthia London Hotel – a large, trail blazing, top-end luxury London Hotel.  Far from being out of his depth, André is found to be thriving, relishing the opportunity to make his mark on this great hotel, which is quickly becoming an iconic London institution.  The situation has not happened by accident, André finds himself in this enviable position through a dedicated career of hard work and perseverance coupled with a nature that allows him to lead with humility and a calm authority.  No doubt, he will also continue to give back and grow those around him in the manner befitting a wise leader of his craft. Best of luck for the future André…

Chef Interview: Peter Jospeh, Kahani, September 2019

Posted on: September 6th, 2019 by Simon Carter

This article is in a series designed not to provide ‘A N Other’ opinion about a chef’s output, to be lost in the now sea of increasing ‘noise’ about top end dining. In this article the chef will analyse three of their signature dishes against the five criteria used by Michelin for awarding a Michelin star. As a reminder the five criteria were explained under interview by Michael Ellis (at the time WW Director of Michelin Guides) and are given below as he described:-

“The first and most important criteria is the provenance of ingredients, all great cuisine starts with great product – the actual product itself is considered for freshness, quality, flavour and texture and so on. The second criteria is mastery of cooking technique. The third criteria is equilibrium and harmony in flavours… The fourth criteria is regularity (or consistency) and this means starter, main and dessert are each of the appropriate standard and that each are also consistent over time. Finally, value for money is the fifth criteria.”

Peter Joseph held a Michelin star for six years as head chef of the original UK Indian Michelin starred restaurant Tamarind.  A restaurant that has become something of an institution and while it continues to be based in Mayfair, Tamarind is now under new stewardship having reopened in 2019 after significant refurbishment and a change in culinary direction.  This came about after Peter moved on at the end of 2018 to set up his own venture in the relative suburban idyll of Chelsea, with his own chic, high-end dining restaurant offering Kahani.  The name Kahani means story in Hindi, which perhaps signals Peter’s intent to revisit his roots when writing his menus.  To explore the link between past and present at the new restaurant, we must consider Peter’s background as well as his thoughts on the future needs of his local audience.

Peter grew up in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state in Southern India.  They say that southern Indian cuisine has its roots in the secretly guarded recipes of private homes.  Well, Peter’s early inspiration for cooking certainly came from observing his mother, indeed “my sibling and I would compete to get the last of the pot of our mother’s chicken or lamb curries,” fondly remembers Peter. Culturally at that time it was a man’s role to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant but not a cook, nevertheless the young Peter was found borrowing ingredients from his mother’s kitchen to cook a dish with his friends as part of a social gathering around food.  He was also in awe of the chefs he had seen on TV in their smart uniforms creating colourful and flavoursome food.  So after schooling Peter enrolled at Hotel Management School on a three years course.

Peter’s first role thereafter was at Sheraton Group of International Hotels starting as a pastry chef, before becoming a sous chef at the hotel, this experience exposed Peter to a variety of international cuisines to match the international clientele of the hotel – from classical French to Malaysian, or from Chinese to regional Indian and so on.  Peter’s executive chef, Rakesh Upadhya, proved an inspirational figure, teaching him the importance of channeled passion, such that he was able to plan accurately and be adaptable to new challenges.  From 2004, after five years with the Sheraton Group, Peter moved to London and a hotel at London Bridge. Peter’s first understanding of the rigours of a Michelin starred restaurant came two years later when he joined Tamarind as a sous chef.  This was a challenging time, as through all his previous experiences, he had not encountered anything like the demands of this type of cooking – the expectations, the challenges, the consistency required.  By 2012, Peter had earned his stripes delivering the right taste and texture service in, service out and was rewarded with the head chef role at Tamarind, holding the Michelin star in his own right continuously until his departure at the end of 2018.  Peter was ready for a new opportunity and challenge, so his own restaurant, Kahani was conceived.

[Kahani restaurant interior with impressive glass walled wine cellar which is home to some beautiful wines and vintages]

The concept at Kahani was to be different from Tamarind, a move away from traditional curries and spices, to develop his own personal cooking signature and identity.  Part of this would involve taking the spices of traditional sauces and making powders to effectively lift and flavour enhance through seasoning a dish.  This would replace the need for a heavy or overwhelming sauce applied to ingredients that at Kahani might be prepared on the robata grill or in the tandoor.  The sauces to food, where such apply, are made far lighter than the traditional recipes that we might associate with Indian restaurants.  This, no doubt, will appeal to the modern British audience and to those of Chelsea and Belgravia particularly.  The theme is also of sharing, like Peter once did in the quintessential Indian practice of young friends cooking and sharing a meal – a real social occasion to his diners at Kahani.

So now for the chef to analyze three of his signature dishes against those Michelin criteria.  These will be the Broccoli, Prawn and Butter Chicken based dishes found on the a la carte menu.

[The Kahani broccoli dish is one of the customer favourites and a dish Peter is proud to have created]

Peter believes that there is a window for getting cooking techniques right and that window applies to cooking time, method and seasoning.  For example, should you over boil broccoli it will lose its texture, colour and flavour.  Likewise cook broccoli too long in the tandoor it will become burnt, crisp and bitter.  So essentially there is a direct correlation between cooking technique and consistency, so both are fundamentals and basics that must be got right.  There is also a link to consistency from provenance.  Overall consistency checks and balances are achieved through knowing the recipes clearly, practice, calm but clear communication, tasting, ensuring constant quality of ingredients and training. Peter continuously conducts this orchestra of taste in his kitchen and instills the right values in his team. To enhance both flavour and texture of the broccoli, Peter’s technique is to coat with roasted lentil flour.  Balance and harmony is achieved through marination using honey, combined with nigella seeds and wheat crisps for texture. The finishing touch that lifts the tandoor dish to dizzy heights is a tamarind infused yoghurt garnish. 

[Kahani King Prawns impress with complementing sweet and sour notes]

Exceptional Indonesian prawns are selected for the next dish.  These were found to maintain a sweet meaty texture, avoiding the smaller, mushier textured products that might populate lesser menus. The dish leans on Malabar cuisine – south west Indian coastal origins – but instead of a wet curry sauce, here Peter makes a powder from coconut, green chilli, curry leaves and ginger and cooks the prawns in a tandoor to avoid heaviness or grease. A smoked tomato chutney is served as a garnish to cut through the natural sweetness of the crustacean and the marinade. 

[Bottom left: Kahani Butter Chicken has a lightness of touch that is so appealing to modern tastes]

The Kahani butter chicken is a signature because it is lower on cream and butter compared to more traditional makhani recipes. Garam masalas from India are used in the traditional way, there is no compromise on flavour with finest quality herb-fed chicken, which is chargrilled.  The consistency of the chicken supplied is a key objective of Peter’s with this flavoursome dish that exudes a lightness of touch.

Overall the menu at Kahani is impressive and Peter’s thinking about appealing to the more residential audience of Chelsea, who may have particular tastes, has struck a winning formula, with a refreshing new perspective on traditional Indian cuisine.  There’s a lot more to this restaurant than the phrase ‘modern twist’ might evoke.  The front of house is large – counting ten on a Wednesday evening in August – who are faultlessly well drilled, engaging and knowledgeable without being obtrusive. The glass walled cellar on display at one end of the restaurant boasts a collection of grand crus Burgundies and Grand Cru Classe Medocs perhaps fitting of the lofty list at Le Gavroche.  The open kitchen and extensive bar fill two other sides to the basement room and are impressive in equal measures.  Peter’s vision is to satisfy happy customers and perhaps one day Michelin recognition will follow, one senses that both have been earned and deserved.

AA: Chef’s Chef of the Year Award Shortlist

Posted on: September 3rd, 2019 by Simon Carter

The ten chefs shortlisted for the Chef’s Chef of the Year Award are:

·         Aaron Patterson (Hambledon Hall, Oakham)

·         Andrew Wong (Kym’s, London)

·         Angela Hartnett (Murano, London)

·         Clare Smyth (Core, London)

·         Gareth Ward (Ynyshir, Machynlleth)

·         Hélène Darroze (Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, London)

·         James Sommerin (Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth)

·         Jason Atherton (Pollen street Social, London)

·         Lisa Goodwin-Allen (Northcote, Blackburn)

·         Mark Birchall (Moor Hall, Lancashire)

·         Paul Ainsworth (Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, Padstow)

·         Tom Kitchin (The Kitchin, Edinburgh)

A popular and coveted title, this unique award, introduced in 1996, offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition for their performance over the past twelve months.

The Chef’s Chef winner at the 2018 AA Hospitality Awards was Claude Bosi, Chef Patron at Bibendum.

Simon Numphud, Managing Director at AA Media, commented: “The Chef’s Chef of the Year Award gives chefs a unique opportunity to recognise and honour their peers. Each of the chefs on this year’s shortlist is a pioneer in the world of food and is truly an inspiration in their field. We look forward to celebrating each of these fantastic chefs, and revealing the winner, at the AA Hospitality Awards in September.”

The Chef’s Chef of the Year Award winner will be revealed at the AA Hospitality Awards on Monday 23rd September, at Grosvenor House in London, in a ceremony hosted by Kate Silverton.