AA 3/4 (Three/Four) Rosette Awards Jan 2015

Posted on: January 15th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

AA Guide



Top Restaurants Celebrating New Rosettes

The AA has today announced the latest restaurants to be awarded the coveted three and four Rosettes. Of the 22 establishments receiving rosettes, 11 are in London and three are in Scotland. These restaurants have shown that they are outstanding and demand recognition well beyond their local area.

Just one restaurant is being awarded the prestigious four Rosettes – The Burlington Restaurant, Bolton Abbey. This award shows intense ambition, a passion for excellence, superb technical skills and an appreciation of culinary traditions combined with a desire for exploration and improvement.

Simon Numphud, Head of AA Hotel Services, said “We are delighted to recognise our latest collection of restaurants that have moved into the top 10% of the AA Rosette Scheme. These awards reflect the growing strength and depth of top quality restaurants across the UK and in particular the numerous impressive London openings over the last eighteen months”.

The restaurants receiving three Rosettes are:

  • Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider – London
  • City Social – London
  • Fera at Claridge’s – London
  • The Five Fields – London
  • Fonab Castle Hotel – Pitlochry
  • The Goring, London
  • Gravetye Manor – Turners Hill
  • Hampton Manor – Solihull
  • House of Tides – Newcastle
  • Little Social – London
  • London House – London
  • The Lord Clyde – Kerridge, Macclesfield
  • Merchants Tavern – London
  • New Angel – London
  • Rivea, Bulgari Hotel & Residences – London
  • Storrs Hall – Windermere
  • Swinfen Hall – Lichfield
  • Timberyard – Edinburgh
  • Tiroran House Hotel – Isle of Mull
  • Typing Room – London
  • The Wild Rabbit – Kingham

4 Rosettes

The Burlington Restaurant, Bolton Abbey

A handsomely appointed spa hotel on the northern edge of the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey estate, the Devonshire Arms is in prime position to make the most of its glorious surroundings. The Dales National Park lies all about, its limestone gorges and tranquil villages providing fine walking country for more energetic patrons, or those with an eye for a decent holiday snap. Inside, a lively decorative tone banishes all thought of bland anonymity, and recent new investment has seen the upgrading of the spa and some of the guest rooms. Staff are classically trained, and understand that a careful balance of correct attention to detail and easy-going warmth is what impresses most. When it comes to food and drink, there are two options – either the informality of the Brasserie with its multi-coloured upholstery and menu of modern classics, or the principal dining room, the chandeliered Burlington and its conservatory extension. Here, against panoramic views over the countryside and the river Wharf, Adam Smith pulls out all the stops for dynamic contemporary Yorkshire cooking full of innovation and intensity. A kitchen garden supplying vegetables, herbs, fruit and edible flowers is at the core of the operation (do pop in and have a look when you’ve a moment), and much else comes from the surrounding estate and from Dales growers and producers. Smith’s output is sophisticated, finely worked, tirelessly inventive, but everything that comes your way has earned its place on the table.

3 Rosettes

CANVAS by Michael Riemenschneider, London

No sooner had Michael Riemenschneider made his mark on Marylebone Lane than he upped sticks and headed south west to SW1. Lucky old Kensington and Chelsea. In a quiet street not far from Sloane Square, the new basement location looks dapper with its pastel tones and splashes of black and red (from luxe leather seats). There’s an oak-clad cocktail bar which is the place to head for if you like the sound of a caramelised passionfruit martini, or a classic white lady. The place has quite a buzz about it at busy times. The menu takes the tasting route, but with a difference in as much as you get to pick which of the 16 or so items you fancy – build your own tasting menu with options between five and a dozen courses. The wine list has some top-drawer stuff from around the world and care and attention has gone into making sure the wines match the food.

City Social, London

The gherkin, the cheese grater, the walkie-talkie…not an avant-garde menu choice but rather the view out of the window, for City Social is on the 24th floor of tower 42 (the old Nat West Tower). Following on the successes of Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social, Little Social and Social Eating House, City Social delivers high-end food that displays classical inspiration alongside a touch of contemporary dynamism. The interior designer went for a swish art deco look with a shimmering ceiling and rosewood panelling, with a couple of original Warhols to offer competition to the stunning metropolitan landscape the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a city-slicker bar serving up cocktails and a seriously impressive range of spirits, plus ample bar snacks if you’re not up for the full works. Staff look natty in their Savile Row suits and the service throughout is top drawer. Head chef Paul Walsh is adept at getting maximum flavour out of dishes that reveal Pan-European and modern British roots and arrive dressed for our times.

Fera at Claridge’s, London

Claridge’s is London’s art deco gem, revamped in the 1920s and surviving intact due to good sense and good luck. It’s never been a place resistant to the passage of time though, for at the five-star level it doesn’t do to stand still. If ever there was a demonstration of this desire to remain at the forefront, it is the arrival of Fera. With a host of AA rosettes under his belt at L’Enclume in Cumbria and the French in Manchester, Mr Rogan is the UK’s culinary hot-ticket, and Fera at Claridge’s is a restaurant to stir heart and soul. British designer Guy Oliver has created a space, which has maintained the art deco spirit of the space while conveying a sense of the natural world in the chosen colour palette, burnished walnut tables and murals. A culinary journey chez Rogan starts with the ingredients themselves and a great deal of what will appear before you will have come from his farm in the Lake District, while what is sourced from elsewhere will come from his band of trusted suppliers. This passion for the produce results in a genuine freedom of expression, where inspiration and creativity meet prodigious technical ability.

The Five Fields

The name refers to the area back in the middle of the 18th century when cartographer John Rocque mapped the ever-expanding city of London, and chef-patron Taylor Bonnyman has created a singular kind of restaurant in what is now an area of prime real estate. The designers have gone for an upscale finish of soothing neutrality, with tones of cream and caramel and a signature cocoa plant motif among the many creative touches if you look closely enough. The professional nature of the service feels just right in this setting. Bonnyman and his head chef, Marguerite Keogh, have at their disposal their own kitchen garden in East Sussex growing much of the vegetables, herbs and salads for the table. This passion for provenance is evident from the menu where dishes are described using today’s fashionable brevity. The food is attractively presented, creative and full of deeply satisfying flavours.

Fonab Castle Hotel, Pitlochry

Fonab is a tall castellated pile of reddish stone with a conical corner turret and handsome gables, looking for all the world as though it features in a Walter Scott novel. Although built around a core of sweeping staircases and panelled interiors, its present-day refurbishment has ingeniously conjured a modern country-house hotel from the place, with glassed-in views over Loch Faskally from both the Brasserie and the upmarket Sandeman restaurant, the latter so named in honour of the port-shipping family who once owned the house. A display of pedigree single malts and gins adds distinction. Graham Harrower’s culinary style suits the ambience with its bold contemporary approach, producing dishes that are full of striking combinations but avoiding an excess of technical ostentation. A six-course tasting menu, with optional wine selections, offers a comprehensive tour of Harrower’s abilities.

The Goring, London

The Goring family has owned this grand hotel since its opening in 1910. It was to be the last new London hotel in the reign of Edward VII. A century and a bit later, it remains proudly within the family, and is still frequented by the international notability. It’s only a short saunter to the south of Buckingham Palace, so has always been very handy for when those garden-party invites come through. The Goring is run with impeccable old-school civility, but it doesn’t rest on its style laurels. This is clear from the lounge-bar livery of red-hot burgundy and mustard, although the dining room aims to soothe with accents of regal gold and white. Shay Cooper has worked assiduously to achieve the elusive balance between classical reassurance and modernist freshness that suits a place like the Goring, and the results are impressive.

Gravetye Manor, Turner’s Hill

The Elizabethan mansion was built by one Richard Infield as a little something for his new bride. Their initials appear above the garden entrance, and if you’re lucky, you may find yourself staying in the bedroom that boasts a wood carving of the pair, still united in connubial bliss after 400 years. A century ago, the place was owned by the great Victorian landscaper William Robinson, who laid out its acres of grounds in the style we still see today. Gravetye played an integral part in the country-hotel movement of the 1980s, and has moved with the times, for example now offering a vegan menu option, centred perhaps on open kohlrabi lasagne with forest mushrooms and chard in tarragon oil and Madeira jus. George Blogg oversees the kitchen plus a one-acre produce garden too, supplying very nearly all the fruit and veg menu requirements in summer. A modernist style rules the roost, exploring novel combinations and textural contrasts.

Hampton Manor, Solihull

The rather splendid Victorian manor house has connections to the family of former PM Sir Robert Peel (the man who put the first ‘Bobbies’ on the beat), and it remains a tranquil getaway from the nearby urban hubbub. The sleepy hamlet setting is only a few minutes from Solihull and Birmingham’s NEC. They describe themselves as a restaurant with rooms, but with 15 stylish boutique bedrooms, luxe conference facilities and 45 acres of wooded grounds to explore, they’re rather more than that. The glamorous interior design makes an impression with its bold colours and clever matching of old and new styles, not least in Peel’s Restaurant, situated in the main manor house and overlooking the clock tower gardens, with its original fire place and striking chinoiserie decor. The kitchen is headed up by Robert Palmer and offers up some dazzling contemporary food served either à la carte or from four- and seven-course tasting menus.

House of Tides, Newcastle

Kenny Atkinson hit the ground running when he set up in this former merchant’s townhouse on the historic Newcastle harbour side in February 2014. With the Tyne Bridge arching in the background, it’s a prime position in a city bursting with culinary dynamism. The action unfolds over two storeys: a ground floor with original 16th-century flagstones and coffee-coloured banquette seating, and a main dining area above, with venerable supporting beams, bare wood floor and spot lit pictures. Atkinson oversees a young, focused and enthusiastic team, and his culinary vision is right on the cutting edge with dishes that are innovative, but founded on classical techniques and good sense.

Little Social, London

There seems to be nothing stopping Jason Atherton these days, as his growing restaurant group adds character and style to central London dining. Pollen Street Social’s cousin is right opposite the original, hidden behind a discreet black frontage. Inside, it’s indisputably little from side to side, but extends back as far as the eye can see. The place was cannily chosen for a homage to Parisian backstreet bistro eating, since that is what it most physically resembles, with its oxblood banquettes, tables of antique elm, ornately framed pictures and Michelin maps. Additional bar-stool dining accentuates the cultural point, as does the busy babble of keen custom that throngs the place much of the time. Presentations are simple, emphasising the quality of prime materials, aiming for straightforwardness rather than complexity.

London House, London

They used to consume oysters on this spot back in the day when they were the food of the people (1780 it says on the gable), and today this prominent corner spot on Battersea Square is in fine fettle as part of the Gordon Ramsay empire, for he’s brought a touch of uptown glamour to SW11. There’s a classy lounge bar looking like a funky gentlemen’s club, where you can sit in front of a flame-effect fire and enjoy a cocktail mixed by the talented team behind the copper-topped bar. The restaurant areas are smart and contemporary, with splashy modern artworks and plenty of room between the tables. The kitchen is headed up by Dublin-born Anna Haugh-Kelly, and her food has refinement without an excess of fine-dining baggage. The menu du jour is the entry level option (available lunchtime and early evening), while the carte offers a sensible six or so options per course, and the tasting menu is consigned to history. Anna has worked at some high-end addresses around the world and she’s clearly found inspiration along the way, with high-quality British ingredients forming the foundation of the menu.

The Lord Clyde, Macclesfield

A stone-built inn on a quiet country lane in Cheshire feels like an odd destination for a boy from Cape Town, albeit one whose culinary ambitions matured early, and whose journey brought him here via Copenhagen’s Noma, the Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and the Fat Duck. Such is Ernst van Zyl, a prodigiously talented chef who has spread his wings here to dazzling effect. Against a contemporary rustic backdrop of chunky wood tables, tiled floor and a smattering of modern artwork, The Lord Clyde successfully exercises the dual function of local pub and dining destination, with polished but engaging service in the restaurant. Menu specifications are shorthand notes of their principal ingredients, and the distinctively presented dishes are fizzing with innovative energy.

Merchants Tavern, London

This partnership between Angela Hartnett, chef Neil Borthwick and the folks behind the Canteen group is bang-on trend with its urban-rustic appeal and the classy seasonal cooking of Mr B. The place has bags of style but soul, too, with a log-burning stove in the bar area, sexy curved banquettes and a kitchen counter if you want to get some close-up cooking action. Time spent with the likes of Michel Bras in the South of France and some top addresses in the UK has given Borthwick a killer instinct when it comes to getting flavour on the plate, and he’s created a menu that combines classical technique and a sense of Britishness.

The New Angel, London

TV foodie programmes, like French Leave plus an appearance as a contestant on shows like I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! may have brought chef-restaurateur John Burton-Race wider public recognition and notoriety, but it was his highly-acclaimed cooking at L’Ortolan in Berkshire (in the late 80s and 90s) and subsequently at his eponymous named restaurant at London’s Landmark Hotel around the millennium that showed his impeccable talent at the stove. He later took Dartmouth’s iconic Carved Angel to further critical acclaim, re-branding it the New Angel. Returning to London after 12 years, he opened this neighbourhood-cum-destination outfit in trendy Notting Hill in spring 2014, with his long-time protégé Stephen Humphries as head chef. The restaurant’s good looks are light, stylish and modern, with a brass-topped bar up front and warming neutral tones of beiges and browns enhanced by statement wallpaper, mirrors, in-vogue seating and white linen. The kitchen’s modern European output fits the bill, underpinned by classical French influence and played out with matching light modern spin.

Rivea, Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London

Alain Ducasse is one of the heavyweights of French cooking and a master of haute cuisine, but he also has restaurants all over the world that reflect his passion for more simple and humble things. Here at the dazzling Bulgari Hotel is Rivea London, a venue dedicated to the flavours of the Riviera, with the tastes of Italy and France combining to create dynamic and classic plates for sharing. Ducasse protégé Damien Leroux is the man charged with delivering on the vision, and he’s producing dishes that really punch above their weight. Take the sweeping staircase downstairs to be met with a vision of art deco glamour and colour tones reminiscent of Provence, with polished service befitting the postcode.

Storrs Hall Hotel, Windermere

A location on the shore of Lake Windermere sets off the two-tiered sparkling-white Georgian villa that is Storrs Hall to perfection. The house stands amid 17 acres of manicured grounds, its deep windows generously taking in the classic Lakeland view of shining water and brooding fells. Inside, the decor aims for strong colour contrasts rather than bland pastels, with apple green and aubergine the theme in the Tower Bar, so named as the bar itself was fashioned from materials salvaged from Blackpool Tower. The main dining room looks out over the gardens with their giant stone urns and immaculate topiary, and makes a relaxing setting for Conor Toomey’s ingenious modern Lake District cooking. Evenings bring on the choice of a three-course carte with extras or a nine-stage taster menu full of vaulting ambition.

Swinfen Hall Hotel, Lichfield

There’s been a manor house on this spot for a thousand years or so. What stands today dates from the mid-18th century, and mightily impressive it is too. It’s not every country-house hotel that can boast 100 acres of parkland, roaming deer, meadows and woodland. Valet parking sets the tone on arrival and the house itself is brimful of period charm. The Four Seasons restaurant is a formal affair with oak panels and a hand-painted ceiling, plus food that impresses with classic combinations, attention to detail and well-judged modernity. The half-acre Victorian garden provides its bounty for the kitchen and what isn’t home grown is sourced with quality in mind.

Timberyard, Edinburgh (AA Restaurant of the Year for Scotland 2015)

Anyone looking to get a handle on the restaurant zeitgeist need look no further than Timberyard. In this old Victorian warehouse, two generations of the Radford family have created a venue that combines today’s favoured urban rusticity with a philosophy based around pride and passion for the ingredients. There’s nothing cynical about the people or the place. The main dining space reflects the heritage of the building with whitewashed walls, chunky floorboards and cast-iron pillars, and there are outside tables in the south-facing courtyard. Ben Radford leads the line in the kitchen with a forager’s instinct and the focus on small producers, with smoking and butchery taking place on the premises, and their own veg patch to call upon. The menu is structured such that you can go the small plate, tasting way or keep a larger portion all to yourself.

Tiroran House Hotel, Isle of Mull

The long and winding road that takes you out to the Tiroran House Hotel from the ferry terminal serves to introduce you to the stunning landscape and heighten expectation of what lies ahead. Once you arrive, the white-painted house doesn’t disappoint, perched on a wooded hillside with views over the loch, and you’ll find restful country-house comfort within. Another thing to look forward to is a warm welcome from Laurence Mackay, who will likely be wearing a kilt as he hosts the dinner service with considerable charm. Given the location it is likely you’ll be staying over in one of the traditional bedrooms. The restaurant, consisting of two diminutive elegant dining rooms, with views across the lawn to the loch, is a civilised and soothing spot to enjoy the contemporary and inspiring cooking of Craig Fergusson. Craig and his team have a kitchen garden to call upon for a lot of the fresh stuff, plus a host of trusted suppliers on the island, and you can expect a menu that has classical foundations without ever feeling stuck in the past.

Typing Room, London

2014 was a big year for Lee Westcott, with the opening of the Typing Room signalling his arrival on the London restaurant scene. He’s headed up joints for Jason Atherton, worked alongside Tom Aikens, tackled stages at Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen, and now he’s the man in the limelight, and 2015 is looking like it’s going to be a very good year indeed. Bethnal Green’s grand old Edwardian town hall has been a boutique hotel for a few years now and there are no prizes for guessing the function the area the restaurant occupies served in the old order. The long-gone typists wouldn’t recognise the place with its open kitchen (a calm oasis of efficiency) and pale wood and natural colour tones, with unclothed marble-topped tables and contemporary images all adding to the clean-cut vibe. Service hits the spot too. Expect a menu of intricate, meticulously engineered dishes, combining colour, texture and temperature and delivering natural good looks on the plate.

The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

The good people at Daylesford organic farm have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, what with the famed delivery service and deli, cookery school, Cotswold cottages to rent, a range of women’s clothing and accessories, and even a French vineyard and chateau. Now you can add a classy country pub with rooms to the list. The 18th-century inn of mellow Cotswold stone has been revitalised by the team and turned into a delicious spot with a winning combination of country charm and contemporary style. There’s a proper bar with exposed stone walls and a roaring log fire, offering up draught ales, trendy spirits and well-chosen wines, and a dining area that keeps to the spirit of rustic neutrality. Head chef Adam Caisley and his staff have their own garden on hand to provide a good amount of the fresh stuff, and given the provenance of the owners, there’s a good deal of attention paid to the quality of everything that turns up on the plate. But don’t go thinking this is rustic, rough-and-ready stuff, for this kitchen sends out rather sophisticated platefuls.