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 www.theaa.com/hospitality-awards/hospitality-awards-winners

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.