The Good Food Guide (GFG) has revealed its top places to dine in the UK, along with its award winners. For the first time in five years, the guide, published by Waitrose*, has announced a new ‘number one restaurant’. And it’s not just grand dining-rooms across the UK being celebrated, more quirky finds include an eatery housed in a former strip-club and a tiny 12 seater restaurant run by the guide’s ‘Chef to Watch’.
New number one
The restaurant awarded the top spot in The Good Food Guide 2018 is Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall. It has also achieved a perfect score of ten for the second year running. The Port Isaac seafood restaurant has been crowned number one in the UK for being ‘the whole package’, with its relaxed dining room, a menu carefully crafted around the freshest Cornish seafood, along with perfect service which ‘just happens in the most discreet and attentive way’. Outlaw takes the title of Britain’s best restaurant from L’Enclume in Cumbria after their four years at the summit. However, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume still retains a perfect ten score for its ‘fiercely seasonal ingredients’ and ‘knockout dishes’.
Speaking about the newly crowned number one restaurant, Waitrose Good Food Guide Editor, Elizabeth Carter said, “Nathan Outlaw’s food is characterised by the absolute freshness of ingredients and a clear sense of purpose. He has done an enormous amount to educate and encourage the public appetite for fish, driven by his supply of impeccably fine ingredients, and a special talent for creating unique and thrilling fish dishes. Moreover, nobody seems to leave Nathan Outlaw’s staff – they just go and work in another one of his restaurants. They obviously think he’s a pretty good boss as well as a fine chef.”
Outlaw says, “We’ve always been proud to have a place in the listings, but to hear that Restaurant Nathan Outlaw has made it to No 1 is phenomenal. I’d say the award has come due to the hard work and dedication of our team who have now been working together for a decade. It just goes to show that if you stay true to yourself, get your head down, look after your customers and use the very best ingredients available to you, you’ll make it to the top.”
Alongside the finest dining establishments, the GFG also champions more unusual eateries that you may not find in more traditional restaurant guides. In addition to anonymous inspections, the GFG’s research list is based on the huge volume of feedback received from readers and this helps uncover new foodie finds every year.
This year’s edition features four new entries housed under railway arches: Umezushi in Manchester; Hart’s Bakery in Bristol; and Bala Baya and El Pastor, both in London.
Also new to the GFG this year is Vice and Virtue, a Leeds’ restaurant located in a former strip club. With its Art Deco style interior, this venue is now poles apart from its previous life – it now serves up three tasting menus, with dishes including ‘perfect’ lobster ravioli and organic apple strudel.
And in Devon you’ll find Ode & Co in a posh holiday park above the sea on the Teign Estuary. Run by husband and wife team Tim and Clare Bouget, this eatery has a real focus on local ingredients, with their pizzas cooked in a recycled oven and made with organic Devon flour, topped with local cheese. The GFG has celebrated fine food in a holiday park before. The Marram Grass Cafe found on a caravan site in Anglesey, was featured two years ago.
Says Elizabeth Carter, Waitrose Good Food Guide Editor, “Once again the readers of the Guide have pointed our experts towards some brilliant eating in unexpected places. Whether it’s fine-dining in a former strip-club, sushi under a railway arch or a fish supper in a shipping container, we find and celebrate culinary flair in all its forms. With this year’s new entries including an ‘ecological canteen’ constructed from renewables in a holiday park, and a former town library playing host to one of Devon’s best new openings, The Good Food Guide continues in its mission to uncover great cooking whatever the venue, wherever the talent. We think that eating out should be fun – and that’s something these restaurants deliver in spades.”
This is the fifth edition of the guide to be published by Waitrose, who has also announced their Editors’ Awards from The Good Food Guide 2018. These awards recognise restaurants and chefs for their talent and commitment to excellence. This year Chef of the Year has been awarded to Peter Sanchez-Iglesias from Casamia in Bristol, whose restaurant also climbs from no.27 (in the top 50) last year to no.10 this year. This coincides with Bristol also being host to the highest number of new entries of any city outside of London.
Elizabeth Carter says of Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, “It seems fitting that such a vibrant foodie hotspot as Bristol should supply our latest Chef of the Year, though Peter Sanchez-Iglesias is no stranger to Good Food Guide awards. With his brother, Jonray, Peter picked up Best Up and Coming Chef(s) award in 2008 and they were joint Chef(s) of the Year in 2015, winning the award shortly before Jonray’s tragic death at the age of 32. Now solo in the kitchen, Peter has emerged as a serious reputation maker in his own right – and the new look Casamia has won all our hearts. There is nothing complacent about this ultra smooth-running operation; care and attention to detail are second to none, from the thrilling food to the staff who look genuinely pleased to see you.”
Chef to Watch has been award to Ben Crittenden, from Stark, located in Broadstairs, Kent. His tiny 12-seater restaurant only has a galley kitchen tucked in the corner but serves a well-prepared six-course tasting menu. The restaurant is so small it doesn’t yet have a loo, but a friendly landlady from the pub up the road welcomes Stark’s diners.
Elizabeth Carter says of Ben Crittenden and Stark, “I’m sure many locals would like to keep this place under the radar as Stark is far and away one of the more unusual openings this year. But the secret is out now and there’s something special about this plain 12-seater restaurant. Ben Crittenden has a penchant for simplicity and flavour and his keen eye for the seasons is extremely satisfying – some might call it dazzling. His success is all the more astonishing as, for the first eight months, the restaurant has been operating without a loo, without any dent in popularity – hopefully the situation will be resolved next month.”
Restaurant of the Year has been named as The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye, Scotland (above). Run by chef Scott Davies, his menus are strongly rooted in the immediate area, with most ingredients sourced from a 20-mile radius. The Three Chimneys has also gone into the top 50 restaurants for the first time, at no 25. Best New Restaurant Entry is crowd-funded Salt, in Stratford-upon-Avon. Best Front-of-House, which celebrates the best customer service in the UK, has been awarded to Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottinghamshire, while Best Pub Restaurant has been presented to The Crown, in Burchett’s Green, Berkshire.
A plea from the Editor
While some restaurant trends are a benefit to the customer, such as the offering of free tap water as standard, others can be off-putting. Editor Elizabeth Carter has made a plea for two trends to fade.
Turn it down
“Restaurants are getting noisier – that’s what our readers, this year in unprecedented numbers, are telling us. Noise levels, already amplified by bare-bones design, are being raised by music played at Glastonbury force. Everyone loves a restaurant that has a buzzing, vibrant atmosphere, but it becomes exhausting and self-defeating when, as one old hand told us: ‘I have never heard such loudly amplified music in an eating place. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear a word the waitress was saying, and vice versa. We had to gesture and point.’ The reporter was not recommending inclusion in the guide.”
Small plates or sharing plates?
“As for that other trend that’s been warmly embraced by chefs and restaurateurs across the country – let’s be honest, small plates are frequently not designed to be shared. Why the reduction in size if more than one person is supposed to be eating it? If plates are for sharing, there ought to be more, not less, food – after all, a dish featuring a fried egg is best tackled by a solo diner. Moreover, these plates often come out in a random, inhospitable manner. As customers, we have let this weak formula go unchallenged for too long.”
Top 50 Restaurants
The Good Food Guide’s annual Top 50 restaurant ranking is highly regarded by chefs and restaurant-goers alike, with particular attention paid to those chefs and restaurants who make it into the Top 10. The Top 50 recognises the very best talent in the country; a place on the list represents a huge achievement, with each position earned by its score in The Good Food Guide, editor appraisal and strength of reader feedback. Straight into the Top 50 at no.9 is Claude Bosi at Bibendum (London), while other new entries to the Top 50 are The Three Chimneys (Isle of Skye) at no. 25, Moor Hall (Lancashire) at no.26, The Ritz at no. 28 (London), The Sportsman at no. 42 (Kent) and The Man Behind the Curtain at no 50 (Leeds).
A top score of 10 means “Just perfect dishes, showing faultless technique at every service; extremely rare, and the highest accolade the Guide can give.
1 Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cornwall (10)
2 L’Enclume, Cumbria (10)
3 Pollen Street Social, London (9)
4 Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottinghamshire (9)
5 The Fat Duck, Berkshire (9)
6 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (9)
7 Hedone, London (8)
8 Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Tayside (8)
9 Claude Bosi at Bibendum, London (8) New
10 Casamia, Bristol (8)
11 Bohemia, Jersey (8)
12 Ynyshir, Powys (8)
13 Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London (8)
14 Fraiche, Merseyside (8)
15 Marcus, London (8)
16 Le Champignon Sauvage, Glos (8)
17 Adam Reid at The French, Manchester (8)
18 The Ledbury, London (8)
19 André Garrett at Cliveden, Berkshire (8)
20 Midsummer House, Cambridgeshire (8)
21 Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London (8)
22 The Peat Inn, Fife (8)
23 The Kitchin, Edinburgh (7)
24 Sketch, Lecture Room & Library, London (7)
25 The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye (7) New
26 Moor Hall, Lancashire (7) New
27 The Greenhouse, London (7)
28 The Ritz, London (7) New
29 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh (7)
30 Forest Side, Cumbria (7)
31 Orwells, Oxfordshire (7)
32 Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, Cornwall (7)
33 Restaurant Marianne, London (7)
34 The Waterside Inn, Berkshire (7)
35 Restaurant James Sommerin, Glamorgan (7)
36 Artichoke, Buckinghamshire (7)
37 The Raby Hunt, Durham (7)
38 Whatley Manor, The Dining Room, Wiltshire (7)
39 Restaurant Story, London (7)
40 Simpsons, Birmingham (7)
41 Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh (7)
42 The Sportsman, Kent (7) New
43 Adam’s, Birmingham (7)
44 Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire (7)
45 Gidleigh Park, Devon (7)
46 Le Gavroche, London (7)
47 Hambleton Hall, Rutland (7)
48 Murano, London (7)
49 The Whitebrook, Gwent (7)
50 The Man Behind the Curtain, Leeds (7) New