For the first time in 16 years, a restaurant outside of England has been named the best in the UK at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, which were announced on Monday at The Hurlingham Club in London.
Ynyshir, the traditional country house-hotel overseen by chef-patron Gareth Ward on the west coast of Wales, was described as “uncompromisingly edgy” in an Instagram post from the awards this morning.
It also described the culinary experience at the restaurant as like no other: combining a thumping soundtrack with a succession of tiny plates of punchy, Japan-influenced cuisine cooked over fire.
The restaurant sources most of its produce locally and much of it is aged in-house, with the chefs serving dishes directly to diners themselves.
“What Gareth Ward has done at Ynyshir is remarkable,” says Stefan Chomka, editor of Restaurant by BigHospitality, which oversees the awards. “Taking on a restaurant located in a traditional country house-hotel and putting such a personal and edgy stamp on it was a bold, brave move – a real statement of intent – but one that has really paid off.
“Ynyshir is without doubt one of the most unique and exciting places to eat in the UK at the moment, possibly in the world, and is a very worthy winner of this year’s awards.”
Amelia Eiriksson, creative director at Ynyshir, told The Independent: “We’re all just blown away, and massively humbled as we are just doing something we love. We just try to give our guests a huge experience, in a stunning part of the UK. We get the best ingredients we can and make the food we love to eat, and stock the wine we love to drink, and listen to the music we love. And hopefully people love it too!”
Moor Hall in Lancashire, which has ranked No 1 for the past two years, took second place this time around, while London’s Brat in Shoreditch took third ahead of The Ritz, at No 4.
The highest new entry, at No 5, and winner of the Opening of the Year award went to Mayfair’s trendy new Indian restaurant BiBi. Chef-patron Chet Sharma, who cut his teeth at Moor Hall and L’Enclume, told The Independent: “It’s always a tough time opening a new restaurant but amid all the challenges facing our industry, this success really is built on the continued loyalty and efforts of the whole BiBi family.
“Entering the top 100 list at No 5 is such a great achievement – I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve started to build at BiBi. A big thank you to all those involved in our journey so far.”
Will Murray and Jack Croft’s Fallow, which opened its first permanent site at St James Market after a successful pop-up, also entered the list for the first time, at No 13. Murray and Croft wrote to The Independent on email: “We are ecstatic … It’s incredibly humbling to be alongside all those very esteemed restaurant and restauranteurs.”
London dominated the list this year, with 60 in the top 100 and only three restaurants from outside of the capital ranking in the top 10.
Simon Rogan, chef-patron of L’Enclume in Cumbria, was named Chef of the Year, while the Ritz took home the Service Award and Chef to Watch for Spencer Metzger. The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Ruth Rogers, chef-owner of The River Cafe, which celebrates its 35th birthday this year and has played a pivotal role in transforming London’s culinary scene. “Ruth is one of those rare professional chefs that transcend the world of cooking and give it a more human, personal element,” adds Chomka.
Inver, which earlier this year Molly Codyre described as “marvellous”, was named Best Restaurant in Scotland; Nuno Mendes’ Lisboeta, which opened on London’s Charlotte Street to much fanfare in March and we visited last month, was dubbed “One to Watch”.
Other notable wins of the night include Restaurant of the Year, which went slightly further afield, to The Fordwich Arms and The Bridge Arms, both in Kent, run by Dan and Natasha Smith. The inaugural Food Lovers Award, which was voted on by the public, goes to Beach House in Oxwich; and the Sustainability Award was given to Stockport restaurant Where The Light Gets In.
Juliane Caillouette-Noble, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, which presided over the awards, said: “Chef-patron Sam Buckley exemplifies the fantastic steps many restaurants are taking not only to source and serve the finest ingredients with minimal impact on the environment, but he is also going a big step further by bringing together farmers, their customers and the wider community to find solutions to some of the most serious issues in our food system.”
Estrella Damm’s country manager for the UK, James Healey, said: “This year’s list includes a huge pool of incredible talent that deserve this recognition for being the best in the UK.
“We hope this list encourages everyone to get out and support the top restaurants while celebrating the success of the industry.”
The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards winners
Estrella Damm National Restaurant of the Year: Ynyshir, Wales
Best Restaurant in England: Moor Hall
Best Restaurant in Northern Ireland: Ox
Best Restaurant in Wales: Ynyshir
Best Restaurant in Scotland: Inver
Chef of the Year, sponsored by Ritter Courivaud: Simon Rogan, Umbel Restaurant Group
Restaurateur of the Year, sponsored by Entegra: Dan and Natasha Smith, The Fordwich Arms and The Bridge Arms
Chef to Watch, sponsored by Belazu Ingredient Co.: Spencer Metzger
Opening of the Year, sponsored by OpenTable: BiBi
One to Watch, sponsored by Woods Foodservice: Lisboeta
The Sustainability Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm: Where The Light Gets In
Gastropub of the Year, sponsored by Estrella Damm: The Angel at Hetton
The Service Award, sponsored by Liberty Wines and Rathfinny Wine Estate: The Ritz
Wine List of the Year, sponsored by Bibendum Wine: Noble Rot Soho
Cocktail List of the Year, sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka: KOL
Food Lovers Award: The Beach House Restaurant, Oxwich
Lifetime Achievement Award: Ruth Rogers, The River Café.
The top 100 restaurants in the UK:
2. Moor Hall
4. The Ritz
6. The Ledbury
7. A Wong
8. Core by Clare Smyth
11. Manteca – read our review here
12. The Angel at Hetton
14. House of Tides
17. The Fordwich Arms
18. Da Terra
21. Noble Rot Soho – read our review here
23. Inver – read our review here
26. The River Café
27. Tony Parkin at the Tudor Room
28. Kitchen Table
29. Claude Bosi at Bibendum
30. Sessions Arts Club
31. St John – read our review here
32. The Black Swan at Oldstead
33. Chez Bruce
34. Restaurant Story
35. Mangal 2 – read our review here
37. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
38. 40 Maltby Street
39. Restaurant Sat Bains
40. The French House
42. The Guinea Grill
43. Frog by Adam Handling
44. Parker’s Arms
45. Pollen Street Social
47. The Sportsman
49. Maison François
50. Native at Browns
51. Evelyn’s Table – read our review here
55. The Clove Club
56. The Seahorse
57. Elystan Street
58. Etch – read our review here
60. Trattoria Brutto
61. The Man Behind the Curtain
63. Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – read our interview with Darroze here
65. Osip – read our review here
66. Midsummer House
67. The Bridge Arms
68. The Grill at The Dorchester
69. Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill – read our review here
72. The Raby Hunt
73. The Quality Chop House
74. Rochelle Canteen
75. Café Deco
76. Decimo – read our review here
79. Paul Ainsworth At No.6
80. Carter’s of Mosley
81. Cottage in the Woods
87. The Old Stamp House
89. Sargasso – read our review here
90. The Little Chartroom
93. Chishuru – read our review here
94. Le Cochon Aveugle
95. Muse – read our review here
97. The Palmerston
99. La Dame de Pi
100. Endo at the Rotunda