Welsh restaurant named best in the UK for the first time

·7 min read
 (Supplied)
(Supplied)

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 number one for the past two years, took second place this time around, while London’s Brat in Shoreditch took third ahead of The Ritz, at number four.

The highest new entry, at number five, 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 number five 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 number 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.

Julianne Caillouette-Noble, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, which presided over the awards, says: “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 says: “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:

1. Ynyshir

2. Moor Hall

3. Brat

4. The Ritz

5. BiBi

6. The Ledbury

7. A Wong

8. Core by Clare Smyth

9. Ikoyi

10.L’Enclume

11.Manteca – read our review here

12.The Angel at Hetton

13.Fallow

14.House of Tides

15.Sabor

16.Perilla

17.The Fordwich Arms

18.Da Terra

19.Kiln

20.KOL

21.Noble Rot Soho – read our review here

22.Brawn

23.Inver – read our review here

24.Lyle’s

25.Trinity

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

36.Planque

37.Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

38.40 Maltby Street

39.Restaurant Sat Bains

40.The French House

41.Bright

42.The Guinea Grill

43.Frog by Adam Handling

44.Parker’s Arms

45.Pollen Street Social

46.Silo

47.The Sportsman

48.Pine

49.Maison François

50.Native at Browns

51.Evelyn’s Table – read our review here

52.Hjem

53.Allegra

54.Erst

55.The Clove Club

56.The Seahorse

57.Elystan Street

58.Etch – read our review here

59.SOLA

60.Trattoria Brutto

61.The Man Behind the Curtain

62.Frenchie

63.Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – read our interview with Darroze here

64.Kudu

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

70.Alchemilla

71.Gymkhana

72.Raby Hunt

73.The Quality Chop House

74.Rochelle Canteen

75.Café Deco

76.Decimo – read our review here

77.Joro

78.Mana

79.Paul Ainsworth At No.6

80.Carter’s of Mosley

81.Cottage in the Woods

82.Hide

83.Orasay

84.Ondine

85.Ox

86.Trivet

87.The Old Stamp House

88.Opheem

89.Sargasso – read our review here

90.The Little Chartroom

91.Tallow

92.Aizle

93.Chishuru – read our review here

94.Le Cochon Aveugle

95.Muse – read our review here

96.Northcote

97.The Palmerston

98. Benares

99. La Dame de Pi

100. Endo at the Rotunda