The Millbrook Inn in Devon has been awarded the top prize in the Gastropub Challenge, while Brighton’s Chilli Pickle won best overall restaurant in the Indian Restaurant Challenge at The Restaurant Show today.
In their second year, the competitions are a joint test of skill from the kitchen and front of house.
Chef Tom Kerridge, one of the Gastropub chef judges, said that the Millbrook Inn team showed “very high standards” in the meal, coupled with “very smart presentation”.
“They used first class ingredients, and although the dishes were quite classic they contained flair,” he said.
Mridula Baljekar, one of the Indian Restaurant chef judges, said of winner Chilli Pickle: “The food was a good mix of innovative and traditional, the flavours were good and the chef demonstrated a good understanding of game, which you don’t always have in Indian restaurants.”
The four restaurants competing in the Indian Restaurant Challenge were: Massala in Cobham, Surrey; Zan Zi Bar in London; The Ambrette in Margate, Kent; and Chilli Pickle in Brighton.
The Gastropub Challenge involved five establishments: The Bell at Horndon on Hill in Essex; The Inn at West End in Woking, Surrey; The Fleece in Whitney, Oxfordshire; The Millbrook Inn in Kingsbridge, Devon; and The Bull at Great Totham in Essex.
Two panels of judges – back and front of house – ranked the food and service of each team. Overall winners were those who gained the highest combination of points.
When ranked separately, the best front of house Gastropub was The Bull, with special mention going to The Fleece. The best kitchen in the Gastropub Challenge was The Millbrook, with special mention going to The Bell.
In the Indian Restaurant Challenge, the best front of house team was The Ambrette, while the best kitchen was Zan Zi Bar.
The two competitions, which ran simultaneously in the Competition Theatre at The Restaurant Show today, involved the preparation and service of a three-course meal, together with wine or beer matched by the front of house team.
Each competitor had four hours to prepare eight portions of a three-course meal, four of which were served to diners, while the other four were reserved for the judges.
Head judge Nick Vadis from the Craft Guild of Chefs said that judges gave equal importance to front and back of house skills.
“It’s a real test of team-work, because everyone has to be engaged and working together to deliver a seamless approach to service,” he told BigHospitality.
When marking the meal, he said judges were looking at all work methods, including hygiene and discipline, skill levels shown across the menu, cooking methods, and – as top priority – taste.
The front-of-house judges, led by Nick Scade and Paul Breach of the Academy of Food and Wine, were looking at an overall attitude, including general demeanour and approach to customers, as well as all aspects of service skills and teamwork with the kitchen.
“If there are any mishaps in the kitchen, they can be neutralized by the way the front of house staff deal with it,” said Breach. Front of house staff were also judged on their selection of beer or wine to match with the meals.
The menus of the overall winners were as follows:
Chilli Pickle served Hara Mackerel as a starter, a Green Spiced Mackerel Fillet with Grapefruit and Jimbu Salad, Mango Dressing and Baby Leaves. Tandoori Red Deer was served as a main course, prepared with “warm spices”, Kashmiri Rice, Roasted Beetroot Riatta, Ginger Chutney, Curried Apples and Red Chilli Sauce. The dessert was a Velvet Chocolate Rose Pot, which featured Rose Kulfi, White Chocolate and Gulkand Pera.
The Millbrook Inn served an Assiette of Start Bay Crab as a starter with Bisque, Potted White Meat and Crab Claw Salad with Puff Pastry Matchsticks. The main course was Credition Duck with Breast, Confit Leg and Liver, Fondant Potato, Foraged Ceps, Savoy Cabbage and Griottine Sauce. Dessert was also a Chocolate Pot, served with Caramelised Plum and Blackberries Flambéed in Grand Marnier, Devon Clotted Cream and Chopped Mint.