The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards 2018: winners' snapshot

By Stefan Chomka contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards 2018: winners' snapshot
From the One to Watch to the Sustainable Restaurant of the Year, here are some of the key winners at this year's awards

Highest Climber - Moor Hall (above)

Mark Birchall’s ambitious restaurant with rooms entered the list last year at number 70, but has risen an impressive 64 places to this year’s number six. At his restaurant with rooms, set in five acres of gardens in Aughton, West Lancashire,Birchall serves produce-driven menus inspired by Moor Hall’s beautiful and bountiful surroundings. Having worked with Simon Rogan at L’Enclume for almost a decade, it’s no surprise that his menu showcases modern British cooking using home grown and local produce. The former Roux Scholarship winner’s cooking is as ambitious as that of his mentor, with an evening tasting menu of five or eight courses (£70/£105) designed to show off his culinary expertise. Dishes include smoked eel with potato, fermented garlic and flowers; and grilled langoustine with smoked marrow and green tomato and the restaurant also has a dedicated cheese room to ensure a meal ends as strongly as it starts.


Highest New Entry - Sabor

Launched late last year, former Barrafina duo Nieves Barragán Mohacho and Jose Etura’s restaurant entered straight in at number two on this year’s list. Translating as flavour in Spanish, Sabor is an intelligent restaurant, or at least the creation of some intelligent people. Downstairs Barragán Mohacho and Etura have stuck to what they know - and are known for - and have created a tapas restaurant more Andalusian and rustic in feel than Barrafina with a long dining bar and open kitchen. Up a spiral staircase, the asador above has a distinctly different feel. Filled with the large sharing tables, with a view of the open kitchen and the huge central wood-fire oven, it is here that Barragán Mohacho focuses on specialties from the Galicia and Castile regions of Spain. Dishes are gutsier than below, with the likes of pulpo a feira, octopus cooked in huge copper pans with olive oil and paprika and served with boiled potatoes, and suckling pig. The menu will also feature daily changing dishes, including a whole fish of the day served on the bone. Under Sam and Eddie Hart the pair learnt from some of the best in the business - now London has another dynamic duo to savour.


One to Watch - Cornerstone

Named after its chef-patron Tom Brown’s favourite Arctic Monkeys song, Cornerstone is a thoroughly modern dining experience that’s well suited to its east London setting. Located moments from Hackney Wick station, Cornerstone is a 46-cover whitewashed space that’s full of natural light thanks to a sweeping glass frontage and a brace of skylights. The look of the place – apparently inspired by the likes of St John and Lyle’s – is accurately described as minimalist, elegant and informal. A protégé of two Michelin-starred seafood specialist Nathan Outlaw, Brown is a skilful cook, with his light, produce-led style is influenced by his time with Outlaw. Cornerstone takes a small plates approach; dishes are priced between £8 and £14 and roughly four are recommended per person, making it pretty affordable given the quality of the cooking on offer.


Sustainable Restaurant of the Year - ODE true food

Tim and Clare Bouget’s restaurant business has had sustainability at its core since launching in 2006. Its focus this year has been to promote plant-based packaging and also to educate the benefits of sustainability to a wider audience. New initiatives it is involved in include setting up a beach cleaning bucket scheme where it gives free Coffee for every bucket filled and working with year four pupils At Shaldon primary school to create a sculpture with all the waste collected as part of a linked environmental initiative. “ODE-truefood has been a sustainability pioneer since the moment it served its first meal back in 2006,” says Andrew Stephen, CEO of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, which was involved in the judging process. “The green seam runs deep through everything founder Tim Bouget and his team do at the fine dining restaurant, beach café and pizza restaurant in south Devon. What really impressed the judges was their commitment to keep looking for new ways of improving what the restaurants do and including other local businesses and in fact the whole community in their drive to reduce packaging and plastic, proving that a small restaurant business can have a big positive impact. Rewarding customers with a free coffee for filling a bucket with plastic from the beach is just one of the simple but creative ways ODE is showing its customers what a good restaurant looks like.”


Best Restaurant in Northern Ireland - Wine & Brine

The creation of Richard Corrigan’s former chef-director and three-time Great British Menu contender Chris McGowan, Wine & Brine shows the merits of combining fresh, local produce with traditional ageing, curing and, (as the name suggests) pickling techniques. Serving sumptuous yet simple food, menu items include dry aged beef served with horseradish cream; in-house-cured salmon; and new season lamb, caramelised sweetbreads, sheep’s curd and wild garlic.


Best Restaurant in Wales - Ynyshir

For most chefs cutting-edge country house hotel dining means caraway seeds in the bread rolls. For Gareth Ward it’s a 20-course tasting menu of in-your-face Asian influenced food against a backdrop of 90s hip hop. Ward’s cooking is imaginative and distinct. His most recent creation is a take on the Chinese classic char siu pork, which took eight months to perfect with the team experimenting with hundreds of different marinades, brines and timings. Like much of the meat at Ynyshir, the pork is brined, waterbathed and then charred to on the barbecue and then served as a small, unadorned piece in a pool of its fat-slicked cooking juices. Every meal at Ynyshir starts with Not French Onion Soup (pictured), a breathtakingly powerful take on miso soup made with miso, fermented fruit juice, seaweed and shiso vinegar-pickled vegetables - it’s worth the journey to Wales just for that.


Best Restaurant in Scotland - Ondine

Roy Brett’s seafood restaurant is consistently recognised for its stellar shellfish and careful sourcing, not to mentions Brett’s expert cooking that embraces worldwide influences. A proper seafood restaurant is how Brett describes his place, which is based in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, and a look at the menu supports that. Ondine’s roasted shellfish platter, comprising Newhaven lobster, Carlingford oysters, Dunbar crab, Shetland mussels, palourdes, Isle Mull scallops, Isle of Skye langoustines and Fife cockles is a towering display of piscine perfection.

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