I spent a couple of days in London for the National Restaurant Awards 2015 where we were proud to be named No 51 in the list of 100 restaurants. That felt like a good achievement for the North East – and House of Tides in Newcastle was also on the list at 62. We were happy to celebrate on the region’s behalf! The event was held at the Hurlingham Club and I spent some time meeting up with some interesting people including chefs Andrew Fairlie from Gleneagles, Rick Stein and Tom Sellars of Story restaurant.
Barrafina, Adelaide Street, London, was named the restaurant of the year and I made a point of heading there to eat. Sam and Eddie Hart’s restaurant opened less than a year ago. They’re doing something very right to earn the approval of the 150 industry experts who vote in these awards. At Barrafina I ate a rabbit shoulder dish with olives which was superb and some mighty red prawns.
This was the UK top ten if you’re one of those people who likes to tick them off…
1 Barrafina Adelaide Street, London (National Restaurant and Best Spanish Restaurant)
2 The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent (Gastropub of the Year)
3 The Ledbury, London
4 Gymkhana, London (Best Indian Restaurant)
5 The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
6 Lyle’s, London
7 L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
8 Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
9 The Dairy, London
10 Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (Highest Climber)
My London food-finding jaunt took me and my dad to Locanda Locatelli, a favourite place for years for me and my dad – he loves the grappa trolley – we visited it this time but to a lesser extent than we have in the past! Stand-out dishes included swordfish and linguine and a de-constructed tiramisu. Outstanding selection of breads to choose from too – eight varieties, excellent.
We headed for Joel Robuchon and sat up at the chef’s counter to eat small plates – memorable veal shank gyoza and foie gras burgers. And we made a stop for sushi at the very dramatic Sushi Samba where they got wind that we were Michelin star holders and basically sent out the entire menu for us to try.
The awesome sashimi plate was memorable – yellowfin tuna, salmon and scallop. Yellowfin tuna was served with black truffle and was a standout dish. We had wagyu beef salmon ceviche with foie gras.
To the point
We’ve teamed up with bespoke knife-maker Stuart Mitchell who is a real craftsman. He’s a rare breed in his own right, a knife maker who is making us some unique Raby Hunt ‘hunter-gatherer’ knives – in their own pouches – which will add some drama to the dining experience! His designs are real works of art and combine exquisite shape and feel with quality and the heritage of steel.
We’re enjoying cooking with fennel at the minute – a great summery vegetable and herb. We’ve got a new dessert which teams licorice, fennel and acidic raspberries with a sheep’s yoghurt and fennel ice-cream.
On the Beach
Closer to home, we’ve been out to the Northumberland coast and ate at Mizen Head near Bamburgh. They have the same wine supplier as we do and we enjoyed a great crisp Touraine with Lindisfarne oysters and lobster thermidor which is about as good as it gets when it comes to local produce!
I have been scouring the seashore foraging for some good sea vegetables to add to dishes at Raby Hunt. I found some samphire on the beaches near Redcar (I’m not going to be too specific) which I love to use – it is so packed with that unique sharp salty-iron flavour. I am using it with a dish of saltmarsh lamb – they are perfect together. I’ve also found sea spinach and some succulent sea asters which will be finding their way to menus. These are such great seasonal additions to the menu, a seaside wander on the plate.
Bib Gourmand with Harriett Close
I am getting good at travelling to that very big London place. I like the train and I like great big taxis. I also like getting dressed up, having my hair brushed and eating sweet things in posh places.
My new favourite thing is eating pretty coloured chewy macarons in a place called Harrods.
I am so very good at it.