Today sees publication of the results of the annual survey of over 8,000 restaurant-goers conducted for the publication of Harden’s UK Restaurant Guide 2010 in association with Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac.
Among the striking success-stories revealed by the survey are Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant chain, Jamie’s Italian, which inspire many reports praising its quality and value… to an extent which the Editors of the Guide found surprising. As co-Editor Richard Harden explains, the involvement of a celebrity chef in a restaurant, and particularly a chain-restaurant, is rarely a guarantee of quality:
“Over nearly two decades now, our surveys of regular restaurant-goers have tended to produce a clear thumbs-down for spin-off ventures from celebrity chefs. Given this past ‘form’, it’s impressive what a warm welcome survey reporters have given to Jamie Oliver’s new chain. This is the first time in living memory a multiple venture branded with the name of a celebrity chef has made a really positive contribution to the world of dining out!
The secret would appear to be that the group has set itself realistic aims, and offers a good-value package which fills a real gap in the market. Indeed, it’s rather sobering the way the group’s immediate success tends to emphasise how little good mid-price eating there still is in some cities. In Oxford, for example, Jamie’s Italian has quickly established itself as one of the top restaurants in town!
Having got off to such a good start, the battle Jamie and his team now have is to keep quality high. Achieving high standards is difficult enough, but maintaining such standards over the years is another challenge altogether.”
The survey also highlights the best up-and-coming restaurant across the UK, and, this year, Edinburgh restaurant Wedgwood secures the Rémy Martin V.S.O.P Award. Chef Paul Wedgwood, who is a Scot, presides over the establishment located in the Old Town.
Runners up for the V.S.O.P award were:
• The Fish House (Chilgrove) (The new venture from David Barnard, whose previous venture, the Crab at Chieveley, won a Rémy Award back in 2005.)
• Turners (Birmingham)
• Vatika (Southampton)
• Sam’s (Brighton)
Co-Editor Peter Harden comments: “It’s appropriate that Wedgwood emerged as our top non-London newcomer, as Edinburgh is now very clearly the UK’s best city for top-end dining-out after that other capital, down South. It nowadays offers an impressive range of top-quality dining experiences, with the traditional best restaurant Number One (currently on top form) complemented by more recent Leith success stories such as Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. The city even has a truly gifted maverick chef in Paul Kitching, of 21212: one could argue that London doesn’t really offer anything comparable at the moment.”
The Rémy Awards do not neglect restaurants which have demonstrated all-round excellence over the longer haul. The top overall survey performer and winner of the Rémy Martin X.O. Excellence Award was Mr Underhill’s. Chris and Judy Bradley have a business as well as marriage partnership going back nearly 30 years, and their current restaurant- with-rooms has itself been a fixture of the ‘Ludlow phenomenon’ for a dozen years. The all-round very personal charms of their establishment enabled it marginally to eclipse a raft of better-known names for top position, with runners-up, in order, being:
• Gidleigh Park (Chagford)
• Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons (Great Milton)
• The Waterside Inn (Bray)
• Northcote (Langho)
Notes for editors
1. Harden’s UK Restaurant Guide 2010, the 12th edition of the nationwide guide, is published today. It is available from all good bookshops or from www.hardens.com.
2. The London results of the survey, and the related Rémy Martin awards, were published last year on the release of Harden’s London Restaurants 2010 (also published in association with Rémy Martin).
3. Rémy Martin has sponsored the Harden’s guide since 2003. It continues to support the restaurant industry through a series of awards, affectionately know as the ‘Remy’s’. These awards are the result of painstaking analysis of the survey results to identify the true crème de la crème among the UK’s restaurant world.
Rémy Martin captures the very heart of Cognac and it is this unswerving dedication to quality over nearly three centuries that has led Rémy Martin to become the worldwide leader in the most premium of cognacs.