Waitrose launches Good Food Guide 2019 & new Partner branding

The Good Food Guide 2019 by Waitrose & Partners (GFG), the first with new Waitrose & Partners branding and the sixth edition published by the retailer, has revealed its top places to dine in the UK, along with its award winners.

Waitrose and John Lewis also launched their new branding ‘Waitrose & Partners’ and ‘John Lewis & Partners’. At the heart of this difference are Partners who, in Waitrose, share their knowledge and passion for quality food with customers. The Good Food Guide by Waitrose & Partners aims to do exactly this, sharing with readers the very best places to find delicious food.

The restaurant awarded the top spot in The Good Food Guide for the second year running is Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall. Chef Nathan Outlaw has achieved a perfect cooking score of ten for the third year in a row.

The Port Isaac seafood restaurant has been crowned number one thanks to Nathan’s ‘confident cooking’ and ‘knack for deploying first-rate seafood to its ultimate advantage’. The restaurant is noted for having ‘a refreshing lack of pomp’ with a tasting menu that is ‘ingenious in its simplicity, yet continues to surprise’.

Waitrose & Partners Good Food Guide Editor, Elizabeth Carter noted, ‘This is the perfect Good Food Guide restaurant, embodying everything we champion. Expect cooking that is consistently of the highest quality combining the freshest ingredients, from shellfish and fish from sea and estuary, to locally grown fruits and vegetables.

'There’s a brilliant wine list and the excellent service is devoted to diner enjoyment with no formality. It is with great delight that Restaurant Nathan Outlaw has been awarded a perfect 10 for the third year running, and retains the number one spot in our top 50’.

Nathan Outlaw commented on being crowned the GFG’s No.1 restaurant yet again, ‘Learning that we had been placed in the top spot last year and retained a cooking score of 10/10 from the previous year was amazing, but this is just mind-blowing.

'My aim has always been to offer customers food cooked simply but with subtle layers of flavour and to make a visit to Restaurant Nathan Outlaw an experience to remember, for not only the food, but also for the professional and welcoming hospitality our Front of House team provide.

'I am grateful to each one of my fantastic team for their commitment and hard work. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw embodies everything I’d want in a restaurant as a customer, and it seems that other people like it that way too!’

A trio of perfect tens
Three is the magic number, and this year, the GFG has awarded a trio of perfect tens. Alongside Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Cumbria’s L’Enclume retains its score. The guide comments that ‘L’Enclume delivers a complete package, with unobtrusive but attentive service that underscores the impressive food and drink’, noting that chef Simon Rogan ‘has achieved something of a miracle. His farm-to-table operation has influenced chefs right across the country; it’s beyond dispute that British food owes him a lot’.

Also joining the elite club, is Core in London’s Notting Hill, the first solo venture for Clare Smyth and the highest ever new entry. Absent from the Guide for two years, Smyth, who previously headed the kitchens at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, is back with a smash hit.

Elizabeth Carter comments on her return to the Guide, ‘At Core, Clare Smyth has found a stage on which to show off her brilliantly artistic, deeply memorable creations, and we are delighted to welcome her back with another perfect 10.

'With cooking that has come on in range and delicacy since we last tried it at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, she epitomises the genius required for a perfect 10. We love her strikingly vivid flavours and a dining room that screams class whilst being genuinely relaxed – she makes it all seem so effortless.”

Clare Smyth added, ‘We are absolutely blown away by the news. It is wonderful to receive this kind of endorsement from such a well respected and loved guide. It is so good to know that people appreciate what we have all been working so hard for at Core’

Rise of the veggie and vegan menu
As the number of people following vegan and vegetarian diets continues to soar, it seems only natural for restaurants to cater to their needs. For a number of years restaurants have featured vegetarian and vegan dishes on their standard menus, however this year, for the first time, The Good Food Guide will list restaurants that have a dedicated vegan menu.

There has been a rush of new vegetarian, vegan and plant-based openings this year, and although some are yet to hit the mark with their vegan offerings, this year’s guide highlights those worth a visit.

Elizabeth Carter said of the trend for vegan food hitting the mainstream, ‘As far back as 2014, The Good Food Guide noted that some of our top chefs were taking a more vegetable-focused approach, with meat playing a bit part. Chefs such as Alexis Gauthier, who is looking to transition to an entirely vegan menu by 2020, are paving the way. Following a plant-based diet is neither a trend nor a fad, but a lifestyle choice which is set to shift up a gear in the years to come.’

The chefs serving diners well include Tom Oldroyd who runs meat-free Mondays at his tiny self-named restaurant in Islington, and Alexis Gauthier (a vegan convert), who offers high-gloss modern French tasting menus in vegan and non-vegan versions at Gauthier Soho.

Gauthier commented, ‘2018 was a pivotal year because it was the first which allowed me to express my creativity through plants while growing my business. I see the demand growing by the day and there are services where our entire dining room is 100% vegan. I have never witnessed such a drastic change in dining habits and menus over the last 20 years as a London chef and restaurateur.’

Bristol’s Box-E, which runs ticketed vegan takeovers in its harbourside shipping container is another example of a fantastic restaurant drawing in vegan diners and The Olive Tree in Bath is also up there with its Vegan Seven menu.

Vegetarians are starting to get a lot more love, too. As to be expected, top-end restaurants have long offered good choice via dedicated tasting menus, yet now we see more affordable places coming in to the mix, offering imaginative multi-course meat-free menus. Among this year’s new entries, The Small Holding in Kent and Liverpool’s Röski stand out.

Waste not, want not
Waste is the subject that has been on everyone’s lips in 2018. From plastic packaging to food waste, it’s the talking point that – rightly – shows no sign of abating. Each industry has its own challenges when trying to reduce waste and there are some real trailblazers on the restaurant scene who are leading the pack in this area.

In Brighton, Douglas McMaster’s Silo, with its ‘reuse, reduce, share, repeat’ mission statement, claims to be the country’s first zero waste restaurant and others are starting to follow suit. At Spring in Somerset House, Skye Gyngell has developed a pre-theatre‘ Scratch Menu’ using kitchen scraps, vegetable trimmings, leftover cheese or yesterday’s bread to craft dishes from ingredients that might otherwise be wasted.

It’s a similar story at Angela’s in Margate, the Editors’ Award winner for Best for Sustainability, where what little isn’t used in the kitchens is turned into compost for a community gardening project.

More and more restaurants are showing a willingness to transform what might have once been described as ‘waste’ into lovely things to eat, a trend that The Good Food Guide predicts is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Tickets please!
A trend the GFG has seen increase in popularity this year is the concept of pre-payment. With online booking systems the norm nowadays and restaurants experiencing no-shows from would-be diners on a regular basis, could paying for your meal AFTER you’ve eaten become a thing of the past?

Paying for your meal up front, as you would with theatre or concert tickets seems sensible, particularly popular with some high-end eateries and those offering set menus, putting the responsibility of an empty table in the hands of the diner rather than the restaurant.

But will it soon become a custom of days gone by to pay after your meal? The Good Food Guide thinks not, but it’s certainly a notion that is on the rise.

Deciphering dining out
While the majority of restaurants are keen to ensure their diners are able to easily browse menus, providing exceptional service when the occasional need for assistance occurs, some eateries are still baffling us with incomprehensible menus.

Elizabeth Carter, Editor of The Good Food Guide is no fan of ‘those pretentious lists of ingredients devoid of prepositions, participles or conjunctions that you have to ask waiting staff to explain, for “beef, sprouts, coffee” only invites puzzlement and a battalion of questions. After all, “it’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary”.

The Good Food Guide 2019 by Waitrose & Partners Editors’ Awards
Each year, the Guide, announces its Editors’ Awards in recognition of those restaurants and chefs who have shown excellence in their field and exceptional talent. The Good Food Guide 2019, in its sixth year of being published by Waitrose & Partners, has added two extra awards, Best New Entry in London and Best for Sustainability.

Chef of the Year has been awarded to Gareth Ward at his restaurant Ynyshir in Powys, which has climbed seven places (in the Top 50) since last year, from twelfth place to fifth. He’s commended in the Guide, with Elizabeth Carter saying, ‘I was as impressed by the sheer enthusiasm and skill as by the fiercely seasonal Welsh produce which Gareth Ward’s industrious kitchen bakes, pickles, ferments, cures and bottles. He delivers flavour in small punchy bites. Eighteen courses later, I predict you’ll be in complete agreement that this is one of our most brilliant, innovative chefs’.

Chef to Watch has been named as Alex Bond from Alchemilla in Nottingham. His artistry and skill creating delicious plant-based food captured the attention of inspectors. The Guide recognises that Alex, a protégé of Sat Bains, ‘is demonstrating enormous skill every day at Alchemilla’ with the chef ‘showing glimpses of magic from a restaurant gathering momentum’.

This year’s award for Restaurant of the Year goes to A. Wong in Victoria, London, a ‘game changing Chinese restaurant’ with dishes and flavours that have ‘redefined the notion of Chinese cooking in London… with a revelatory menu that’s an intelligent selection from different regions’.

The Moorcock in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, with a cooking score of 5, is announced as Best New Entry, UK. The traditional-looking country pub is located at the top of 250 acres of moorland and features its own organic kitchen garden, demonstrating ‘a masterclass in the new British cuisine with the focus on brilliant seasonal ingredients and in-vogue preservation techniques’.

The Best New Entry, London is Cornerstone in Hackney Wick, London. The seafood-focused venture is celebrated by the Guide as a ‘smash hit that is seriously on-the-up’.

Angela’s in Margate, Kent is winner of this year’s new Best for Sustainability award. The restaurant’s formula of ‘impeccable sourcing, minimised waste and pared-back cooking has proved a triumph’. The kitchen team works with the local community to reduce the amount of waste they produce that might otherwise end up in landfill. Partnering with the Windmill Community Gardens in Margate, they use their own composting machine to turn food waste into compost to produce more raw and organic ingredients to use in the restaurant.

Good food spreads far and wide with The Good Food Guide’s Best Local Restaurants
Alongside fine dining establishments, the GFG also champions local eateries that you may not find in more traditional restaurant guides. In addition to anonymous inspections, the GFG’s research list is based on the huge volume of feedback received from readers and this helps uncover foodie finds from across the UK each year.

Readers were asked to nominate their favourite neighbourhood restaurants, places that give them a warm welcome and share a passion for local produce, plus a commitment to the community. Each region has a local winner, and this year’s overall winner is The Old Bank, Snettisham, Norfolk. The GFG felt it was a worthy winner of Best Local Restaurant with one reader describing it as: ‘A true, true gem… Pop in for good coffee and luscious brownies, or for something more substantial – either way, the food from the compact menu is skilfully prepared, beautifully presented and delivered with genuine pleasure and pride’.