The UK’s Top New Restaurant Awards

Written by Travel Adventures

Home. That’s what it’s all about in 2024. Warmth, comfort and familiarity. No ‘philosophies’ or ‘journeys into taste,’ no sullen smears on strange-shaped plates, or ‘gifts from the chef’ that arrive unbidden and depart untouched. Just food we love and crave, served by people who know what they’re doing, in a room infused with bonhomie and good cheer. Because we need good restaurants as much as they need us. And a quick glance through the winners of the inaugural Conde Nast Traveller UK’s Top New Restaurant Awards is proof that proper old-fashioned hospitality is what it’s all about.

The Devonshire and Mountain in Soho. Fish Shop in Aberdeenshire and The Three Horseshoes in Somerset. Ploussard (Clapham), Lark (Suffolk) and The Abbey Inn (Yorkshire). All places that offer so much more than just food. They’re an escape from the day-to-day grind, a release, a celebration of the shared table. Eat, drink and be merry. That’s not to say that the culinary creativity involved in the likes of Liverpool‘s Nord, York‘s Mýse or Edinburgh‘s Lyla are any less welcoming. They very much prove that a tasting menu can still thrill and excite. But what unites them all is an understanding of the elements that make the punter want to return, time after time.

After Brexit and the Pandemic, the brutal left and right sucker punch that nearly knocked out British hospitality, times have never been more tough. Skilled workers, on both sides of the pass, are in short demand, while prices for both ingredients and rates continue to rise. A cost which must be passed onto the punter.

If the government were to reduce hospitality VAT, that would help immensely. Along with a commitment to “creating routes,” according to Catherine Hanly, editor of Hot Dinners “for people to move to the UK for work in restaurants, hotels, and bars, particularly from Europe.” For the time being, though, I don’t hold out much hope. And as Adam Hyman, the man behind the Good Food Guide and Code Hospitality, argues, “as an industry, we cannot purely rely on the Government to help.” Jeremy King, the legendary restaurateur, sees it as a problem of approach. “Where it goes wrong is when restaurateurs try to be something to everyone and end up being homogenised. Some of the most radical thrive on the least fashionable of food and service and vice versa. As long as what we do is genuine, we have a chance of success.”

But despite the trying times (with classics like Le Gavroche and Greens in Manchester washing down the stoves for the last time), it’s still impossible to get tables at a decent hour at winners from this year’s awards such as The Devonshire, Mountain, Mambow or Kolae. Quality will always sell. “The restaurant industry is a tough place,’ says restaurateur, food writer and awards judge Andi Oliver. “But chefs and restaurants are bringing heart and soul to their plates with identity, innovation, heritage and creativity at the forefront.”

And it’s all about what the customer wants, rather than salving the ego of some self-obsessed chef. Across the country, the song remains the same. Not just in Bristol, Edinburgh and Birmingham, all of them very serious eating cities. But in towns and villages across the land, from tiny neighbourhood bistros to Gareth Ward’s sensational Ynshir, deep in the Welsh countryside. As well as some of our winners. At the likes of Three Horseshoes, Fish Shop and The Halfway at Kineton in the Cotswolds, the quality of cooking and ingredients are as important as ever. But so, too, is the service and value for money at both ends of the scale.

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