Raymond Blanc was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the AA Hospitality Awards on Monday night – and in an emotional speech announced he was ‘a confused Frenchman’.
The 700 guests at London’s Hilton Hotel gave the chef-patron (pictured) of the renowned Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, who is also an OBE, a two-minute standing ovation as he received his award.
‘It’s very timely, as it’s our 25th anniversary at the Manoir,’ the self-confessed ‘world’s worst boss’ said, adding, ‘I have so much enjoyed my 35 years in Britain.’
He might still have a strong accent, he said, but he hoped ‘to be a better Frenchman. I can listen – most Frenchman speak at the same time as listening. I think I’m a confused Frenchman.’
As well as announcing establishments with new AA Rosettes, winners in each category, including Pub of the Year, AA Wine Award for England, Scotland and Wales, Restaurant of the Year and Small Hotel Group of the Year were announced.
Pub of the Year went to The Trout at Tadpole Bridge, Faringon, for England, the Inn at Inverbeg, Luss, for Scotland, and the Queen’s Head at Glanwydden, for Scotland.
The Wine Award for England and Overall went to the Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon – the second time the hotel has won the award.
The owner, John Hoskins MW, who is a Decanter World Wine Awards judge, told decanter.com he felt ‘doubly honoured’ to win again.
‘Ours is not the biggest list – we don’t go in for multiple vintages of over-priced claret. We try and concentrate on quality and value, as opposed to profit and window-dressing. I think this has struck a chord in a year like 2009.’
Restaurant of the Year England went to Purnell’s in Birmingham, and for London, Corrigan’s of Mayfair.
The Plumed Horse in Edinburgh won the Scottish division, and Y Polyn at Nantgaredig won for Wales.
Marcus Wareing won the AA Chef’s Chef of the Year Award, voted by all Rosette-awarded chefs. He is given ‘national acclaim for his modern, theatrical take on classic French cuisine,’ the judges said.
The AA – the Automobile Association – has been recommending and acknowledging hotels since 1908, and last year celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
The AA Awards in full
AA Lifetime Achievement Award: This award recognises a lifetime commitment to the highest quality of service and standards, a track record of constant improvement and an unswerving dedication to customer care.
Winner: Raymond Blanc OBE – Chef Patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons is one of the most liked and respected icons the hospitality industry has seen over the last 25 years. In 2007 he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen.
AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year: This unique award recognises one chef, voted for by his peers, whose performance over the past 12 months has been no less than outstanding and who has demonstrated a continued commitment to the profession.
Winner: Marcus Wareing – One of the brightest stars in the British food world, he has a modern take on classic French cuisine that has won him international acclaim. After nine years as Chef-Patron of Pétrus, since September 2008 he has ran the restaurant as Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and achieved 5 AA Rosettes.
AA Hotel Group of the Year: This award recognises hotel groups that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to improving and developing their portfolio of hotels, whilst maintaining a continued commitment to the profession.
Winner: von Essen hotels – The von Essen collection offers a variety of stunning properties of distinct character, from the small and intimate, to the grand and gracious. Their hotels are located throughout the UK and France.
AA Small Hotel Group of the Year: This award recognises small hotel groups that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to improving and developing their portfolio of hotels, whilst maintaining a high level of consistency throughout the group.
Winner: Exclusive Hotels – a family owned, luxury hotel group comprising four mansions, manor houses and country homes, world-class spa as well as two golf courses.
AA Hotel of the Year: This award is the AA’s ultimate accolade for hotels in the UK and is presented to hotels that are recognized as being outstanding examples in their particular market.
Winner, England: Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa – an historic inn turned boutique hotel, nestled in the quaint market town of Helmsley, with warm and welcoming rooms to match.
Winner, London: The Connaught, Mayfair – a designer hotel that mixes faithfully restored period features and contemporary style.
Winner, Scotland: The Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire – one of Scotland’s most luxurious resorts, boasting three of the top Scottish Championship golf courses.
Winner, Wales: Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel, Snowdonia National Park – a Victorian manor house that has been converted into a luxury hotel set close to the market town of Dolgellau, where Mid Wales meets North Wales.
AA Restaurant of the Year: This award recognises restaurants that provide cuisine of a truly excellent standard, as well as demonstrating innovation and ambience, and providing a high standard of service and hospitality.
Winner, England: Purnell’s, Birmingham – a chic and contemporary yet intimate fine-dining restaurant located in one of Birmingham city centre’s finest conservation areas.
Winner, London: Corrigan’s Mayfair, Mayfair – headed up by Richard Corrigan, the restaurant redefines the concept of quintessential British cuisine.
Winner, Scotland: Plumed Horse, Leith, Edinburgh – once a well known and respected little village restaurant, proprietor Tony Borthwick has moved the Plumed Horse to Edinburgh, where it is now one of the city’s most frequented restaurants.
Winner, Wales: Y Polyn, Carmarthenshire – a relaxed, warm and inviting restaurant in a pub setting situated in the Towy Valley.
AA Pub of the Year: This prestigious award is presented to establishments that stand out as truly excellent all-round pubs, with the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere and a high standard of management.
Winner, England: The Trout at Tadpole Bridge, Faringdon, Oxfordshire – an historic inn set in a peaceful setting in the Cotswolds at Tadpole Bridge, a River Thames crossing point near the Oxfordshire village of Buckland Marsh.
Winner, Scotland: The Inn at Inverbeg, Luss, Glasgow – an historical landmark, fully redesigned situated in the West of Scotland.
Winner, Wales: The Queens Head, near Llandudno at Glanwydden, Conwy, North Wales – a gastronomique pub which was originally the wheel maker’s (Wheelwright) Cottage, situated in the unique country village of Glanwydden.
AA Wine Award: This award recognises an outstanding contribution to promoting wine understanding and appreciation, with the winner demonstrating a high quality wine list and the ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices in selecting wines.
Winner, England: The Old Bridge Hotel, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire – a handsome, ivy-clad 18th Century building on the banks of the River Ouse, on the edge of Huntingdon town centre with a wine list where the emphasis is on quality of selection and value.
Winner, Scotland: The Cross at Kingussie, Kingussie – a restaurant with rooms located within the stunning Cairngorm National Park, where the quality of the cooking can be matched with a great bottle of wine at a reasonable price.
Winner, Wales: The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire – a fully refurbished 17th century Coaching Inn offering an excellent wine list.
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Written by Adam Lechmere