Chefs, restaurateurs, and hoteliers from all over Britain gathered last night at a dinner celebrating the winners of the annual AA Hospitality Awards, held at the London Hilton.
Hambleton Hall won the overall wine award, for the ‘sensible, beautiful presentation’ of its wine list.
Most of the UK’s culinary firmament was present, including Raymond Blanc, Gary Rhodes, Richard Corrigan, and Sean Hill, as well as Marcus Wareing, who won the ‘Chef’s Chef’ award last year, and was thereby given the job of creating the menu for this year’s dinner.
Among the categories highlighted by the 102-year-old Automobile Association are the Wine Awards. ‘We got approximately 1,100 entries this year, which we whittled down to a shortlist of 182,’ said Simon Numphud, hotel services manager for the AA.
Hambleton Hall, a country-house hotel in Oakham, was judged the best for wine, judges citing ‘a sensible, beautiful presentation that is easy to read and navigate, offering great quality and value, especially among mature wines.’
Owner Tim Hart told Decanter.com, ‘I don’t think a good restaurant list is about points and stars, but about delicious, affordable wines that suit the food and our customers. We still buy a lot of wine to cellar, so that we can eventually list it at decent prices.’
The winner for Wales was Fairyhill, in Reynoldston, while for Scotland it was The Kitchin in Edinburgh, making it a double honour for chef-patron Tom Kitchin, who won Restaurant of the Year in 2008. ‘The shortlisted wines receive a notable-wine symbol in next year’s restaurant guide, so it’s a recognized achievement for all,’ said Numphud.
To compete for the AA awards, restaurants not only submit their wine lists, but are also required to compile a sample multi-course dinner menu, with annotated wine matches for each course.
Judges included the previous year’s winner, John Hoskins MW, owner of The Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon,Trevor Hughes, of sponsor T&W Wines, Simon Numphud, and restaurant/wine journalist Fiona Sims, who has written for Decanter and Caterer & Hotelkeeper.
Written by Brian St Pierre