RROTY Winners: Where and what to eat
Last night saw pretty much the whole UK restaurant industry gather at The Dorchester for one of the most prestigious events on the calendar: The Retailer’s Retailer of the Year (RROTY) Awards. Voted for by industry professionals themselves, the nominees and winners really do represent the very best of this innovative and vibrant market. So, when you visit the best of the best, what should you eat? Let me help.
Emerging Concept: Red’s True BBQ
Location: Leeds, Headingley, Manchester and Nottingham.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Red’s recently. Unfortunately, however, I live in Brighton and haven’t quite managed to persuade anyone that an Ox Cheek Bone Luge is quite worth an eight hour round trip. In case you’re wondering, a Bone Luge involves funnelling a shot of bourbon into your gullet via a beef shin bone. The woody bourbon mixes with the meaty, fatty marrow and is accompanied with cornbread for mopping, pickle for acidity and ox cheek for, well, more meat. Seriously. That’s got to be worth two trains, a tube and a taxi, right?
Best Concept: Cote
Locations: Pretty much everywhere.
I love Cote. Serving simple, unpretentious and delicious French classics, Cote is the kind of place that people not in the industry assume is an independent. I’ve heard a few people speak of the ‘cute little independent bistro in town’ only to find out they’re referring to Cote, one of the UK’s most successful and prolific restaurant concepts. The roast duck breast is always delicious, as is the classic steak tartare. I’d also recommend their plats rapide for a quick working lunch – always well cooked, always tasty and always speedy.
Best Venue: Dishoom
Locations: London – King’s Cross, Shoreditch and Covent Garden
We’ve recently worked on Dishoom’s King’s Cross site: a magnificent three-storey restaurant designed with painstaking attention to authenticity by Macaulay Sinclair, and featuring some rather lovely matt black ductwork and canopy by yours truly. Anyone who has visited will understand why this is a worthy winner of the Best Venue award. In terms of food, the bacon na’an roll is to die for: Ginger Pig bacon wrapped in fresh na’an bread with cream cheese, coriander and chilli jam. I’d also recommend the pau bhaji (mashed vegetables with a soft buttered pau bun) and spicy lamb chops – the most tender and richly spiced chops with a deep, burnt crust of spice, just perfect with raita.
Best Use of Technology: Wahaca
Locations: Fifteen across London, and street kitchens in Southbank and Canary Wharf.
Wahaca has a truly innovative approach to food. Last week, I was fortunate/unfortunate enough – you decide – to try cricket tacos at the Sustainable Restaurant Association awards. They were delicious, and not as ‘leggy’ as I was expecting. It’s this determination to improve the UK’s attitude towards food and restaurants that has seen Wahaca win this Best Use of Technology award. I’d always recommend visiting the Southbank site, as this is where they try out new recipes and you could even be lucky enough to try the infamous cricket tacos. Everything on the street food menu is great, and I particularly like the MSC herring tostadas. Pig out.
Evolution Award: Leon
Go through King’s Cross station any lunchtime and I guarantee the queue for Leon will be out the door. Fresh, healthy and filling, I’d recommend the grilled meatball pot or anything with their sweet potato falafel. Partly because I love saying ‘falafel’, mostly because it’s nothing like the dry, chaffy, mealy stuff that so often masquerades as falafel. It’s actually tasty. And their pecan pie is epic, too.
IPO of the Year: Patisserie Valerie
Oh Patisserie Valerie. The bane of my life, with your delicious cakes tempting me on every corner. To hell with it. It’s all good. Eat the lot. Get fat. Be happy.
Rising Stars: Chris Hill of New World Trading Company and Stephen Wall of Pho.
Locations: Up north and down south.
Any place that serves home made scotch egg is a winner in my book, but unfortunately geography means that, once again, I have been unable to visit The Botanist, one of the New World Trading Company’s concepts. So, I asked a friend, and she eloquently advised me that the pork cracking is ‘f-ing lush’. So there you have it. Pho, on the other hand, I know. You have to go for the namesake dish – a deep, rich broth served with your choice of meat or vegetables and with a side dish of herbs and seasonings for you to customise your Pho. They also do a tomato and crab version which is definitely worth a go.
Retailer’s Retailer: Tim Bacon, Living Ventures
Locations: Mostly Manchester.
Tim Bacon is a co-founder of Living Ventures, the operator behind The New World Trading Company, Michelin-starred Manchester House and cocktail bar The Alchemist, amongst others. When Manchester House opened 18 months ago, it was to a flurry of rave reviews, and the restaurant has continued to garner praise ever since. Last January, Living Ventures opened The Alchemist in Bevis Marks, London – a contemporary and cool cocktail house through and through. Try a grapefruit martini, Broker’s gin with fresh grapefruit and apricot liquor, or a chilli and mint daiquiri if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.