Once again, entries were compelling for the Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition organised by The Caterer in partnership with Seafish UK, so much so that the judges have announced a strong list of 12 semi-finalists.
Launched in 2015, and now in its 5th year, the competition was created to find restaurants demonstrating excellent examples of both the cooking and serving of fish and shellfish, as well as evidence of fish and shellfish knowledge among staff both front and back of house.
The 12 semi-finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
• Coast, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire
• Estbek House, Whitby, North Yorkshire
• Fish City, Belfast
• Hook at The Fish Hotel, Broadway, Worcestershire
• Lumiere, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
• Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow, Cornwall
• Rockfish, Brixham, Devon
• The Captain's Galley, Scrabster by Thurso, Caithness
• The Cod's Scallops, Nottingham
• The Seahorse, Dartmouth, Devon
• The Star Inn, the Harbour, Whitby, North Yorkshire
• Wright Brothers, South Kensington, London
Last year's winner, Guy Owens, head chef, of The Idle Rocks in St Mawes, Cornwall commented on his 2018 win: "We were absolutely over the moon to be awarded the Seafood Restaurant of the Year title last year. With credit due to the fantastic team here, who work so hard to understand our food and ensure that we are responsible and sustainable in order to protect the biodiversity of our oceans."
Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor of The Caterer, who presented the trophy to Owens with Seafish Southwest project manager Gus Caslake, added: "Owen's ethos is to focus on the main ingredient on the plate and use his classically gained skills with imaginative influences from other places in the world he has worked. His main influence, however, is his team. The kitchen brigade at the Idle Rocks are all heavily involved in creating seasonal and modern dishes on the menu."
An independent, mystery audit produced by Seafish UK as part of the judging process also scored the Idle Rocks highly, with the unannounced auditor praising the front of house staff for their "knowledgeable, attentive and relaxed service."
The 12 semi-finalists will now be visited by a Seafish ‘mystery diner' judge who will complete a detailed report of each business including a mystery tasting of product. The scores from the visit stage will be added to the scores from the initial entry form judging, which will determine the five finalists.
The five finalists will be announced at the end of September with the winner announced in October. The winning businesses will receive a bespoke trophy for their restaurant and an individually designed seafood masterclass at Billingsgate Seafood Training School. A range of other prizes will also be presented including vouchers to be redeemed against cookery equipment and signed copies of cookery books.
Andy Gray, trade marketing manager for Seafish, said: "The Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the wide range of restaurants, pubs and cafés that are excelling in providing customers with top quality fish and shellfish dining experiences."
The 2019 judging panel includes: Adam Bateman, group operations and development chef, IHG; Adam Thomason, executive head chef, Genuine Dining Co; Amanda Afiya, hospitality consultant; Calum Richardson, owner of the Bay Fish and Chips in Aberdeenshire; Giovanna Grossi, consultant and hospitality trainer; José Souto, chef-lecturer at Westminster College and Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor, The Caterer.