Prawn on the Lawn in Padstow, Cornwall, owned by husband-and-wife team Rick and Katie Toogood, has been named as the winner of the 2019 Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition, organised by The Caterer in association with Seafish.
The competition, now in its fifth year, highlights the great use of seafood and knowledge of often under-used seafood products in all types of restaurants.
The Toogoods' first foray into the world of fish and shellfish began in 2013 with a fully licensed fishmongers and restaurant, Prawn on the Lawn, in Islington, London. This was followed in May 2015 by a move to Cornwall's Padstow to set up a second restaurant of the same name.
The Padstow operation offers just 24 covers and a daily changing menu, which the Toogoods aim to make as sustainable as possible, working with local suppliers in the surrounding areas.
The judges of the Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition deliberated long and hard over the decision, delaying to request further information and discussion following the final judging session. In the end, it was the judges' personal experiences at Prawn on the Lawn, its excellent wine list, visible fish counter and wide range of fish species and the "cool concept" that won them over.
Judge José Souto said: "Prawn on the Lawn Padstow is a restaurant others would look up to. It's a great concept – promoting fish and seafood in a simple and positive way."
Guy Owen, head chef of the Idle Rocks at St Mawes (Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2018), added: "Being part of the judging panel, you see how difficult it is to win this competition. The scrutiny is immense.
"Prawn on the Lawn had an exceptional mystery audit report and is quirky and fun. It's an accessible restaurant that people will understand. It's a small business using local dayboats for supplies of fish and shellfish and a variety of other local suppliers. It's a bit of London in the south west."
Dishes on the menu include Prawn on the Lawn (soda bread with prawns and avocado, pictured below); Porthilly oysters with a selection of garnishes; scallops with Thai marinade and Thai basil; mackerel with soy, sesame, ginger and garlic; whole Padstow lobster and whole turbot.
The Toogoods were surprised and overwhelmed by the announcement. "We are absolutely stunned and a bit emotional," said Katie.
"It's incredible to win this against such respected competition. The other restaurants in the top five are all brilliant," added Rick.
Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor of The Caterer, who surprised Katie and Rick with the Seafood Restaurant of the Year trophy, said: "Rick and Katie's passion for fish and shellfish is infectious. They've built Prawn on the Lawn up from an idea that germinated in Rick's head and developed it together with a lot of hard work."
A mystery judging by Seafish scored the restaurant highly, with the mystery diner impressed by the small plates-style of dining and the restaurants' blackboards displaying the sourcing details of ingredients. They said: "The presentation of the dishes was amazing. There was lots of colour and the scallops in the shell with the beautiful Thai green sauce looked and tasted fantastic."
The 2019 judging panel included Owen; Derek Marshall, chef-patron of Gamba, Glasgow (the inaugural winner of the competition); Adam Bateman, group operations and development chef, IHG; Adam Thomason, executive head chef, the Genuine Dining Co; Amanda Afiya and Giovanna Grossi, hospitality consultants; Calum Richardson, the Bay Fish and Chips in Aberdeenshire; José Souto, chef-lecturer at Westminster College; and Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor at The Caterer.
Three members of the Prawn on the Lawn team will receive an all-expenses-paid study trip organised by Seafish, where they will have the opportunity to extend their knowledge of the catching, processing and supply of seafood. Each top five finalist will be awarded with vouchers from uniform supplier Russums.
Andy Gray, trade marketing manager for Seafish, said: "We are delighted to support and promote the Seafood Restaurant of the Year award. It's genuinely inspirational to be among such talented seafood ambassadors. Seafood is widely recognised as one of the healthiest and most sustainable proteins, and as part of a healthy diet regime. As consumers we should all be endeavouring to include at least two portions of seafood in our weekly diets."
"To be highlighted as a top five finalist in this competition is a fantastic accolade and something to be very proud of. Competition for the title of Seafood Restaurant of the Year title becomes tougher every year and Prawn on the Lawn personifies everything that a good seafood restaurant should be: a business that educates and promotes the eating of fish and shellfish in the right way – simply and ethically, while providing a unique experience for the customer."