Marc Wilkinson's Wirral restaurant Fraiche has topped the Harden's diners’ poll of the UK’s best restaurants.
The win comes after Marc Wilkinson closed the restaurant in December 2018 as part of a planned move to Liverpool to double the size, but decided against the move at the eleventh hour to maintain hands-on involvement. He reopened the restaurant in April.
"This is amazing news," said Wilkinson, speaking to The Caterer. "After a rough beginning to the year I needed to dig deep to bounce back and work even harder to prove Fraiche is still very much alive and my passion pushing me on. This really is a brilliant way to end the year. I’m so overwhelmed by the guests who have continually supported me."
The 14-seater restaurant with a Michelin star and four AA rosettes serves modern French dining with a classic foundation and multi-tasting menus.
Harden co-founder Peter Harden said: “Particular congratulations to Marc Wilkinson with impressing our diner survey so much. Marc's dedication to providing the very best in his extremely small and personal Wirral venture is emblematic of the personal passion that’s driving the continuing improvement and success of the UK restaurant trade".
The Five Fields in London came second, Mana in Manchester was third, Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham was fourth and Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire came fifth.
London restaurants accounted for 41 of the Harden’s 100 with 59 entries outside the capital. Amongst the counties, Kent put in an unusually strong performance with five of the Harden’s 100 restaurants from the area.
Harden added: “This is an exciting time for the quality UK restaurant scene, with a feeling that expectations amongst diners continues to rise ever higher and a sense that the trade is rising to the challenge of meeting those expectations.
"For many years now it has felt hard to keep up with the pace of change and innovation amidst the capital's ever-changing restaurant scene, and this dynamism seems now to be ever-more widespread beyond the borders of London.”
The Harden’s 100 is an annual list that collects and curates tens of thousands of reviews from ordinary restaurant-goers. The 2020 list is based on 50,000 reports from 7,500 diners.
The top 25:
1 Fraiche, Oxton
2 The Five Fields, London
3 Mana, Manchester
4 Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
5 Moor Hall, Aughton
6 Hambleton Hall, Hambleton
7 The Ledbury, London
8 Bubbledogs, Kitchen Table, London
9 Core by Clare Smyth, London
10 Casamia, Bristol
11 Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac
12 L’Enclume, Cartmel
13 Umu, London
14 Waterside Inn, Bray
15 Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Great Milton
16 Etch, Brighton
17 Mãos, London
18 Endo at Rotunda, London
19 Adam Reid at The French, Manchester
20 Lumière, Cheltenham
21 The Araki, London
22 Texture, London
23 Hakkasan, London
24 Winteringham Fields, Winteringham
25 Orwells, Shiplake
Harden's Best UK Restaurants 2020 (ISBN: 978-1916076112) is priced £16.99 and is also available as apps for Apple iOS and Android.