The Idle Rocks in St Mawes, Cornwall, has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition organised by The Caterer in association with Seafish.
The competition, now in its fourth year, was launched to highlight great use of seafood and knowledge of often under-used seafood products, in all types of restaurants.
The Idle Rocks restaurant was recognised for its exemplary customer service, backed up by a Seafish mystery audit, its excellent menu and the variety of locally sourced fish species used. Led by head chef Guy Owen, it was also praised by the judges for its sourcing and sustainability practices as well as its dedication to training and developing its team about provenance.
The Idle Rocks is a privately owned 19-bedroomed waterfront Relais & Chateaux hotel with a 65-seat restaurant and an ethos to embrace and protect its waterside location. The chef brigade is passionate about preparing authentic and inspiring dishes, conceived from sustainably sourced ingredients.
The Idle Rocks works very closely with its local seafood suppliers, such as Fish for Thought and the Wild Oyster Company fishing Cornish native oysters on the Fal river, a fishery protected by strict bylaws, only allowing the gathering of oysters by fair wind and tide, between October and March. The majority of the fish on the menus is specimen rod or line caught, by many day-boat fishermen whom are known and trusted.
Owen, who was incredulous after the surprise presentation said: "We are absolutely over the moon to be awarded the Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2018. This is, without a doubt, thanks 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 Owen with Seafish Southwest project manager Gus Caslake, commented: "Head chef Guy 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."
Calum Richardson, chef-owner of the Bay in Stonehaven, and one of the competition judges, said: "As a hotel restaurant the chef has to keep a range of customers happy but manages to keep a good selection of interesting fish dishes on the menu which you would expect from a restaurant in a location like St Mawes, with access to some of the best seafood in Cornwall."
An independent, mystery audit produced by Seafish as part of the judging process also scored the restaurant highly with the mystery guest impressed by the invitation on booking to "come in early for a drink," and comments in the report including "brilliant waiters who were knowledgeable, attentive and friendly."
The 2018 judging panel included Calum Richardson, owner of the Bay Fish and Chips in Aberdeenshire; Giovanna Grossi, hospitality training consultant; José Souto, chef-lecturer at Westminster College, London, and Adam Bateman, group operations and development chef of Principal Hotels, who said: "With seafood and shellfish playing a big part on all our hotel restaurant menus, we hear often how conscious our customers are of how and where we source our ingredients. It is therefore essential for competitions like this to drive awareness,"
Three members of The Idle Rocks team will receive an all-expenses paid fishing trip organised by Seafish where they will have the opportunity to extend their knowledge of the catching, processing and supply of seafood and each top-five finalist is also awarded with vouchers from uniform supplier Russums.
Andy Gray, trade marketing manager for Seafish, commented: "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 the healthiest and most sustainable proteins and we are encouraging people to eat two portions a week."