This year the judges of the Seafood Restaurant of the Year competition organised by The Caterer in partnership with Seafish UK have announced a strong list of 12 semi-finalists.
Launched in 2015, the competition was created to find restaurants demonstrating both excellent examples of the cooking and serving of fish and shellfish, as well as evidence of fish and shellfish knowledge among their staff both front and back of house.
The 12 semi-finalists are:
• Fish City, Belfast
• Kaspar's at The Savoy, London
• Kilted Lobster, Edinburgh
• Lussmans, St Albans, Hertfordshire
• Mourne Seafood Bar, Belfast
• Purslane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
• Pysgoty, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
• The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, Cornwall
• The Little Fish Market, Hove, East Sussex
• Riddle & Finns, Brighton, East Sussex
• Saltwater Fish Company, Fenwick Food Hall, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
• Wright Brothers, Borough Market, London
Last year's winner, Raz Helalat, the owner of the Salt Room and the Coal Shed restaurants in Brighton and One Tower Bridge London, commented on their 2017 win: "This result was completely unexpected and makes all the hard work from the team this year so worthwhile. It's been a real group effort and an amazing year."
Recognised for its consistently high customer service, The Salt Room's excellent menu and good variety of locally sourced fish species, was praised by the judges and its strategy for taking risks to educate more consumers on the vast range of fish and shellfish available.
An independent, mystery audit produced by Seafish UK as part of the judging process also scored the Salt Room highly with regards to staff's familiarity and knowledge of species served with the front of house team able to offer good advice and recommendations.
Mothersill, joining the panel of judges for this year's competition, said: "This competition is so competitive and to shortlist the restaurants to this number was really difficult. When I sit and judge for the final five and the winner I will be looking for a restaurant that is absolutely outstanding."
The 2018 judging panel also includes: Calum Richardson, owner of the Bay Fish and Chips in Aberdeenshire; Giovanna Grossi, consultant and hospitality trainer; José Souto, chef-lecturer at Westminster College, London; hospitality consultant, Amanda Afiya, and Paul Hurren, managing director, Lusso Catering.
The shortlisted restaurants will now be visited by a Seafish 'mystery shopper' over the next month. The Seafish auditors will perform a detailed visit to 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 top five finalists.
The final 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 with a guest chef.
There will also be a range of other prizes 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."