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‘Grotty rundown pub’ named UK’s best restaurant

A Michelin-starred gastro pub described by its owner as a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” has been named the UK’s best restaurant at the 2016 National Restaurant Awards.

The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent

The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, stole the crown from last year’s best restaurant, Barrafina, at an awards ceremony in London on 27 June, moving from second to first.

Self-taught chef and owner of The Sportsman, Stephen Harris, entered the culinary world in 1996 at the age of 34, having turned his back on a lucrative career in finance. Three years later he opened The Sportsman.

The unassuming looking restaurant, which Harris describes as a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” on its official Twitter account, is essentially a pub with a dining room, that also offers a £65 tasting menu designed to showcases local produce. Dishes include roast partridge with celeriac risotte, slip sole grilled in seaweed butter and turbot braised in vin jaune with smoked pork.

“Stephen Harris once described The Sportsman as a ‘grotty boozer by the sea’”, said restaurant editor Stefan Chomka. “But it’s certainly way more than that. The former history teacher is one of a handful of UK chefs to practice genuine terroir cooking down in the Kent estuary. A magnificent restaurant and a very worthy number one, congratulations to The Sportsman.”

While it was not able to secure the top spot, London did dominate the top 10, with The Ledbury and Hedone took third and fourth places respectively. The Clove Club in Shoreditch came in at sixth place.

Allan Pickett and Andre Blais’s London restaurant Piquet, which opened last year, was awarded highest new entry (7th) while Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside (7th) was named highest climber after climbing up 70 places from last year.

Other awards, for service, cocktail list of the year and wine list of the year, were given to The Clove Club, Social Eating House and Noble Rot respectively.

Votes for the best restaurants were collected from 150 industry experts from across the UK, including chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and critics. Each voter is given seven votes based on their best restaurant experiences from the last 12 months, with votes listed in order of preference and must include restaurants both in their ‘home’ region and outside it.

The Restaurant Magazine’s National Restaurant Awards were held at The Hurlingham Club in London on 27 June.

Click through for the top 10 to 100…

10. The River Café, London

Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London, W6 9HA

9. Lyle’s, London

Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

8. L’Enclume, Cartmel

Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Nr Grange over Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ

7. Piquet, London (Highest New Entry)

Piquet Restaurant, 92-94 Newman Street, London, W1T 3EZ

6. The Clove Club, London

Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT

5. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac

1 Middle Street, Port Isaac, PL29 3RH

4. Hedone, London

301-303 Chiswick High Road, London, W44HH

3. The Ledbury, London

127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ

2. Barrafina Adelaide Street, London

10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HZ

1. The Sportsman, Kent

The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP

The best of the rest…

11. The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny

12. Casamia, Bristol

13. The Dairy, London

14. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham

15. Lake Road Kitchen, Ambleside

16. 64 Degrees, Brighton

17. Hoppers, London

18. Le Gavroche, London

19. A Wong, London

20. Frenchie, London

21. Noble Rot, London

22. Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Auchturader

23. The Waterside Inn, Bray

24. Black Axe Mangal, London

25. The Quality Chop House, London

26. Bells Diner and Bar Rooms, Bristol

27. The Man Behind the Curtain, Leeds

28. Fera, London

29. Duck & Waffle, London

30. 40 Maltby Street, London

31. Hibiscus, London

32. The Elephant, Torquay

33. The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

34. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

35. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London

36. Hawksmoor Seven Dials, London

37. Birch, Bristol

38. Northcote, Blackburn

39. Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

40. The Hardwick, Abergavenny

41. Portland, London

42. The Palomar, London

43. Midsummer House, Cambridge

44. Bao, London

45. Gymkhana, London

46. Pollen Street Social, London

47. The Seahorse, Dartmouth

48. Ellory, London

49. Alyn Williams at The Westbury, London

50. Manchester House, Manchester

51. Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, Padstow

52. Pitt Cue, London

53. Brawn, London

54. Otto’s, London

55. Smoking Goat, London

56. Simpsons, Birmingham

57. The Manor, London

58. Oldroyd, London

59. The Coach, Marlow

60. Ondine, Edinburgh

61. The Ninth, London

62. Bocca Di Lupo, London

63. Kitchen Table, London

64. Social Eating House, London

65. Fraiche, Oxton

66. Restaurant Story, London

67. Marcus, London

68. The Fat Duck, Bray

69. The Wolseley, London

70. Wright’s Food Emporium, Llanarthney

71. Chez Bruce, London

72. Lurra, London

73. Primeur, London

74. Sticky Walnut, Chester

75. The Kitchin, Edinburgh

76. Tyddyn Llan, Corwen

77. Colony Grill Room, London

78. Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

79. The French, Manchester

80. Darsham Nurseries, Darsham

81. El Gato Negro, Manchester

82. Snaps and Rye, London

83. Deanes EIPIC Restaurant, Belfast

84. The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

85. Ynyshir Hall, Machynlleth

86. Theo Randall at The InterContinental, London

87. Bentleys Oyster Bar & Grill, London

88. The Parkers Arms, Newton in Bowland

89. The Chilli Pickle, Brighton

90. The Pipe and Glass Inn, Beverley

91. Carters of Moseley, Moseley

92. The Flitch of Bacon, Dunmow

93. Silo, Brighton

94. MeatLiquor Marylebone, London

95. Sartoria, London

96. Wilks Restaurant, Bristol

97. Berners Tavern, London

98. Café Murano St James, London

99. House of Tides, Newcastle

100. Driftwood Hotel, Cornwall

Special Awards:

• Chef’s Chef of the Year – Philip Howard

• Lifetime Achievement Award – Pierre Koffmann

• One to Watch – Som Saa

• Highest New Entry – Piquet

• Highest Climber – Lake Road

• The Service Award – The Clove Club

• Cocktail List of the Year – Social Eating House

• Wine List of the Year – Noble Rot

• Best Italian – The River Café

• Sustainable Restaurant of the Year – Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

• Best in UK/Gastropub – The Sportsman

• Best in Scotland – Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

• Best in Wales – The Walnut Tree

• Best in Northern Ireland – Deanes EIPIC Restaurant

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