A long-standing Wandsworth favourite has been named as London’s restaurant of the year at the 2022 AA Hospitality Awards.
Chez Bruce, which opened in 1995, picked up the honour at a ceremony held tonight at the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane. The evening, hosted by Gabby Logan, marked the first time the awards have been held in person since 2019.
Sometimes talked of as the ultimate upscale neighbourhood restaurant, Chez Bruce is run and owned by chef Bruce Poole — for whom it is named — and his business partner Nigel Platts-Martin. A French brasserie, Chez Bruce has held a Michelin star since 1999; head chef Matt Christmas has kept the star since he joined in 2000. Similarly, it was named as “Londoners’ favourite restaurant” by restaurant guide Harden’s in 2006, and held the title for more than a decade. It is widely regarded for its excellent wine list.
Further afield, Norfolk’s Socius was named as England’s restaurant of the year, while Gem 42 and The Cellar picked up the equivalent award for Wales and Scotland respectively. Mark Birchall, chef-patron of Lancashire’s Moor Hall, was named the chefs’ chef. The award means he is likely to prepare the food for next year’s ceremony; typically more than 1000 hoteliers and restaurateurs attend.
Other big London winners include John Williams of the Ritz, who picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams, who notably was the first British chef to receive a CMA from the French government for services to French cuisine, said he was “over the moon” to get the nod. Williams added: “It is truly the greatest honour to have been recognized by the AA, the leading authority in the hospitality industry, thank you! I’m over the moon.
“I’ve been the Executive Chef at The Ritz since 2004 with my main objective to run the best hotel restaurant and offer the finest hospitality in Great Britain. My philosophy has always been to strive for perfection, knowing you’ll never get there.”
Elsewhere, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught picked up the food service award — which, as the name suggests, denotes notable customer service — with Darroze remarking: “It is an honour to receive this award. My team are an important part of such achievement: executive Chef Marco Zampese and general manager Mirko Benzo, who have been working with me at The Connaught for over eight years. It is a wonderful recognition for the whole team.”
City spot Pan Pacific, meanwhile, was named as London’s best hotel.
While the AA didn’t bestow their highest restaurant honour — five rosettes — to anywhere new this year, three London restaurants picked up four rosettes: the Ledbury in Notting Hill, Ormer Mayfair and Jason Atherton’s Soho spot, Social Eating House. Atherton was responsible for the evening’s food, which included crab with melon sorbet, and a fillet of beef.
New for this year was the accessible award, recognising places that have put particular effort into making their properties as accessible as possible. Rudding Park, a well-thought of spa hotel in North Yorkshire, was the inaugural winner. Its managing director Peter Banks said of the win: “At Rudding Park we are instinctively inclusive and we endeavour to maintain the dignity of every guest. The only reason for them to feel special is because of their visit to Rudding Park and the experiences we offer – not to be singled out due to having a disability.”
Northcote, a hotel and restaurant in the Ribble Valley hills, received the Outstanding Contribution award in recognition of its gastronomic Obsession festival. Northcote’s head chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen, who also oversees the food at the Stafford hotel in St James’s, said of the win: “For 22 years Obsession has grown in stature to become one of the leading global gastronomy events.
“However, it’s more than just an event, it brings people together in the industry to deliver outstanding hospitality and friends are made for life. Following the challenges we have all been faced with, Obsession22 proved hospitality was back and to raise over £70k for Hospitality Action made it even more special. Our thanks to everyone who has been involved and we cannot wait to welcome chefs, their teams and our guests to the 23rd Obsession!”
A selection of winners is below:
Restaurant of the year
London – Chez Bruce, Wandsworth
England – Socius, Norfolk
Wales – Gem 42, Newport
Scotland – The Cellar, Fife
Mark Birchall, chef-patron of Moor Hall, Lancashire
Lifetime achievement award
John Williams MBE, The Ritz
Food service award
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
Hotel of the year
London – Pan Pacific London
England – Grantley Hall, North Yorkshire
Wales – Llanerch Vineyard, South Wales
Scotland – The Balmoral, Edinburgh
Northern Ireland – The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat, County Antrim
Restaurant with rooms
England – The Angel at Hetton, North Yorkshire
Wales – Crug Glâs Country House, Pembrokeshire
Scotland – The Bonnie Badger, East Lothian
Rudding Park, North Yorkshire
Swinton Estate, North Yorkshire
England – The Vineyard, Berkshire
Wales – The Grove, Pembrokeshire
Scotland – UNALOME by Graeme Cheevers, Glasgow
Outstanding contribution award
Northcote: Obsession, Lancashire
The full list of winners can be found on this page.