Monday, 10 May 2010

Tatler Restaurant Awards 2010

My week started in a very civilized manner with the Tatler Restaurant Awards at The Langham hotel in Portland Place. The event has become a staple in my calendar – it's always fun to see the restaurant glitterati out of their chef whites.

The monochrome lobby of The Langham is incredibly grand, and exudes the sweet smell of success. My friend and I shimmied into the ballroom and relieved the waiter of two glasses of Laurent-Perrier Rosé, served in pretty floral goblets.

The room was relatively empty, but soon filled into the customary chattering throng. Sam and Eddie Hart, decked out in boyish blazers, nattered to our left, while angel-faced Chez Bruce sommelier Terry Threlfall worked the room.

A hush fell upon the crowd as Tatler's restaurant editor Jeremy Wayne stepped up to the mic to announce the winners. Floppy haired, bespectacled and immaculately turned out, Wayne could have played Colin Firth's character in A Single Man. His restaurant and hotel review website runs with the tag line 'eat and sleep with me'.

The awards ceremony was wonderfully quick – almost too quick for me to jot the winners down. Nicolas Clerc of Le Pont de la Tour saw off competition from Neleen Strauss of High Timber and Ivo Stoysnov of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon to be crowned Best Sommelier, while Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley beat Roka and Terroirs to the Best Kitchen award, with Wayne boldy proclaiming that he hadn't had a better meal in the UK in the last 12 months than chez Marcus.

Super seasonal Kitchen W8 in Kensington won Best Newcomer for its modern European menu, and Maggie Thatcher's fave The Restaurant at The Goring bagged the Most Consistently Excellent award. The Taste of London Rising Star Award deservedly went to Stephen Williams for his fabulous food at newly Michelin-starred Fulham gastropub The Hardwood Arms, while the Restaurant of the Year went to Galvin La Chapelle. The Galvin brothers are the Midas's of the restaurant world – every restaurant they touch lines their pockets with gold.

Before we could get back to the serious business of Laurent-Perrier drinking, there was one last award to dish out. Veteran restaurateur Sir Terence Conran was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in founding some of London's most iconic restaurants, including Quaglino's, Le Pont de la Tour and The Bluebird.

'A lifetime achievement award makes me sound like something stale in the fridge', Conran quipped. 'But I'm not. I've got more on my plate than ever before and an awful lot more still to achieve'. I always find it inspiring when people at the top of their game never seem to want to give up. At a time when he could so easily be resting on his laurels, Conran is clearly up with the lark and as fired up as ever to keep working and expanding his restaurant and retail empires.

After the speeches, my friend and I got chatting to a trio of ebullient Argentines: Sebastian, Santiago and Gustavo, who run Constancia, an Argentine Grill on Tanner Street. They were very excited about their debut in the Tatler Restaurant Guide and invited us down to sample their steaks and Argentine wines. I think I just might.

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