For the second year running, Ynyshir has been named the best restaurant in the UK. The nod came at the National Restaurant Awards, a list voted on by members of the hospitality industry and those associated with it, including a number of restaurant critics and influential food writers.
Located near Machynlleth in mid-Wales and led by chef Gareth Ward, Ynyshir — pronounced inish-eer — won its second Michelin-star in 2022 and, despite its remote location, commands a lofty £375 per person for a dinner that comprises more than 30 individual dishes. Ward claims to use the “most exclusive ingredients in the world”.
“Ynyshir really is a restaurant like no other — where fun and fine dining combine for a truly remarkable experience,” said Stefan Chomka, editor of Restaurant by BigHospitality, the publication behind the awards. “Gareth Ward’s singular vision for what a restaurant can be, and his willingness to break down boundaries, are to be applauded. He leads by example by never missing a service, and he and his team are very worthy winners of this title again.”
Announced at a glamorous event hosted at London’s Hurlingham Club, the NRA’s also saw a very strong outing of London restaurants dominate the rest of the top 100, with 14 of the capital’s finest making the top 20.
Of these, Rafael Cagali’s two Michelin-starred Da Terra came out best, placing third in the overall list, up from 18th in 2022. The Cambridge Heath restaurant opened in 2019 to immediate acclaim, with the Evening Standard saying it offered “a parade of exhilarating dishes”.
Whilst the overall list was a triumph for fine-dining restaurants, a special “opening of the year” award was given to the more casual Bouchon Racine, Henry Harris’ Farringdon hotspot, located above the revitalised Three Compasses pub. The bistro-style spot had previously been awarded five stars by the Standard’s chief restaurant critic, Jimi Famurewa.
Other awards for London restaurants included the “innovator of the year” gong going to Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricity, while the “one to watch” award, was scooped up by The Midland Grand at St Pancras, which is led by chef Patrick Powell.
Elsewhere in London, The Ledbury placed fourth, The Ritz placed seventh and Core by Clare Smyth, Frog by Adam Handling and KOL placed eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. New opening Alex Dilling at the Café Royal entered the list at 16th in its debut year and the aforementioned Bouchon Racine came in fifth.
Other new openings in London had a good debut, with JKS’s successful Speedboat Bar coming in at 57 and Dorian entering the list at 46.
The National Restaurant Awards are voted for by more than 200 of the country’s top chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and critics and are broadly considered to be a decent indicator of the UK’s dining scene. Interestingly, results often differ dramatically year to year, which has proved true of the 2023 list.
This is apparent with restaurants such as Bibi, which fell from fifth to 29th, A. Wong, which fell from seventh last year to 18th, Brat, which fell from third to 19th and Manteca, which despite success last year, fell from 11th to 69th. Outside of London, the three Michelin-starred L’Enclume fell from tenth to 30th and Restaurant Sat Bains fell from 39th to 65th.
There were, however, a number of notable climbers outside of the capital. Kent favourite The Sportsman improved on its 2022 placing of 47th to enter the top twenty (15th) and Newcastle’s Restaurant Pine, which climbed from 48th last year to sixth this year.
Similarly to last year’s list, and despite the criticism often laid at Michelin for not recognising diversity among restaurants when awarding stars, it is interesting to note there are more than 25 Michelin stars in this year’s NRA top 20 alone.
Outside of the top 20, it was a year that seemed to solidify London as the best place in Britain for dining out, with 66 of the top 100 restaurants claimed by the capital. Coming in at 74th in the list was long-standing Farringdon favourite St John, a restaurant whose founders Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson also received the lifetime achievement award.
“Fergus and Trevor could have won this lifetime achievement award years ago, but the indefatigable pair continue to make their mark on Britain’s — and the world’s — dining scene. In 1994 when they launched St John, British food was still largely maligned by the rest of the world and serious restaurants tended to follow a very traditional dining model. St John changed all that” said Chomka.
The full list of special awards:
Top 20 restaurants is below, with London restaurants in bold. Visit nationalrestaurantawards.co.uk for the full list.