That’s another national food award for the region
The annual AA Hospitality Awards were held last night at Grosvenor House JW Marriott Hotel in London where the cream of the industry gathered to find out how they rated this year.
The prestigious awards are the results of the findings of a team of AA Inspectors who decide which hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are eligible to win AA Stars and Rosettes.
World-renowned chefs, prominent hoteliers and restaurateurs, hospitality gurus and key food journalists enjoyed a menu created by AA 'Chef of the Year 2016–17', Simon Rogan. The celebrity host providing the entertainment was ex-GBBO presenter Mel Giedroyc.
Restaurant of the year 2017-18 was awarded to Lancashire’s Freemasons at Wiswell, a three rosette restaurant, which an AA inspector described as offering ‘exciting virtuoso cooking in a relaxed village inn’.
The Freemasons emerged victorious thanks to the high-flying cooking style of chef-patron Steven Smith who has worked in some of the North’s top kitchens before going solo. His menus use Lancashire’s finest produce as the basis for inventive, technically accomplished dishes.
The inspector reported on “slow-cooked cheek and crispy belly of suckling pig might be the focus of a starter that delivers real wow factor, particularly when matched with black pudding, baked sweet potato, rhubarb and hoi sin sauce, or you might get things going with a rib-sticking oxtail pie baked in brioche and accompanied by a crispy Colchester oyster and a muscular sauce of dark beer and truffle.
“Main course could star venison, but not just any old deer: salt-aged and smoked over pine, it comes with loin tartare, parsnips, apple purée, Stilton and a sturdy Grand Huntsman sauce. Fish might appear as roast loin of cod with squid risotto, Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnuts, chorizo and yuzu, or something as uncomplicated as catch of the day simply grilled with lemon and brown butter and served with potted shrimps and chips.
“Nothing here aims to be revolutionary – it’s all about top-class materials treated with care and precision, through to a dessert showcasing Michel Cluizel’s unctuous chocolate matched with pineapple poached in Pedro Ximenez caramel, rum, raisin and passionfruit, and coconut ice cream. If you really want to put the kitchen through its paces, there’s a six-course tasting menu.”
Converted from a trio of little cottages in a chocolate-box village in the Ribble Valley, this proper pub and dining hotspot offers a welcoming, convivial atmosphere complete with antiques, cosy rugs, an open fire and even a stag’s head on the wall. This is the latest in a series of accolades awarded to The Freemason’s who have recently been named as No.1 pub in the Good Food Guide, No.4 in Top 50 Gastropubs and were included in Sunday Times Restaurants Top 100.
Traditionally the North West has done well in the AA Restaurant of the Year category with Sticky Walnut near Chester winning in 2014 and Aiden Byrne’s The Church Green British Grill in 2012.
Only three UK restaurants were presented with the maximum five rosettes: Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon; Bohemia Restaurant, St Helier, Jersey; and Ynyshir, Eglwys Fach, Powys.