The Palomar and Barrafina triumph at inaugural GQ Food and Drink Awards
Deep within the gilded bowels of a stunning Knightsbridge hotel, far from the eyes of mortal men, some of the most well-known faces in the capital’s culinary scene met for an awards show that was quite simply luxurious. Gorgeous Veuve Clicquot champagne came in constant waves, crashing upon the glasses of eager recipients with a frequency that almost beggared belief. Canapés of foie gras and saffron crab followed with the same regularity, drawing kind words from even the most decorated of attendees. Michelin-starred chefs spoke to PR kingpins, hoteliers mingled with prominent mixologists, photographers darted to and fro in an effort to miss not a single famous face. It was the inaugural GQ Food and Drink Awards, a glamorous event overflowing with the authority and grandeur that can only come from an internationally renowned publication.
Yet a curious sense of the familiar and the easygoing permeated its stately atmosphere. It was more like a meeting of old friends, a gathering of those that had witnessed and shaped London’s culinary vanguard. Its eventual champion was a chef whose approachability and boundless enthusiasm was the perfect summation of what the evening had been.
The woman in question was Nieves Barragan Mohacho of Barrafina. Her face was still aglow with pride and genuine amazement when we caught up with her. “To be named as one of the six best chefs in London” she said, “was shocking enough, but to win?” She shook her head, as if still not quite able to process what had just happened. After a moment, she spoke again, a fire in her eyes: “I won’t take it for granted. Hard work got me here and I won’t stop. I’ll keep trying to get better everyday.” It’s that zeal, that unrelenting desire to produce brilliance, that has propelled her to these starry heights, and we’re sure there’s plenty more to come from this wonderfully talented chef.
The passion of others was similarly rewarded. Husband and wife combo Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde, who have become well known for their adventurous and accessible wine lists, shared the award for the city’s best sommelier. Likewise, Jesus Adorno’s charm at Le Caprice, where every guest is made to feel like they’re the most important person in the room, has earnt him quite the glowing reputation in the many years he has been its public face. He walked away with the award for Best Front of House, his wide smile saying more than we ever could.
There were some surprises too. Claridge’s took top billing in the hotel category, largely thanks to its “old-school decadence, bespoke service and enchanting luxury” but Simon Rogan’s restaurant at the premises there was not so lucky. Fera’s stunning mixture of Art Deco and natural shades was hotly tipped for Best Interior but lost out to the eclectic collection of frames that adorn the walls of Berners Tavern. The Ledbury was considered similarly imperious, but ended up losing out to The Palomar, which British GQ described as the restaurant with “the most chutzpah of any food and drink establishment operating in the country right now”.
The Connaught Bar was praised for its “grandeur and sense of occasion” by Tom Kerridge as it won the Best Bar award, beating out the likes of Nightjar and The Milk Thistle. Kerridge was looking for something a little bit more laid back in his choice of pub though, and he found it in the form of The White Horse, a chic gastropub in the countryside of Chichester described as “a showcase for pubs as they should be: comfortable, relaxed and informal”.
The night ended with Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the duo behind many of the capital’s most established and iconic restaurants, being honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award. Their influence is undeniable and the legacy they will leave upon London’s dining scene is immense. They were keen to stress however, that they’re far from done. If the opening of their excellent Beaumont Hotel last year is anything to go by, it’s far too early to be prepping the highlight reel for these two just yet.
Photos: James Mason
Best Restaurant: The Palomar
Best Chef: Nieves Barragan Mohacho
Best Bar: The Connaught Bar
Best Interior: Berners Tavern
Best Front of House: Jesus Adorno
Best Sommelier: Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde
Best Pub: The White Horse
Best Hotel: Claridge’s
Lifetime Achievement: Chris Corbin and Jeremy King