Restaurant awards serve up UK’s favourite local eateries

Northern Irish newcomer named best local restaurant in UK alongside a gourmet garden centre and remote Highland eatery

A restaurant in County Armagh, Northern Ireland has beaten eateries across the UK to be named the overall winner of the Waitrose Good Food Guide Local Restaurant of the Year Awards.

Wine & Brine, located in the picturesque small market town of Moira, has only been open since December, but its commitment to “seasonal and local ingredients at ridiculously reasonable prices” means it has both been named not just the top choice for Northern Ireland but also crowned overall winner by the editors of the Good Food Guide, which is published by Waitrose.

The awards have also unearthed regional winners in unusual locations, including a gourmet garden centre, along with restaurants in far flung places of the country.

When making a trip to the local garden centre you might not expect to find a top quality eaterie amongst the pot plants and wheel barrows. But Mrs Miller’s, perched above Hazel Dene Garden Centre, near Penrith in Cumbria, has bloomed to such an extent that it’s been awarded best local choice in the North West. It was judged “a unique and refreshing place, a garden-centre café that focuses on local ingredients and knows how to create feel-good flavours.”

The Whitehouse Restaurant on the West Coast of Scotland has won best Scottish Local Restaurant. Located in Lochaline, it is described by the Guide as being “about as remote as you can get without leaving the mainland.” Diners travelling from outside the immediate local area will most likely have to take a ferry. One happy customer, who nominated the restaurant, Awards. said it has “local, fresh food, prepared unpretentiously and supremely well.”

Elizabeth Carter, Waitrose Good Food Guide Editor, says, “The simple formula of a kitchen that cooks fresh to order is the very principle on which our guide was founded. We have always maintained that the best restaurants offer creative, memorable food based on quality, seasonal and local produce. In other words no pretensions or gimmicks, just first-class food cooked from ingredients deeply rooted in the region. A commitment to their community and a strong relationship with local suppliers is what makes a restaurant truly local.”

The annual Good Food Guide reader-nominated awards recognise the best neighbourhood eateries up and down the country. And to mark their tenth year, the awards have been renamed ‘Local’ Restaurant of the Year*’ to encourage diners to look much closer to home and champion the unsung restaurants right on their doorstep. The Guide also only looked for new winners this year, with the hope that smaller, lesser known establishments would be discovered.

After sifting through 30,000 nominations, the editors of the Good Food Guide have announced the top dining establishments in each of ten different UK regions. The awards are based on public nominations with a panel of Good Food Guide judges choosing the most outstanding for their overall winner.

Wine & Brine is run by husband and wife team Chris and Davina McGowan. Chef Chris had previously worked alongside top chefs in London such as Richard Corrigan and Gary Rhodes before returning back to Northern Ireland after two decades away.

Speaking about what made Wine & Brine the overall winner, Carter continued, “A role-model of its kind, Chris McGowan’s relaxed restaurant has a big heart, friendly, laid-back staff and generous cooking of fresh, seasonal and local ingredients at ridiculously reasonable prices. A hive of endeavour, it is no wonder that Wine & Brine has a huge and very vocal fan base. Every town should have a restaurant of this standard.”

Davina McGowan, joint owner of Wine and Brine says, “To say we are delighted by this accolade is a great understatement. We are positively ecstatic to be chosen as the overall UK winner. We are such a young business, it makes it all the more profound for us. It’s a testament to all our hard work over the years ahead of setting up Wine & Brine, which we always wanted to be a place where people wanted to come to eat and enjoy spending time with friends and family.

“We are trying to make good food accessible to everyone, using local suppliers. We only have one draught beer, and that’s from a brewery a few miles away. Our butcher is within a five-mile radius, as are most of our suppliers.”

The regional winners and overall winner have been announced today (27th July 2016).

The winners are as follows:

Northern Ireland and Overall Winner – Wine & Brine, Moira, County Armagh
South East – The Compasses Inn, Crundale, Kent
London – Portobello Ristorante Pizzeria, Notting Hill
North West – Mrs Miller’s, Culgaith, Cumbria
North East – Peace and Loaf, Newcastle
Scotland – The Whitehouse, Lochaline, Highlands
Wales – Sosban and the Old Butcher’s, Menai Bridge, Isle of Anglesey
Midlands – The Jockey, Baughton, Worcestershire
South West – Wilks, Bristol
East England – The Duck Inn, Stanhoe, Norfolk