Britain's best chef? His name is Michael Caines...
Praise for West Country chef as his restaurant wins industry award for second year in a row
Rob Hastings is Deputy News Editor at The Independent. He has served on the news desk since 2010, and also writes travel articles, music reviews and features. In 2015 he shortlisted for the Washington Post’s Laurence Stern Fellowship for a series on reportage features from Iran.
Friday 06 January 2012
In the 25 years since he won student of the year at Exeter Catering College, Michael Caines has quietly collected two Michelin stars, an MBE and numerous other plaudits. Greater public recognition surely awaits now, after his Devon restaurant was named the best in the country for the second year in a row.
Mr Caines' signature eight-course menu – featuring venison with braised pork belly and partridge with quince purée – has helped Gidleigh Park secure the Remy Martin XO Excellence Award for the UK's best all-round restaurant, in the Harden's Restaurant Survey.
The West Country man has served as head chef at Gidleigh Park, a grand country house hotel on Dartmoor, since 1994.
That same year his workaholic nature led to him falling asleep at the wheel of his car, resulting in a car crashin which he lost his right arm. But he was back working two weeks later, evidently his prosthetic replacement limb has not held him back.
Mr Caines said the award was down to team work as well as local ingredients. "We give people food memories of the southwest to take home," he said. "Our lamb is farmed on Dartmoor, our veal from Cornwall, our scallops from Brixham and beetroot from our garden."
"He's very much at the entrepreneurial end of his generation, maintaining standards at Gidleigh while expanding his own brand," said publisher Peter Harden. "All chefs after a while are dependent on their ability to inspire the team around them rather than it just being an individual effort."
His counterpart at the Berkeley in London's Knightsbridge, Marcus Wareing, is also celebrating once again after winning the award for Britain's best dessert for the third time in three years.
He followed up last year's winner – a warm chocolate moelleux – with a new variation of his custard tart that won in 2009, this time accompanied by plum, crumble and plum ice cream.
Top restaurant in the capital overall has gone to last year's runner-up, Michel Roux Jr's Mayfair basement eaterie, Le
Gavroche. Its menu is suitably decadent, including lobster mousse with caviar and champagne butter sauce, and artichokes filled with foie gras, truffles and chicken mousse.
The key winners: What the judges said
Gidleigh Park, Chagford
With "outstanding" food and "truly special" wines, this "beautifully located" restaurant in a "delightful" Elizabethan mansion has been declared "perfect in every way". Apart from the prices, that is, which one reviewer called "extortionate" at £99 for three courses with coffee and petit fours.
Le Gavroche, Mayfair
Another restaurant that is "astronomically expensive" but "remarkable" for its "peerless" interpretation of "classic" French cooking.
The Berkeley, Knightsbridge
Among the "well crafted" dishes is its custard tart, hailed as "delectable, the filling silky-smooth and wobbly, its pastry, crisp and buttery".
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