Cream of the crop: The AA has announced the winners of its 20th annual Hospitality Awards
They are considered the industry’s gold-standard accolades – and, here, MailOnline Travel can exclusively reveal the winners of AA’s Hospitality Awards 2017.
The annual ceremony took place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel today after a panel of judges spent twelve months travelling the country, where they sampled the nation’s ultimate pubs, restaurants and hotels.
As part of their research they tasted moreish morsels, slept in sumptuous surroundings and consumed a cocktail of beverages across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here, after months of deliberation, we can reveal the award-winners for Pub, Hotel and Restaurant of the Year in each country, while also divulging Eco Hotel of the Year, Chef of the Year and Housekeeper of the Year, which celebrates the people behind the success.
The results also mark the release of the 2018 editions of the AA Hotel Guide and the AA Best Restaurant Guide.
Here are the results…
The accolade for Hotel of the Year England goes to The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath, which was awarded the prize for its ‘sophisticated and luxurious experience’.
Unsurprisingly, it also scored points for its exclusive access to natural thermal waters.
Originally built in the 1800s, The Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II Listed buildings with distinguished Georgian and Victorian façades in the heart of the World Heritage Site. Named after the artist, Sir Thomas Gainsborough, it’s a five-star favourite with domestic and international travellers.
Impressive: The accolade for Hotel of the Year England went to The Gainsborough Bath Spa, in Bath, which was awarded the prize for its ‘sophisticated and luxurious experience’
Sumptuous: Built in the 1800s, The Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II Listed buildings yet is modern inside
Upon receiving the award, Andrew Jordan, Executive Vice President of the YTL Hotels group, said: ‘I would like to thank the AA for this award and we fully respect the trust that has been placed upon us.
‘This prestigious award is the highest accolade that The Gainsborough has achieved. I am so proud of what the hotel stands for and the magnificent efforts of each and every member of the team.’
The prize for Hotel of the Year London was bestowed to The Goring.
An AA Hotel Inspector described the luxury venue, which borders Buckingham Palace and was first opened in 1910, as ‘an icon of British hospitality with exemplary customer care.’
Fan favourite: Named after artist Sir Thomas Gainsborough, it’s a five-star favourite with domestic and international travellers
Classy and cool: Originally billed as the world’s first hotel to have central heating in every room, it was a favourite of the Queen Mother and was the location for her last public appearance
Eat your heart out! The Goring’s dining room is known for its immaculate presentation and strong, formal service
Originally billed as the world’s first hotel to have central heating in every room, it was a favourite of the Queen Mother and was the location for her last public appearance.
Jeremy Goring, CEO of The Goring, said: ‘We are really proud of every single member of our brilliant staff and this award is testament to their dedication and talent.’
The gong for Hotel of the Year Northern Ireland was presented to The Old Inn, Bangor, for its ‘untold elegance and grandeur’.
Situated near the Seaside Town of Bangor and the Village of Helen’s Bay in County Down, the historic venue is so old that its thatched portion was formed circa 1600 AD.
Golden oldie: The Hotel of the Year Northern Ireland gong was given to The Old Inn, Bangor, for its ‘untold elegance and grandeur’
Critically acclaimed: The historic venue is so old that its thatched portion was formed circa 1600 AD, but inside it’s young
Paul Rice, Managing Director of The Old Inn, said: ‘When we heard the news of being The AA’s Northern Ireland Hotel of the Year for 2017 we were of course delighted.
‘It recognises the individuals throughout the hotel for their warm personalities and the skill and execution of delivering top class food, drinks, accommodation and also great recognition for the sales and administration team for ensuring our brand and our company remain strong in a challenging market.’
Meanwhile, the Douneside House in Aboyne was awarded the Hotel of the Year Scotland for ‘presenting customers with warm, friendly and engaging staff as well as excellent standards throughout’.
Winning entry: The Douneside House in Aboyne was awarded the Hotel of the Year Scotland for ‘presenting customers with warm, friendly and engaging staff as well as excellent standards throughout’
And relax! This interior view of a double suite showcases the combination of traditional style with a modern finish
Lather round: The generous bathrooms allow guests to fully unwind and helped the venue score above competitors
Set within the grounds of the MacRobert Estate in Aberdeenshire, the main House features 14 beautiful guest rooms inspired by the Scottish Highlands.
Marcel Wassen, General Manager of Douneside House, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to win this award. It is a reflection of the hard work of the whole team; without their dedication, commitment and passion this would not have been possible.’
The final award in the country-specific category, Hotel of the Year Wales, was won by Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids, for its ‘excellent design and presentation, with noteworthy attention to detail’.
Rural attraction: Hotel of the Year Wales was won by Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids, for its ‘excellent design and presentation’
Location matters: Twr y Felin is also just a ten-minute walk to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the beach at Caerfai Bay
Set in its own private grounds, just a few hundred metres from the centre of St Davids and the 6th century St David’s Cathedral, Twr y Felin is also just a ten-minute walk to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the beach at Caerfai Bay.
Paula Ellis, Group General Manager of Twr Y Felin, said: ‘I am so proud of my Team and their outstanding achievement in such a short time since opening.
‘This award will not only establish our reputation as Wales’ leading luxury boutique hotel, but hopefully will also lead with way for other luxury hotels to follow suit to help establish Wales as a truly international luxury destination.’
In addition to hotels, the AA also independently inspects hundreds of restaurants across the British Isles.
This award recognises venues that provide cuisine of a truly excellent standard, as well as demonstrating innovation and ambience and providing a high standard of hospitality.
Restaurant of the Year England was awarded to The Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe, for its ‘exciting virtuoso cooking in a relaxed village inn’. Some of their current offerings include: Giles of Wellgate Smoked Salmon, Hand Dived Scallops and 60 Day Aged Hereford Beef, to name just a few.
Cheers to that! The Freemasons pub is a must-visit spot for any hungry travellers in Clitheroe, Ribble Valley, experts say
Snug: A roaring fire, a bottle of red wine and a wing-backed leather armchair invite guests to relax for the evening
Upon receiving the award, Steven Smith, Chef Owner, said: ‘I’m not going to go with the cliché, ‘we’re really pleased to have won’ because of course we are. It’s so much more than that. As a pub, we’re here for the long term and this award not only creates a legacy for The Freemasons, it’s a building block from which we plan to move onward and upwards.
‘When I started out over a decade ago, I wanted to stake out a place for myself in this industry and become known for the quality of my dishes and menus. This is a very proud moment for me and the team really put The Freemasons on the map for foodies across the country, as well as our loyal customers and regular visitors.’
Turning their attention to the capital, the judges then declared Chelsea’s Elystan Street as Restaurant of the Year London.
Capital one: The judges declared Chelsea’s Elystan Street as London’s Restaurant of the Year
Modern favourite: The eatery bills itself as a ‘stylish, contemporary take on European dishes served in a sophisticated room’
An AA Hotel Inspector said of the critically-acclaimed spot that ‘high-flying cooking delivers brilliance at every turn in a relaxed atmosphere’.
Phil Howard, Head Chef of Elystan Street, said: ‘It is always humbling to be acknowledged in such a competitive industry – but it is thrilling to feel that we might be at the start of an exciting journey that sees the making of another wonderful restaurant that can serve London for many years to come.’
At the other end of the UK, Restaurant of the Year Scotland was presented to The Dining Room, Edinburgh.
Scottish success: The Dining Room, Edinburgh, vaulted above its rivals to be declared the country’s very best restaurant
Yum: It was praised for its Scotch Malt Whiskey Society partnership which ‘offers an experience steeped in French classicism’
Specifically, it was credited for its partnership with The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society which ‘offers a dining experience steeped in French classicism’.
Jan-Willem Damen, Operations Director of the Dining Room, said: ‘We are extremely proud to have been given this award. It is a recognition of 12 years of unwavering dedication by a kitchen team led throughout by Exec Chef James Freeman, to create stunning dishes with locally sourced Scottish ingredients…’
Finally, the Beach House Restaurant at Oxwich Beach, Swansea, was heralded Restaurant of the Year Wales.
Shore thing: The Beach House Restaurant at Oxwich Beach, Swansea, was heralded Restaurant of the Year for Wales
Give us a wave! Judges for the contest praised its ‘fresh contemporary cooking style to match the fresh sea air’
A popular and coveted title, this unique award, introduced in 1996, offers all AA Rosette-awarded chefs the chance to decide which of their peers deserves the ultimate recognition of their performance over the past 12 months.
Andrew Oxley, Head of Hotel & Hospitality Services at The AA, said: ‘John’s remarkable career is an example to anyone who wants to become the very best in the culinary world.’
Success stories: John Williams, MBE (left) was named Chef of the Year, while Tzveta Ivanova (right),a core employee at Kensington’s Milestone Hotel, was praised for her hospitality
Housekeeper of the Year: Tzveta Ivanova, The Milestone Hotel, Kensington
The Housekeeper of the Year award recognises outstanding commitment and performance, identifying a Housekeeper who goes above and beyond the call of duty.
An AA Hotel Inspector said of Tzveta Ivanova: ‘Ms Ivanova has clearly demonstrated her passion for the industry, achieving success for the Milestone Hotel and as an individual.’
Customers’ Choice Award: The Savoy, London
Oxley said: ‘The Savoy continues to lead the way with over 125 years as a renowned, five-star establishment.
‘The results of the Customer Choice award reflects the superb service and standard
that the hotel’s team continues to deliver.’
Eco Hotel of the Year: Oakley Court, Windsor
Green: The Eco Hotel of the Year award was given to Oakley Court, Windsor, for constantly reducing its impact on the environment
It means business: ‘Oakley Court sets a high standard of eco-conscious luxury which shows respect to its lovely scenic setting and for the environment in general,’ says the AA’s Oxley
Fabulous: The imposing Victorian Mansion overlooks the River Thames, just a few miles away from the Royal Windsor Racecourse
This award recognises a clear commitment to sustainability, demonstrated through good practice and policy to make a positive contribution to reducing impact on the environment.
Oxley said: ‘Oakley Court sets a high standard of eco-conscious luxury which shows respect to its lovely scenic setting and for the environment in general.’
Wine Award: Ynyshir, Powys
Introduced in 1998, this award recognises an outstanding contribution to promoting wine understanding and appreciation. Nominees are judged on the quality of their wine list and their ability to inspire customers to make wider and more adventurous choices in selecting wines.
An AA Hotel Inspector said of Ynyshir: ‘The dining room at Ynyshir offers the very best selection of wines to accompany their highly accomplished food.’
Setting itself aside from the competition with its location, judges praised its ‘fresh contemporary cooking style to match the fresh sea air.’
‘We are immensely proud of the team and all they have achieved this year at the Beach House Restaurant in their first year of operating,’ said Neil Kedward, managing director of the Seren collection.
‘We are so excited about the future and what this venue can achieve under our Welsh Head Chef Hywel Griffith. We look forward to helping the team achieve all their goals in this stunning restaurant.’
The winners of these prestigious awards, introduced in 2001, stand out as truly excellent all-round pubs or inns.
They successfully combine the provision of enjoyable food, a great pub atmosphere and a warm welcome with a high standard of management, the AA said.
First up, The Bell at Ramsbury, Wiltshire, was named Pub of the Year England thanks to ‘comfy rooms, a welcoming bar and a café’.
Wiltshire fave: The Bell at Ramsbury was named Pub of the Year England thanks to ‘comfy rooms, a welcoming bar and a café’
Tasty: A 300-year-old former coaching inn near Marlborough, this cosy hideaway offers modern European cuisine
Sophisticated: A stylish bedroom is shown displaying muted colours for a timeless aesthetic in the rural inn
A 300-year-old former coaching inn near Marlborough, this cosy hideaway offers modern European cuisine and pub classics. It is also part of the Ramsbury Estate with its own brewery, distillery and smokehouse.
‘To receive the AA Award for the Best Pub in England is an amazing achievement. This is a trying time for the catering industry and I’m incredibly proud of how my team has shone through it all,’ said Matt Saxton, Manager of The Bell.
‘I am also really thankful to all of our guests that have supported us, and our owners that have backed our ideas to make our estate greater. Watch this space, there is lots more to come.’
Meanwhile, Pub of the Year Scotland was won by The Bow Bar, Edinburgh. An AA Hotel Inspector said of the popular venue: ‘For any whisky or beer connoisseur, the Bow Bar is an absolute delight.’
Simple, but effective: The Bow Bar describes itself as a ‘no-frills compact local emphasising cask beers and single malts, with fresh soup and pie snacks’
Praise: An AA Hotel Inspector said of the venue: ‘For any whisky or beer connoisseur, the Bow Bar is an absolute delight.’
Whetting appetites: The Bow Bar (left), in Scotland, is much loved by locals, and the Bryn Tyrch (right) in Wales is cosy but cool. Both were singled-out for being perfect pubs
Manager Mike Smith said: ‘Managing an independent bar allows for a lot more creativity, so we put a lot of energy into making a simple formula a success. To be recognised for these efforts is a real honour.’
Finally, Pub of the Year Wales was scooped by Bryn Tyrch, Conwy, which was billed as a ‘charming old inn with mountain views’.
Rachel Roberts, Marketing Director of Bryn Tyrch, said: ‘We are very proud and honored to get this award. This reflects a real team effort from all the team and we thank them for all their hard work and for our clients for believing and supporting us.’
Big hit: Pub of the Year Wales was won by Bryn Tyrch, Conwy , which was billed as a ‘charming old inn with mountain views’
THE AA HOSPITALITY AWARD WINNERS: 2017
The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath
Douneside House, Aboyne
WALES: Twr Y Felin Hotel, St Davids
NORTHERN IRELAND: The Old Inn, Bangor
AA PUBS OF THE YEAR
The Bell at Ramsbury, Wiltshire
The Bow Bar, Edinburgh
Bryn Tyrch, Conwy
The Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe
Elystan Street, Chelsea
The Dining Room, Edinburgh
Beach House Restaurant at Oxwich Beach, Swansea
OTHER AA HOSPITALITY AWARDS
CHEF OF THE YEAR:
John Williams, MBE
HOUSEKEEPER OF THE YEAR:
Tzveta Ivanova, The Milestone Hotel, Kensington
ECO HOTEL: Oakley Court, Windsor
WINE AWARD: Ynyshir, Powys
CUSTOMER CHOICE: The Savoy, London