The results are in for this year's National Restaurant Awards, which celebrate the UK's 100 best dining venues and experiences, as voted for by a slew of food critics, chefs and industry insiders. We take a closer look at the restaurants you ought to be trying to nab a table at, and the dishes you absolutely have to order.
1. The Sportsman, Seasalter (1)
It's won two years in a row now, so skipping a meal at The Sportsman is not advised. Based in seaside town Whitstable, and holding one Michelin star, the menu is designed to reflect the land the restaurant’s built on, and the surrounding coast and countryside. So expect a lot of oysters…
Key dishes: The fruit souffle (apple, rhubarb and plum often available) and the slip sole grilled in seaweed butter.
Price range: Mains around £22.
2. A Wong, London (3)
This modern Chinese restaurant made an impressive leap from 19th in last year's awards, to third place this time around. It might have something to do with their infamous, and perfectly plump, custard buns. That and their array of wantons and the eight-course Peking duck feast. Pancake anyone?
Key dishes: The aforementioned custard buns, but also the dim sum.
Price range: Dim Sum from £1.50, mains around £10.
3. Som Saa, London (4)
A brand new entry, Som Saa serves up regional Thai food with loads of zing near Spitalfields Market. Prepare to queue for a table, but the bar staff make some delicious cocktails (try the Muay Thai Kick). Once you do have a seat, the first thing to do is locate the menu's whole deep-fried seabass. It comes utterly crisp and drenched in hot and sour Thai herbs – it's meant for sharing, but you won't want to.
Key dishes: The deep-fried bass, and for pudding, salted palm sugar ice cream with turmeric grilled banana.
Price range: The bass is £17.50, mains generally from £9.50
4. Kiln, London (9)
Another Thai, and another new entry, Kiln is all about using clay pots and getting the grill going – there's no oven to be found, all the cooking is done in kilns and on flames. Also, the vibe is not swish in the least, in fact, you're meant to feel as though you've stumbled across a roadside shack. Order a sharing bowl of the baked glass noodles with brown crab and Tamworth pork belly, then Instagram it accordingly.
Key dishes: The glass noodles, of course, but anything from the grill will do the trick.
Price range: Dishes from £4.50-£9.
5. The Palomar, London (14)
The Palomar has built enough momentum in the last year to jump from 42nd into 14th place on the list. Offering the food of modern Jerusalem, with some Spanish and North African influences, it’s famed for its polenta, and for doing clever things with bread (they’ve got a dedicated 'rip and dip' section on the menu). Take a seat at the zinc kitchen bar and you can watch the chefs as they work.
Key dishes: Polenta Jerusalem style, and the Shakshukit deconstructed beef and lamb kebab.
Price range: Mains around £13.50.
Here's the full top 20 restaurants:
1. The Sportsman, Seasalter
2. The Ledbury, London
3. A Wong, London
4. Som Saa, London
5. Barrafina Adelaide Street, London
6. Casamia, Bristol
7. The Clove Club, London
8. Elystan Street, London
9. Kiln, London
10. Hedone, London
11. The River Café, London
12. Lyle’s, London
13. Hoppers, London
14. The Palomar, London
15. The Fat Duck, Bray
16. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
17. L’Enclume, Cartmel
18. Coombeshead Farm, Lewannick
19. The Dairy, London
20. The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny