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Congratulations to chef Ollie Dabbous and all the team at his self-named Fitzrovia restaurant, which has beaten off stiff competition to be crowned BMW Restaurant of the Year 2012.
Dabbous honed his craft as the unsung hero of Michelin-starred Texture near Marble Arch. Since opening his first solo venture at the start of last year, the modest and mild-mannered chef has become known for cooking finely crafted dishes shot through with pure, clear flavours. Dabbous was thrilled with the award, presented at the end of an exciting but 'full-on' year that required hard work and intense concentration by the chef and his team. 'I could not have come this far without my team and I'd like to thank them for all their hard work,' he said.
Square Meal's editor, Ben McCormack (pictured, right, with Dabbous and BMW's Paulo Alves), praised the restaurant as a 'thrillingly refreshing' dining experience.
'Square Meal has always been on the side of searing new talents and ground-breakers,' he said. 'Ollie Dabbous’s highly contemporary restaurant mixes informality and a dressed-down attitude with top-end, intricate food. It’s small, personal, youthful and brimming with vitality – a sprightly challenge to the caviar-loving stuffed shirts of haute cuisine and a sign of things to come in the capital.'
The restaurant, which has been a hit with diners and critics alike since it launched last January, won Square Meal's Best New Restaurant award in spring 2012 – just one of the many accolades it received in the months after opening. Unanimously positive reviews instantly translated into bookings, with diners waiting months for a coveted table.
Dabbous was no shoo-in for the honour, and competition was typically fierce. Buoyed by the Olympics and Jubilee, London’s restaurant scene delivered a bumper crop of thrilling new openings in 2012, plus relaunches of old stagers that proved age and familiarity are not barriers to enduring success.
This year’s shortlist gave an indication of the sheer diversity that the capital has to offer, from London’s love affair with steak (Hawksmoor Seven Dials and 34) to the resurgence of café society at the democratic Delaunay. Elsewhere, Quo Vadis rekindled British cooking at its best, Galvin La Chapelle showed how the French do things when they feel like putting on the style, and Chrysan (winner of the Best New Restaurant award for autumn 2012) brought new levels of finesse and modernity to Japanese cuisine. And then there was Pollen Street Social, last year’s BMW Award winner and still one of the capital’s must-try destinations. But in the end, Dabbous's utterly exceptional eatery proved too much to beat, and it joined other outstanding restaurants in the BMW Hall of Fame.
Square Meal would like to thank BMW for sponsoring this prestigious award, which over 14 years has come to be one of the most coveted in the hospitality industry. It not only honours innovators and establishments that are ahead of the game, but also celebrates restaurants that have fired the imagination and delivered that elusive all-round package: top-drawer food, serious wine, good value, tuned-up and sympathetic service and, of course, that indefinable feel-good factor.
Lastly, we are hugely grateful to our readers for taking the trouble to share their experiences, all of which help our judges to pinpoint venues that are making waves. When deciding on the shortlist and winner for the Restaurant of the Year award, we rely not only on our own expertise but also take on board the opinions of our readers, who leave comments online, via post and by email, and contribute to annual surveys. Your feedback provides an invaluable snapshot of the trends and highlights of the London restaurant scene.