2015 Oliver Awards shortlist revealed

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The shortlist for the 2015 Oliver Awards have been revealed featuring some of the best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in and around Leeds.

Whether it’s a city centre snack or fine dining, the very best have made their mark in our annual awards thanks to their unstinting dedication to ensuring quality of service, creating an outstanding atmosphere, superb food and giving their customers great value for money.

This year’s competition has been tougher than ever, with over 300 individual category entries. Those have been whittled down by our panel of judges to 98 entrants over 14 categories, covering everything from best Indian, Italian and European to best service, best chef, best food and best newcomer, with two additional categories of ‘outstanding contribution’ and ‘overall winner’.

The awards themselves reflect the growing stature of the dining scene in Leeds and the surrounding area. When the Oliver Awards began seven years ago there were a handful of top class restaurants. Now, there are dozens. That speaks volumes both about the confidence of chefs and customers, who are voting with their feet.

BEST FINE DINING

The Box Tree

Crafthouse

The Dunsforth

Kendells Bistro

Man Behind the Curtain

Shears Yard

The Spiced Pear

In this category we are looking for a quality venue that not only aspires to excellence, but achieves it. We want a venue which knows that the devil is in the detail and gives its customers the best surroundings, the best service and perhaps most importantly of all the best dishes made from the best produce, cooked with flair. Traditional or avant-garde, overall excellence is what counts here.

BEST BRITISH

Crafthouse

Dish Dining Room

Dough Bistro

Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Cafe

The Mustard Pot

Rythre Arms

Timberlake’s Bistro

In recent years, British food has come into its own. Once maligned and dismissed as unimaginative at best, that reputation has now been consigned to the history books. In this region we also boast some of the country’s finest producers which helps to deliver food which is exciting and full of flavour. Our winner will create dishes which are good enough to beat any other cuisine.

BEST NEWCOMER

Belgrave Music Hall

Bulgogi Grill

Bundobust

The Decanter

HUMPIT

Man Behind the Curtain

No 2 Oxford Place

Tharavadu

Here we have no preconceived ideas. The winning venue may be a small boutique restaurant or it may be a large, bustling eatery. What we will be judging is the impression it has made on the foodie scene in a relatively short space of time. We know grabbing the public’s attention in a crowded market is very difficult, so we are looking for somewhere which has already stamped its authority.

BEST CITY CENTRE

Crafthouse

Foundry Wine Bar

Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Cafe

Kendells Bistro

MeatLiquor

Rare

Shears Yard

Leeds is a vibrant, confident city and we are looking for a restaurant which encapsulates both those qualities. We want somewhere which has demonstrated it is in tune with the people it serves. These days our city is thriving, ambitious, forward-looking and attractive and the winner will have those qualities in spades - it will also serve great food with style.

BEST CHEF

Crafthouse (Lee Bennet)

Eric’s Restaurant (Eric Paxman)

Kendells Bistro (Steve Kendell)

Man Behind the Curtain (Michael O’Hara)

Mirabelle (Lionel Strub)

The Spiced Pear (Timothy Bilton)

It takes a team to deliver a great restaurant, but we all know that without a great chef the rest is meaningless. The flair and skill of this person rubs off on everyone else, including the customer. We want to reward a chef who leads from the front, who is an inspiration to the rest of the kitchen and front of house staff and who has that extra ingredient to create a truly winning menu.

BEST SERVICE

The Blackhouse

Crafthouse

Dish Dining Room

Giorgios

Kendells Bistro

Rare

Saffron

A restaurant is nothing without good service. If the food is marvellous and the service is not, the customer will leave unhappy. We want to acknowledge a venture where staff show courtesy, attentiveness and real knowledge of what’s happening in the kitchen. We want to celebrate somewhere that makes diners feel like they matter, because that’s the mark of true greatness.

BEST SURBURBAN

Divino

Eric’s Restaurant

Gallery 41

Ira B’s

Monkmans

The Olive Tree

Zucco

There was a time when if you wanted to eat out you had to head to the city centre. Not any more. Now virtually every neighbourhood boasts restaurants which add to the vibrancy and feel-good factor of the area. What we are looking for is the very best. Neighbourhood eateries is an exciting boom area for dining and the quality of the entries reflects that.

BEST CAFE BAR

Angelica

Arts Cafe

Bundobust

Friends of Ham

Harvey Nichols Espresso Bar

It Bar

The cafe bar is a great invention of modern times, so here we are looking for something with a little added character and vibrancy, something which sets it apart from the norm. Whatever it serves, from coffee to a glass of wine or a decent bite to eat, we want it to be the very best in its class. A good dash of style always helps, as does a clear direction and vision.

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT

The Burlington at The Devonshire Arms

City Cafe@Doubletree by Hilton

Chino Latino

The Cliffemount Hotel

The Crab and Lobster

Macleods at the Coniston Hotel

The hotel restaurant faces a particular challenge. These establishments have to both enhance the reputation of the venue in which they sit, while also creating a reputation for great food and service in their own right. It is a difficult balance to get right and sustain, but our winner will have done just that. They will also offer something special in terms of atmosphere and menu.

BEST WORLD

Bulgogi Grill

Chaophraya

Cielo Blanco

Morenos

Sukothai

Viva Cuba

Wagamama

This category has the broadest scope of all, covering all cuisines from all parts of the globe. We are much more adventurous when it comes to food these days, which has been reflected in the number of new restaurants opening which offer us a taste of the exotic. However, unusual is not enough. That food has to be cooked to a superb standard and reflect the true character of the native dish.

BEST EUROPEAN

La Cantina 44

La Casita

Lucia

Mirabelle

Olive and Feta

Souvlaki Restaurant and Bar

Vivido

European food is close to our hearts and has been for many years. For the vast majority of us it was the first cuisine of another country that we ever experienced and it rightly has a reputation for creating some imaginative and simply tasty dishes. Our winner will serve up the best of Europe, but will also have an eye on value, cost and great ambience. This will be a restaurant to go back to time and again.

BEST LUNCH

The Crab and Lobster

Le Chalet French Tearoom and Bakery

Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Cafe

Kobe

The Mustard Pot

Queen o’t’owd Thatch

Timberlake’s Bistro

Lunch covers a broad range of options. It can be a grand affair or it can be something much more unassuming. Different customers require different dining experiences, which may go some way to explaining the variety of our shortlist. What matters to us here is not the opulence or otherwise of the surroundings, but the quality of the product and the manner in which it is delivered.

BEST INDIAN

Bengal Brasserie

Bundobust

Chandelier

Hansa’s

Saffron

Tharavadu

1875 Restaurant

In this region we are spoilt with some of the best Indian food available in the UK and the shortlist is rightly fiercely competitive. While curry took over from fish and chips as the nation’s favourite dish, we are looking for somewhere that takes Indian food to another level. Our winner will offering not just traditional dishes, but will boast a menu which reflects regional variations, served with flair and sophistication.

BEST ITALIAN

Divino

Gallery 41

Georgios

La Cantina 44

Salvo’s

San Carlo

Vivido

The popular staples here are pizza and pasta - but there is much more to Italian food than that. We are not looking for a winner who just serves up the kind of Italian fare we all expect, we want somewhere which also injects a little imagination and flair into traditional flavours. Italian cooking may be familiar territory, but our winner will be a restaurant which proves it can still surprise its customers.

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION

Running a restaurant is tough. To open one is an achievement in itself; to keep it going a feat not many realise. Yet some do. A handful of places stand head and shoulders above the rest, not just surviving, but thriving. These restaurants tend to have one thing in common - they are run by people who have a clear vision of what they want. Allied with talent and determination, that is a pretty formidable combination. To make the shortlist in this category, a restaurant and its owners will have a history of hard work, creativity and dedication. This is a very special category, which is why we will not be announcing anything until the night itself.

OVERALL WINNER

Whittling down the hundreds of entries to this year’s Oliver awards was a difficult task. As ever we were overwhelmed by the sheer quality of cafes, bars and restaurants and it made us realise just how lucky we are to live where we do. With our final shortlists in 14 competitive categories in place, we can now look forward to the ceremony itself and one establishment will have double reason to celebrate. All of those which top their individual categories will be eligible to be named the overall winner of the 2015 awards. So all that remains to say is good luck, bon appetite and we’ll see you all in March.