The best hotels, restaurants and pubs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were celebrated at the AA Hospitality Awards this month in a ceremony at Grosvenor House in London.

The twenty-second annual AA Hospitality Awards were presented by Kate Silverton and honoured the best establishments in the UK across twenty-three categories, including Chefs’ Chef, Restaurant of the Year, Pub of the Year, Hotel of the Year, Food Service, Win, Lifetime Achievement, College Restaurant of the Year, and beyond.

But which were crowned the best in Scotland?

AA Restaurant of the Year (Scotland) 2019–20

Sugar Boat

Picture: Sugar Boat Facebook

Sugar Boat, in the heart of Helensburgh, opened in May 2017 and is the brainchild of owner Will Smith (formerly of Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons in London).

The restaurant features a café, bar, bistro and wine shop and is open from breakfast through to dinner, focusing on seasonal dishes with a produce and provenance led cooking style by head chef, Scott Smith.

Will Smith, Owner of Sugar Boat commented: “This award is an incredible achievement by the whole team and is testament to the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that has gone into opening and building the restaurant.

“Thrilled, elated, blown away, astounded and so very proud to be recognised at a national level. Thank you to everyone who has helped us on our journey.”

An AA Inspector said of Sugar Boat: “On a square in the heart of town, with tables out front and back, Sugar Boat is done out in natural colours of earth and sea, with a marble-topped bar and viewable kitchen.

“The hearty modern bistro cooking features big flavours and an essentially simple approach.”

AA Hotel of the Year (Scotland) 2019–20

The Gleneagles Hotel

AA Hospitality Awards

Picture: Gleneagles, supplied

Introduced in 1992, this award is the AA’s ultimate accolade for hotels in the UK. From small, family-run abodes to big name brands, this award recognises the hotels that are outstanding examples in their particular market.

The institution that is Gleneagles picked up the award for Scotland this year, with judging comments such as: “Guests here have come to expect a consistently high standard of hospitality and service whatever the weather, and you’ll also find an award-winning spa and leisure club; while the Little Glen crèche provides fun for kids.”

AA Wine Award (Scotland) 2019–20

Castle Terrace Restaurant

AA Hospitality Awards

Castle Terrace, Edinburgh. (TSPL)

The AA team describe this award as: “introduced in 1998, this award recognises and 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.”

Joel Bastian, Group Head Sommelier at Castle Terrace Restaurant commented: “Passion, curiosity and hard work always pays off.”

An AA Inspector said of Castle Terrace Restaurant wine list: “A beautifully laid out list that is really accessible and easy to read.

“Whilst leaning towards French wines, overall it is nicely balanced with a strong New World selection.

“Vintage selections were excellent, pricing appropriate and great magnum selection. A list packed full of Interest.”

AA Pub of the Year (Scotland) 2019–20

Meikleour Arms

This popular country estate inn has boutique accommodation and welcomes both locals and visitors who come to the area for fishing and shooting.

On the menu, guests will find dishes made with quality local produce, an ethos that continues in the bar, which serves the inn’s own real ale as well as an extensive range of wines and spirits.

Claire Mercer Nairne, owner of the Meikleour Arms commented: “We could not dream of winning such a coveted award!

“Giving a new lease of life to a rural Scottish country pub has been a marvellous journey for our team and now attending a prestigious event in Mayfair to collect an award recognising our hard work is just surreal. The AA Quality standard is the highest in the industry and we are so honoured and over-joyed.”

An AA inspector said of Meikleour Arms Public House: “The inn’s own Lure of Meikleour real ale inhabits the bar, as does an extensive wine list; with one of the pub’s owners coming from Bordeaux expect some good clarets, as well as wines from off-the-beaten-track vineyards elsewhere.

“Eat in the traditional flagstone-floored bar, the woodland-themed stone barn, the more intimate private dining room, or in the garden.

“The restaurant serves country food, including venison from estate woods, beef from Aberdeenshire, white fish from the East Coast, mussels from Shetland and rod-caught trout from local lochs.”

The full list of all UK winners can be found here.

About The Author

Rosalind Erskine

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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