HomeFeatures#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…
#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

After 10 categories and 78 nominations; the re-evaluation of review marks and the tallying of scores; plenty of head scratching, debating and squabbling; and the end of a financially testing year – it all comes down to this.

Here are the results of #FtLionAwards 2022 (huge thanks to our sponsors and the UK’s leading fully Halal premium beverage company Azanti – Sober Lifestyle)

#FtLionAwards 2022 Shortlist...


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: RIBEYE, Manchester
Runner-up: CONA, Bradford

Ribeye Steakhouse Halal wagyu steaks First Street Manchester

Ribeye’s aesthetics could not be overlooked

Last year was different to all previous years with three London restaurants – namely Colonel Saab, Heritage, and Ramo Ramen – being rated 5/5 in a single year in comparison to just four in the previous three years.

And though 2022 has gone one better with four restaurants achieving the feat, three of these are located – thanks to our extensive tours of Birmingham, Manchester, and Bradford – outside the capital.

While there was very little to choose from between Manchester’s Ribeye steakhouse and Pitmaster smokehouse, as well Bradford’s Cona steakhouse and London’s Putera Puteri by Malay Fellas, the final decision came down to details that went beyond just the menu, such as the restaurant’s aesthetics, price, service, and the number of items shortlisted for this year’s awards.

Cona Halal Bradford fine dining Wagyu Steak restaurant

Cona’s meat selection is second to none!

Although Pitmaster was recognised as the “benchmark by which all other Halal BBQ smokehouses will be judged from this point on”, and Malay Fellas at Putera Puteri for having “collectively set down a benchmark for Malaysian cuisine in the capital”, ultimately Ribeye’s and Cona’s more rounded menu was the deciding factor in setting them apart.

Both steakhouses are formidable in their own right, with extremely well-crafted menus which, for us, set a precedence for not just fully Halal steakhouses, but fully Halal restaurants across the country.

In as much as Cona’s selection of premium meats trumps that of Ribeye’s, the latter has two over the former with its more elaborate menu and aesthetical setup.

While Cona has won ‘Best Veggie’, ‘Best Main’, and ‘Best Dessert’ in relation to Ribeye’s ‘Best Beverage’ and ‘Best Starter’, we couldn’t overlook both the scope and grandeur of the latter’s, and its staggering 11 menu items being shortlisted in six of the ten categories in comparison to Cona’s seven.

As such, #FtLionAwards ‘Best Restaurant’ 2022 goes to Manchester’s Ribeye steakhouse.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Runner-up: HONG KONG, London

Harith & Shubli all smiles at Putera Puteri

The talented team of Harith and Shubli, who go by the name Malay Fellas, really impressed us with their vibrant style of cooking. The flavours they managed to deliver from the seemingly simple staples of Malaysia told us everything we needed to know, that these guys were seriously talented.

And that was further proven by their curries, which managed to deliver those punchy flavours while remaining superbly balanced.

Rating them 5/5, they revealed to us just how incredibly good Malaysian cuisine truly can be by laying down a high bar for all others to aspire towards.

And, of course, having partnered up with Putera Puteri in London’s Queensway, they’ve put this relatively obscure cafe firmly on the map by winning #FtLionAwards ‘Best Newcomer’ 2022.

Hong Kong Restaurant Halal Chinese Cantonese London Islington

Halal authentic Chinese at Hong Kong

The runner-up award goes to Hong Kong in London’s Islington. Rated 4.5/5, this is the only Chinese restaurant in the capital to offer a fully Halal food menu.

What makes it even more distinct is the fact that its Chinese owner, although not a Muslim himself, wanted to serve authentic Chinese cuisine but without excluding the Muslim community.

Hence, he took the bold decision of presenting some classic Chinese dishes as Halal, while trying to keep as close to the original dishes as possible.

Ironically, its more innovative dish, the Mango Golden Floss Prawn, was voted runner-up in the ‘Best Starter’ category.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: CONA – Vanilla Cheesecake
Runner-up: TAGG LANE DAIRY – Gelato Ice Cream

Having exhausted praise, superlatives and adjectives for this year’s ‘Best Restaurant’ runner-up, Cona‘s dessert is only one of many reasons why it is the legendary place it is.

Tagg lane dairy Ice Cream Gelateria cafe Peak District Award Winning raw milk farm

Tagg Lane Dairy’s award-winning gelato ice cream

Before anything else, however, allow us to allay your initial doubts over the fact that this year’s dessert of the year is, indeed, a cheesecake.

This is no ordinary cheesecake, because chef and owner Armi Ahmed doesn’t do ordinary. This utilises the very two techniques used for making cheesecakes, viz. baked and set, by combining both in a way where, according to Armi, “no one’s ever really done [] before”.

Taking six months to develop, the secret to its silky-smooth texture, where the cheese dissolved on the palate, is the ratio of the two, with 30% set and 70% baked. The end result is hands-down the best cheesecake we’ve ever had.

As for the runner-up, then, again, it was always ever going to be the best gelato ice cream we’ve reviewed.

Produced by Tagg Lane Dairy, owner Jack’s farm in the Peak District, which has been streamlined with high tech equipment for the production of his multi-award winning gelato ice cream, has a massive 60 flavours courtesy of his pedigree Jersey cows.

The result was an ultra-smooth produce whose texture was unlike any. To date, while their range has won a 2-star Great Taste Award, in all, they’ve secured a staggering 15. Worth the travel for the stunning landscape too.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: DRUNCH – Scottish Fillet Steak
Runner-up: PITMASTER – 8-Hour Smoked Ribs

There were so many great choices this year when it came to ‘Best Grill’, ranging from the wagyus steaks to the various grilled platters and chops.

Pitmaster smokehouse Halal Manchester restaurant

Pitmaster’s epic 8-Hour Slow Smoked Ribs

But what makes Drunch‘s 21 Day Dry Aged Scottish Fillet in London’s Fitzrovia the winner is the masterclass in the art of cooking a steak.

No one on earth could have cooked this 8oz thing of beauty, rare to medium rare, like the maestro on the grill did that evening.

Seasoned with sea salt, this was an extraordinarily delicious piece of umami goodness which, as we commented at the time, “trumped some of the wagyu steaks we’ve tried this year; and that’s saying something”.

Pitmaster smokehouse in Manchester would have won this award any other day. Their 8-hour slow, smoked ribs are the best smoked ribs had.

This thick piece of deeply-flavoured, smoky beef was practically oozing juices from every pour and crevice; and we couldn’t get enough of it.

Served with a number of sides that included a choice of side, salad and sauces, this will be remembered with fondness.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: PITMASTER – Smoked Brisket Melt
Runner-up: HONEST BURGERS – Buffalo

This category isn’t just a popular one, but always a difficult one to call. This year, however, we were unanimous that Pitmaster‘s Smoked Brisket Melt surpassed all others.

Honest Burgers London Liverpool Street Halal chicken burger

Honest Burger’s premium chicken the deciding factor

Here the tangy gherkins combined with the heat of the jalapeños and that deliciously gooey cheese sauce helped elevate this to an award-winning burger.

We even appreciated the touch of brilliance in leaving the slice of Monterey Jack cheese uncooked so as to ensure that its distinct sweet-piquant taste filtered through with every bite.

Honest Burgers are a well-known brand that require little introduction. This year, their nationwide rollout of Halal, free-range chicken paid off with some spectacular burgers, which included this Buffalo.

Boasting a crispy-cum-crunchy buttermilk exterior, with a buffalo sauce as fragrantly tangy as this, we knew we were on to an end-of-year contender. And so it proved. In the end, quality speaks for itself.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: DUCK & NOODLE – Spectacular Sea Bass
Runner-up: TARRAGON BISTRO – Scallops

Duck & Noodle in London’s Bayswater has been taken over by the owners of the Malaysian restaurant Bonda Kitchen.

Tarragon Bistro Mediterranean Halal Restaurant Steakhouse Wagyu Birmingham Hall Green

Tarragon’s scallops: a thing of beauty

As a result, they’ve added some dishes from that part of the world, which includes this Spectacular Sea Bass.

Our euphoria was only amplified after tucking in, with the herbacious, crispy-battered skin easily giving away to the moist and delicate flesh beneath.

The mildly spicy, relatively coarse sambal chilli paste guaranteed both an additional textural profile, as well as a touch of acidity.

Tarragon Bistro served us a starter which, despite that fact, deserved being runner-up for being so perfectly executed.

These dreamily tender beauties, pan seared in a buttery residue, were served in a seashell and paired with a lightly spiced purée of butternut squash, whose heat was satisfyingly countered by the sweet sourness of the raspberry salsa (complete with the seeds too).


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: CONA – Sunday Lunch
Runner-up: ALAM – Sunday Roast

Cona follow up their dessert win with this truly astounding Sunday Lunch elevated by the addition of Japanese A1 Wagyu Sirloin wagyu.

Sunday Roast Alam The Courtyard Birmingham Halal restaurant Coventry Road

Alam’s stonking Sunday Roast

Being “the only restaurant in the country to serve” it this way, says owner Armi, this was made better by potatoes that were cooked in the wagyu’s fat, a skillet full of wagyu bone marrow, as well as thin slices of perfectly pink wagyu meat for contrastive purposes.

Add to that seasoned vegetables, smoked cauliflower purée, cavolo nero (a type of kale), green beans, heritage carrots, mashed potato with chicken skin, and, of course, being in Yorkshire, proper Yorkshire pudding, and this was a life-transformative meal worthy of ‘Best Main’ 2022.

Birmingham’s Alam served us this Sunday Roast, which comes with either Chicken “Poussin”, fresh Scottish Salmon, or the free-range Lamb Shank.

Sadly, while this was always going to come up second best against Cona’s, it was brilliantly put together. Whatever choice you opt for, know that the chicken turned out succulent; the oven-baked salmon near-translucent with a crispy exterior; and the slow-simmered lamb shank offering the perfect ratio of meat to fattiness. You won’t go wrong.

Add to that the whispy soft combination of roast and sweet potatoes, as well as parsnips, honey tomatoes on the vine, and plenty of gravy to boot; and this is worth travelling for.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

WINNER: CONA Enoki Mushroom
Runner-up: ROYAL SHEZAN – Karare Sabz

There are some restaurants that give as much attention to their vegetable dishes as they do their meat-based ones. Here again Cona takes the honours by living up to its motto of “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

Royal Shezan Halal Indian restaurant Hotel 55 London Ealing Broadway

Chef Anand at his playful best with this Karare Sabz

This Enoki Mushroom, whose soothingly creamy truffle-based sauce progressed onto the soft enoki mushrooms, before ending in a very generous grating of vegetarian parmesan, was on another level.

The full experience here was completed by the marriage of the layers of umami goodness with the earthy flavours of the crispy dehydrated rocket leaves and plentiful shavings of fresh truffle from Italy. In short, unlike anything we’ve had in quite some time.

Chef K.K. Anand of Indian restaurant Royal Shezan in London’s boutique, 4-star Hotel 55 is a very talented cook. With decades worth of experience behind him, he knows that which we mere mortals don’t, that putting onions rings together with pan-fried asparagus on a bed of yoghurt-based pachdi will work.

A seemingly simple plate; but one where the uber crunchy onion rings, drizzled in a lightly spicy sauce, provide the earthy sweetness necessary to work against the gentle piquancy of the textured pachdi.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Runner-up: HONG KONG – Mango Golden Floss Prawn

When we were served these Beef Ribs by Ribeye, we couldn’t believe this was a starter.

Hong Kong Restaurant Halal Chinese Cantonese London Islington

Hong Kong pull out this innovative dish

With a 24-hour marination process followed by an 8-hour cooking time, we went so far as to record at the time: “We’d go so far as to say that these were some of the best we’ve ever had!”

In addition to how amazingly balanced the marination was – the touch of heat underscoring a smoky, honey-sweet glaze that was finger-lickingly sticky – the ribs were barbecued precisely to ensure that not only would the meat fall off at the merest glance, but the fat was beautifully rendered, with crispy edges that had nicely caught here and there.

When you’re thinking authetic Halal Chinese, you wouldn’t expect a restaurant to serve this innovative Mango Golden Floss Prawn dish.

But our runner-up for ‘Best Newcomer’ Hong Kong invented this one where, when these deep fried prawns were taken down in one, turned out tender, yet covered in an almost viscous, mellow-sweet mango glaze, with the crispy crunch of the vermicelli noodles offering that textural contrast.


#FtLionAwards 2022 WINNERS…

(Shortlisted Nominees)

Runner-up: IL BEBO’S Avo-Go-Go

In taking ‘Best Beverage’ 2022, Ribeye prove how well-rounded their menu is, with this tremendous Ribeye Red.

Il Bibo's Wood Green Hounslow London Halal Meditation Italian Brunch restaurant

Il Bebo’s Avo-Go-Go at the front

It just goes to show that if you place as much emphasis on your drinks as you do your food, it makes one heck of a difference in the long run.

While all three of their beverages were amazing, the smooth and fragrant Ribeye Red did its city’s namesake proud, with the sweetness of the honey giving way to the zingy, almost eye squinting, richness of peach and lime.

Italian-inspired restaurant Il Bebo’s in London’s Wood Green offer a well-rounded menu too. Their smoothies were particularly superb though, turning out not just smooth in texture, but also full of flavour.

The delicious Avo-Go-Go and its hint of mango didn’t just make this gentle in its sweetness, but also gave it a complexity of flavour that was astoundingly good, making it our runner-up to complete this year’s #FtLionAwards.

Finally, the winner of Azanti’s 1x Pierre Zero Sparkling White & 4x Smashed Berry Fruit Cider (sent via post) is: Salma Razvi (FB). Congratulations!

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