Restaurant review: The Woodford
PUBLISHED: 15:50 29 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:50 29 July 2016
London’s top restaurant is right on your doorstep
Just three months after opening its doors, The Woodford has scooped the prestigious Laurent-Perrier London Restaurant of the Year, and nobody is more pleasantly surprised than front-of-house manager Will Yarney.
Already nominated for Best Newcomer, both Will and The Woodford’s head chef, Ben Murphy, weren’t expecting judges to pit them against more established London eateries for best restaurant. Will says: ‘We never thought we’d be put forward so soon after launching so to actually win, and with a public vote, was more than we could of hoped for, it’s just amazing.’
Will and Ben studied together, then worked alongside each other at Koffman’s before their careers took them on separate paths. While Ben went on to work in Michelin starred restaurants in London, Paris and New York, Will worked at the infamous Fat Duck then turned his focus to the bar industry.
He was assistant bar manager at the Shard’s Shangri La hotel when Ben approached him with The Woodford vision, a fine dining restaurant with a relaxed and playful vibe.
Will says he had little hesitation joining The Woodford team. ‘There aren’t many occasions when people come along and offer you in on a project from the ground up,’ he explains. ‘It was a great opportunity which gave me a creative freedom that isn’t necessarily available in established or multi-national businesses.
‘To be part of bringing a vision to life has been a lot of hard work, but I love a challenge and it’s definitely paid off.’
Will says his role is about ensuring customers don’t just remember the food, but also the people who looked after them. He explains: “Front of house isn’t just about technical skills, it’s about the personal touch, making people feel special and making sure they have a good experience.
‘When it comes to recruitment, I always look for people with personality and the ability to engage. We can teach them about wine and food, but that knack for understanding people is a gift.’
It’s that level of service, coupled with an innovative menu of modern European cuisine, that has drawn people out to The Woodford, an elegant Grade II listed building in E18, rather than the established hub of fine dining in West London. But, as Will says, the industry is changing. ‘You’re no longer restricted to that hub of Mayfair and Knightsbridge. You can find amazing restaurants in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green.
‘The era of the celebrity chef has brought people closer to food, they have a much clearer idea of what they want. Fine dining is no longer just for foodies, it’s for everyone, and that’s in-keeping with The Woodford’s approach.
‘We want to move away from the formality and pretension. Our food, and service, is innovative, cheeky and a little bit playful. We aim to put the fun into fine dining.”
At just 24, Will’s CV is impressive but he’s no doubt that The Woodford is the highlight of his career so far. He says: ‘If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be opening an award-winning restaurant with an old friend, I’d have said no way but I’m loving every minute.’
159 High Road, South Woodford E18 2PA. 020 8504 5952