tom parker white swan in fence

With the Vision Style Awards well and truly back with a bang, the competition this year has opened up to include venues from across Europe to ensure those with the most stylish restaurants, bars, spas, hotels, B&Bs and healthcare villages are recognised for the striking design choices they make.

Our second judge, Chef and star of The Great British Menu, Tom Parker, is no stranger to a stunning restaurant interior. After writing to world-renowned Lancashire chef Nigel Haworth, Tom worked alongside him and under Great British Menu champion, Lisa Allen.

At the tender age of 21 he was awarded Young Chef of the Year and went on to become the youngest ever sous chef at Northcote, one of Nigel’s Michelin-starred restaurants. From there, he worked for a period of time in Mexico before moving back to the UK and becoming the head chef at The White Swan at Fence; a village pub which has recently just won the accolade of appearing in the Estrella Dam Top 50 UK Gastropubs as well as earning itself two AA Rosettes.

We caught up with Tom to discover what he’ll be looking for in the style stakes this year…

Tom, tell us a little bit about yourself.

To put it simply, I’m a chef and owner of the restaurant the White Swan in Fence. All I do is just work hard and put good food on a plate! I love food so it’s a very easy job for me – I’ve worked in some fantastic restaurants both in England and overseas and I’m lucky to be able to continue my passion each day.

What made you decide to be a judge this year?

I’ve never been a judge before so it’s quite a nice achievement and I’m also keen to recognise and reward venues for their style skills.

Do you think the style of the restaurant is as important as the food?

Of course. There’s no point in serving brilliant food in a restaurant that looks like McDonalds. The style of the restaurant has to link in with what food gets put on the plate. The design and the food create the whole experience of the restaurant setting.

Do you think the style of a restaurant is powerful in influencing someone to eat there?

Massively! People want to be seen somewhere that looks good before they’ve even had a chance to sample the food. Nobody wants to eat in somewhere that looks like a dump.

What do you think will be some key design trends across hospitality over the next 12 months?

In terms of restaurants, I think that all-day and casual dining is quite big at the moment. People are looking for somewhere that offers homely comforts but also provides a space they can eat at any time of day – it needs to be welcoming and accessible. I think stuffy restaurants and dining venues are slowly taking a back seat.

I also think that, certainly in terms of pubs, the design has typically been quite aged, dark and dusty, in a sense. Gastro pubs and casual dining venues are becoming more light and airy and even the typical pub that we’re used to seeing is introducing different food and drink selections such as speciality cocktails alongside the traditional ales.

What do you think that will set an entry apart from the rest this year?

I’ll be looking for somewhere where everything just ‘fits’. It’s hard to say exactly but when the food and quality match the front of house, it’s clear that it all works and it creates an inviting atmosphere.

What do you personally look at first when stepping into a restaurant?

I usually check to see how busy it is. If you’ve got bums on seats then that’s a sure fire way to see that the venue is doing something right. Also, I tend to steer clear of massively modern and white establishments. I hate the feeling of being under a spotlight whilst you’re eating so the decor is the next thing I look at.

 

Do you have the most stylish hospitality venue in Europe? Vision are looking for spas, bars, restaurants, B&Bs, self catering accommodation, holiday lets, serviced apartments and hotels to enter the 2017 Vision Style Awards.

Entry to the Awards is absolutely free of charge and we’ve got a huge 12 categories to choose from. Will you be crowned one of our winners and win a double-page spread in the coveted Style Guide?