2014 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, Hilton Deansgate, Manchester
- Credit: Archant
The county’s culinary champions descended on Manchester’s Hilton Hotel for the prestigious Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards
Marc Wilkinson’s doctor won’t be pleased. The chef-owner of Wirral’s Restaurant Fraiche is recovering from knee surgery but when John Carr, one of his staff, rang to tell him he had won Cheshire Life Restauarant of the Year he was jumping up and down.
John, who was there to accept the award for Marc, said: ‘My phone call won’t have done much for his knees but he was absolutely made up and I’m really happy I was able to collect this honour for him.
‘I feel really proud of everyone. It will be business as usual tomorrow because we all work so hard but we will all be happy.’
It has been quite a month for Marc, who launched the small cover restaurant ten years ago. As well as the Cheshire Life gong, Fraiche was also named top on the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. The restaurant, which has a waiting list of several months, is also the only Wirral place to have a Michelin star and Marc has retained this accolade for eight consecutive years.
John said: ‘Marc works very hard and you’ll always find him at the restaurant. A Cheshire Life award is the kind of award Marc really wanted.’
There were plenty of cheers and even a few tears from the team at Mr Cooper’s House at The Midland Hotel who took the Manchester Restaurant of the Year title. The restaurant, the second to be launched by Simon Rogan at the famous city centre hotel, opened last year to enthusiastic acclaim. But to be named the best in the city was an exciting achievement, they said.
Gareth Jones, head chef at Mr Cooper’s, was struggling to hold back the tears when the news was announced.
He said: ‘It’s fantastic. To be able to say that in 2014 we won this award is fantastic. This is the one you want to win, and we did it. It’s recognition for the whole team and for the work we do. We’ll be on the phone to Simon to let him know. He’ll be really pleased. I’m just really happy.’
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The Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards is a glamorous event that reveals the county’s shining stars and celebrates the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs. More than 300 of the region’s culinary elite filled the Deansgate Suite at the Hilton for the gala evening.
The shortlist were chosen by a panel of independent judges comprising Cheshire Life editor Louise Allen-Taylor, Lancashire Life editor Roger Borrell, highly regarded food consultant Rosemary Watts, Trevor Stone, who headed the AstraZeneca catering operation, food and drink writer, Ray King and Lancashire Life’s cookery editor Philippa James, who also runs a cookery school.
Other delighted winners included the Alderley Edge Hotel which was awarded the prize for North West Afternoon Tea of the Year, The Yew Tree Inn at Bunbury who were named Cheshire Life Traditional Dining Pub and De Vere Mottram Hall Hotel which was declared Cheshire Life Hotel of the Year. Plas Bodegroes, a charming country house owned by Chris and Gunna Chown in Pwllheli, received the North Wales Dining Excellence accolade.
Spire, a fantastic restaurant near Liverpool’s Penny Lane, run by brothers Adam and Matt Locke and was awarded Liverpool Restaurant of the Year. Diners have been clamouring for a table at the neighbourhood venue since it opened eight years ago and their food earns rave reviews. They are also food consultants for the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
Matt, former head chef at London Carriageworks, said: ‘We’re really pleased, surprised and very, very happy. It’s something that’s not just for us but for all of the team who are working while we are here.
‘We’re going to go straight back now, open the champagne and celebrate with them all. They deserve to be a part of it because they have helped win this award.’
It was a particularly special night for Mary-Ellen McTague, chef owner of popular Prestwich restaurant, Aumbry. The talented 36-year-old started her career at the Sharrow Bay Hotel and has worked in America as well as at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray and Ramsons in Ramsbottom. She then launched Aumbry in two cottages that had been knocked through and will soon be announcing plans for a second restaurant in Manchester city centre. She was named North-West Chef of the Year.
But the biggest surprise of the night was for Martyn Weeks, head brewer at Robinsons Brewery. Martyn, who has worked for the Stockport brewery for four years following stints at Whitbread and Cains, was named Cheshire Life Food & Drink Hero. He has been involved in the development and success of several brews for Robinsons including the hugely popular Trooper, a British beer created and marketed in conjunction with real ale enthusiast and Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson.
He said: ‘I’m absolutely gobsmacked. No one told me about this. I thought I was just coming here for a nice evening. I can’t believe I’ve been given this award.
‘Robinsons is a wonderful place to work, it’s a great business, it’s so rewarding and I love every day. I just can’t believe the work I do has been recognised like this, it’s a real honour. ’
All winners were presented with Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards display plaques and champagne. But no-one left empty handed - all those shortlisted took home commemorative plates.
A raffle, with prizes including a holiday, a luxury trip in a hot air balloon and a tour for ten people around Robinsons Brewery, also raised £3,500 for Jump Children’s Charity who deliver unique services to families with children with life limiting illnesses.
Meet the winners
Cheshire Life Hotel of the Year
De Vere Mottram Hall, Mottram St Andrew
Sponsored by Joseph Heler Cheese
Cheshire Life Traditional Dining Pub
The Yew Tree Inn, Bunbury
Sponsored by Stephensons
Cheshire Life Food and Drink Hero
Martyn Weeks, Robinsons Brewery
Sponsored by Greycoat Lumleys
Liverpool Restaurant of the Year
Sponsored by Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses
North Wales Dining Excellence
Plas Bodegroes, Pwllheli
Sponsored by RFW
Manchester Restaurant on the Year
Mr Cooper’s House, The Midland Hotel
Sponsored by Whitehouse Crockery
North West Afternoon Tea of the Year
Alderley Edge Hotel, Alderley Edge
Sponsored by The Linen Group
Cheshire Life Restaurant of the Year
Restaurant Fraiche, Oxton
Sponsored by Hunters Gin
Chef of the Year
Mary Ellen Mc-Tague, Aumbry, Prestwich
Sponsored by Robinsons Brewery
Smoked haddock bon bon, chilli, coriander and garlic smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, horseradish and crème fraiche
Chicken saltimbocca with parmentier, roast aubergine puree, courgette, confit tomato and marsala jus
Black Forest and kirsch cherry torte served with Mrs Dowson’s ice cream
A taste of cheese
A selection of Kidderton Ash, Traditional Lancashire, Blacksticks Blue, Winston, Woodrew and Grace. Supplied by Butler’s Farmhouse Cheeses and Joseph Heler Cheese.