2015 Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards, Midland Hotel, Manchester

Big winners for the evening were The Art School Restaurant Liverpool who won Lancashire Life Restaur

Big winners for the evening were The Art School Restaurant Liverpool who won Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year and also North West Chef of the Year for Paul Askew. Photographed here is award sponsor for Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year Marc Gough, Whitehouse Event Crockery with Katie Donnelly, Daniela Hernandez, Paul Askew, Nathan Booth, Samantha Pittman and Richard Grierson - Credit: Archant

The county’s culinary elite descended on Manchester’s Midland Hotel for the prestigious Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards. Emma Mayoh reports

The Lancashire Life and Cheshire Life Chef of the Year, Paul Askew, of The Art School, Liverpool, re

The Lancashire Life and Cheshire Life Chef of the Year, Paul Askew, of The Art School, Liverpool, receiving his award from Paul Robinson of sponsors, Robinson's Brewery, with host, Melissa Porter - Credit: Archant

Paul Askew has spent much of his career in fine dining restaurants and the hospitality industry. For more than 35 years he worked at prestigious venues as well as being a former director and chef of Hope Street Hotel and The London Carriage Works Restaurant in Liverpool. He also has a string of awards, a huge following of chefs who look up to him and diners who adore his food. His career has been a resounding success. But when he was named North West Chef of the Year at the Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards, it was a special moment.

‘I know I have been around for a long time but these kinds of things don’t get any less surprising,’ said Paul. ‘I don’t do my job for awards but it is incredibly nice and amazing to be appreciated. Wow, I can’t believe it. I’m in utter shock.’

It wasn’t the only award the 49-year-old chef patron received at the glittering ceremony held at The Midland Hotel in Manchester. The Art School Restaurant, the new venture he launched last year, was named Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year. Paul had so much faith in his new business that he mortgaged his house to help pay for the restaurant, which is located in what was Liverpool University’s sculpture and life drawing room in Sugnall Street. Not only did he want a new challenge, he also wanted to showcase and celebrate the changing tastes and fantastic food in Liverpool and the North.

‘To get the Restaurant of the Year award is not only great for me,’ he said. ‘But more importantly, for the guys who make up our incredible team. To see their faces when we were announced as the winner was just magical. They will be celebrating for some time.

‘Now, we can’t just rest on our laurels. Of course, we’ll have that celebration. But tomorrow, we will be back in the restaurant, doing the best for our diners.’

There were cheers when the Parkers Arms was named Lancashire Life Dining Pub of the Year. Chef-patron Stosie Madi and her business partner Kathy Smith have brought the good times back to this lovely rural inn, taking the area’s rich bounty of produce and producing modern, sophisticated food in a relaxed setting. They have earned the respect of everyone from the droves of diners who make the journey to Newton-in-Bowland to high profile food critics including Jay Rayner.

Ben Rushworth and Kathy Smith of the Parkers Arms

Ben Rushworth and Kathy Smith of the Parkers Arms - Credit: Archant

Kathy, who was there to collect the award, said: ‘This means an awful lot to us. I can’t believe we’ve done it. We have had other awards but it is ones like this, that are so important locally, that mean so much.

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‘We are all about celebrating the bounty from this wonderful county which is why this award, which is voted for by readers as well as the judges, is just so incredible. It’s the most fantastic thing.’

The Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards is an evening that reveals the county’s shining stars and celebrates the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs. The celebrations could be heard around Manchester’s Midland Hotel at the prestigious annual event, a staple of the North West’s culinary calendar. More than 300 of the region’s culinary elite filled the Deansgate Suite for the gala evening.

Venues were nominated by our readers. The shortlist and winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges comprising Lancashire Life editor Roger Borrell, Cheshire Life editor Louise Taylor, Nick Hatch, chef and lecturer with 35 years in the hospitality and catering industry, highly regarded food consultant Rosemary Watts, Trevor Stone, who headed the AstraZeneca catering operation and food and drink writer, Ray King.

Other winners included Linthwaite House Hotel which was named Lake District Hotel of the Year, Fazenda, which won the Manchester Restaurant of the Year award and Booths who took home the prize for North West Independent Retailer of the Year.

There were celebrations from the Northcote team, after the Langho Michelin-starred venue was named Lancashire Life Hotel Restaurant of the Year. The restaurant has had a complete makeover, along with the rest of this famous country house hotel, but the quality of the cooking hasn’t changed. There is outstanding food and service from Nigel Haworth, Craig Bancroft, Lisa Allen and the team.

Another winner was The Old Stamp House in Ambleside. The stunning venue, located in the former workplace of poet William Wordsworth, had been shortlisted for an award once before. But this year the popular restaurant took home the Lake District Life Dining Excellence of the Year accolade.

Craig Jackson and Cilla Lowe from Northcote, Blackburn celebrated the win of Lancashire Life Hotel R

Craig Jackson and Cilla Lowe from Northcote, Blackburn celebrated the win of Lancashire Life Hotel Restaurant of the Year (photographed here with award sponsor Simon Howarth, Total Foodservice) - Credit: Archant

It was founded in 2014 by award-winning chef, Ryan Blackburn, who has worked at prestigious Lakeland dining venues including Holbeck Ghyll and Cottage in the Wood in Whinlatter. It was the fine dining restaurant that Ambleside had been waiting for. Together Ryan, and his two brothers Craig and David, are creating an unrivalled reputation for top quality food in a superb location. They also showcase top local ingredients including Cartmel Valley Game and fish from Whitehaven.

Craig, who is 32 and runs front-of-house, said: ‘It’s fantastic to have won. It’s been a great year for us and this is the perfect ending.

‘Last time we were shortlisted we didn’t win and Ryan came home empty-handed. We’ll be very happy to let him know we won this time.’

Another Lake District winner was Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread which was named Lancashire Life Food Hero of the Year. The now iconic Lakeland treat was invented in 1854 by Victorian creator cook Sarah Nelson, who mixed and baked her spicy-sweet chewy concoction inside her Church Cottage home – now The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. Today, it is Andrew and Joanne Hunter who are the proud custodians of the renowned company.

Joanne said: ‘Grasmere Gingerbread has always been a big part of my life. I was weaned on gingerbread, no joke. We are very proud to work hard to keep Sarah Nelson’s fantastic product alive.

‘It feels great to win an award like this. Sarah Nelson was very humble and working class. She worked really hard. For us, it is about preserving something and winning an award like this, in Sarah’s name, is just unbelievable.’

All the winners were presented with the coveted Lancashire Life Food and Drink awards plaques to display as well as celebratory Montelvini magnums of prosecco. But no one left empty handed as all those shortlisted also took home commemorative plates. There was also £1,905 raised for Jump Children’s Charity who deliver unique services to families with children with life-limiting illnesses.


All the winners of the 2015 Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards



To start

Kiln roast salmon from Patchwork Pate, pickled beetroot, smoked salmon, cold and hot and dill fluid gel

Served with Frederico Collezione Pinot Grigio or Dizzy Blonde ale


To continue

Braised Grassroots beef, pearl barley, boudin blanc, confit carrot, wild mushrooms and cavolo nero

Served with Casarena Malbec Roble or Unicorn bitter


To finish

Destiny Foods dark chocolate tart, Mrs Dowson’s pear drop ice cream and poached pear William

Served with Ginger Tom dark ale


A taste of Orson handmade cheeses and Butlers Farmhouse cheeses


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