2019 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards - the shortlists

2019 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards

2019 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards - Credit: Archant

The judges of Cheshire Life’s Food & Drink Awards unveil their shortlist for this year’s event, with the winners to be declared at a glamorous black tie ceremony at at Nunsmere Hall on Monday 15th July.

Welcome to this year's veritable feast of gastronomic inspiration, the Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards 2019. We've spent months tasting, testing and trying to whittle down the very best of Cheshire's food scene - the restaurants, pubs, chefs, producers and retailers - to the following shortlist of 30 outstanding finalists.

Firstly, we want to say congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist. While it feels like a cliché to say that simply being nominated is accolade enough, to be leading the charge in a county with such a distinguished and ever-evolving culinary culture is quite an achievement. And to our second point - dear reader, if you haven't already, then pay these places a visit. They have made it on to this list simply by virtue of being the best. From the classic establishments that never fail to impress to the contemporary newbies making a stir; their quality, originality and innovation make for an outstanding experience.

We still have a few weeks until we'll be crowning the winners at our glittering awards ceremony at Nunsmere Hall on Monday 15th July. Want us to know who you'd vote for? Then let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #CLfoodawards

And watch out for the winner announcements on the night. In the meantime, read on, salivate and make a reservation ASAP.



32 By The Hollies, Tarporley

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Last year this family-run business, best known for its mouth-watering offerings in The Hollies Farm Shop in Little Budworth, launched its own restaurant with rooms in an old bank building in Tarporley. 32 By The Hollies is the perfect addition to the village and boasts the very best seasonal and local produce with private dining available in the old bank vault.

We ate: Whipped goats cheese, steak and flavour-packed gnocchi.

We say: We were bowled over by its low-key, luxury-in-the-countryside allure and farm-to-fork flavours.



Next Door, Frodsham

Owned by a chef and a sommelier team, Frodsham's cosy Next Door focusses on modern British cuisine. And with owner Vicki's dad running the local butcher's a few doors down, you can guarantee the meat is always fresh! Her chef husband Richard combines it with local seasonal ingredients to create an ever-changing menu.

We ate: Asparagus salad with lemon and vanilla; Cheshire pork belly and loin; banana and chocolate crumble.

We say: A bijous menu served in quaint surroundings - a small offering that's big on flavour and charm.



Parea, Alderley Edge

Last summer, businesswoman and footballer's wife Chantelle Heskey opened the doors to Parea. It has since been attracting the cream of the Cheshire set, with glitz and glamour being the order of the day. The Alderley Edge restaurant recently teamed up with Zumu to launch a pan-Asian menu. But people don't just come for the food; it's a place to be seen too.

We ate: Salmon sushi tacos, duck gyoza, tuna sashimi, lamb rendang.

We say: A stylish restaurant offering tasty, fresh Asian dishes and a new dimension to Alderley Edge's scene.




Bombay to Mumbai, Bramhall

The friendly staff are on hand to guide you through the menu and with Indo-Chinese starters, popular street food dishes, and authentic curries to discover, you'll be spoilt for choice. If you can't decide, put your trust into owner Sandeep, whose passion for Indian food and culture will ensure the perfect culinary journey.

We ate: Panipuri, tandoori prawns, mixed vegetable Kolhapuri and their delightful 'sweety platter'.

We say: This is as authentic as Indian street food gets outside the sub-continent. A much needed addition to Cheshire's scene.



Kala, Manchester

With the likes of Sticky Walnut and Hispi already under his belt, it's no surprise that Gary Usher's latest crowd-funded venture, Kala, received huge support. The Manchester city-centre bistro features a sleek bar downstairs, with dining room upstairs. And with bar snacks as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, it's there whatever time you drop from your shop.

We ate: Chicken liver pâté, sea bream fillet and the best chips ever!

We say: A richly inventive menu, impeccable wine selection and superb service. Down-to-earth Usher has hit dizzy heights again.



Panache, Poynton

As well as offering modern British cuisine, tapas dishes and afternoon tea, this swanky bar and restaurant comes alive at the weekends with live music on Saturdays. Throw in a comprehensive gin menu and some sparkling cocktails, and there really doesn't seem to be a reason to leave!

We ate: Halloumi fries in chipotle sauce, chateaubriand to share, Oreo cheesecake.

We say: Delivers far more than expected from a neighbourhood restaurant, from the sliced-like-butter steak to the top-notch Pornstar Martini. A great option for weekend fun.




Miss Marmalades, Nantwich

Not one to save for a calorie-counting day, the quirky Miss Marmalades café specialises in 'freakshakes'. The name makes sense once you set eyes on these masterpieces. Milkshakes stacked high with cream, ice cream, sauce, sprinkles, donuts and cake; they're a slight distraction to the rest of the menu, which includes salads, toasties and sandwiches.

We ate: A vegan roasted vegetable and pear chutney toastie. Our freakshake? Salted caramel with a pretzel and donut topping.

We say: A quirky vintage café with a small but interesting menu and good vegan options. Fresh, homemade and very tasty.



Café Bar Arighi, Macclesfield

Whether you're in need of a new sofa from Arighi Bianchi or not, it's worth making the trip to Café Bar Arighi. Not your average furniture store café, the sophisticated Italian-inspired menu offers everything from homemade cakes to king prawn linguine, using the freshest local ingredients. The perfect spot for a mid-shop treat.

We ate: Salmon and prawn fishcakes, homemade cheesecake, G&T

We say: You might come for the sofas but you'll stay for the solid selection of recognisable but very well-exectued brasserie-style dishes.



Wild & Wild, Congleton

Having appeared on Homes Under The Hammer, Chris and April Wild have since transformed a property wreck into a thriving vegan café, juice bar and yoga space. Anyone after a bit of self-nourishment can find it all under one roof here, with plates piled high with gorgeous healthy food.

We ate: Marinated tempeh wrap with peanut and miso dressing, cold-pressed cucumber, apple, kale, broccoli and lemon juice.

We say: The quality, taste and presentation of the food is certain to see even the most determined of carnivores return.




The Oddfellows, Mellor

Wood-burning stoves, cask ales and real pub grub. It's easy to see why The Oddies, as it's locally known, has stood the test of time. The 16th- century inn, on the edge of the Peak District, offers the perfect spot for dogs and their walkers to take a break and perhaps indulge in a bar snack or two.

We ate: Chicken liver parfait with red onion chutney, prawn salad, roast rib of beef, mixed fruit crumble.

We say: A good selection of craft beers and freshly cooked food. The rib of beef was some of the best we've had.



The Faulkner, Hoole

Nestled in the vibrant streets of Chester's effortlessly cool corner, Hoole, you'll find The Faulkner. It fits perfectly with its surroundings; serving up cask ales, great British pub food and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. A great space to refuel before heading out to explore the trendy village.

We ate: Bao buns with hoisin pork, whitebait, smoked haddock kedgeree, chicken with potatoes, pea and asparagus broth with wild garlic.

We say: The modern interior and friendly service create a relaxing atmosphere combined with fresh, local quality ingredients.



The Fox and Barrel, Tarporley

Following a recent refurbishment, this welcoming Tarporley family pub is looking better than ever. And the new menu being served from the shiny new state-of-the-art kitchen is top notch. If you can't get enough, they've just launched a loyalty card; what better excuse to treat yourself to a night off the cooking?

We ate: Tempura prawns, roasted cauliflower on aubergine cous cous, treacle tart

We say: As chic as a pub should ever get, the menu is inventive and broad while the atmosphere is sophisticated yet relaxed.



The Sutton Gamekeeper, Macclesfield

For anyone who's keen on learning about their food's journey, James Kennedy of the Sutton Gamekeeper can help. The landlord of this Macclesfield pub goes out and shoots, then butchers, the game that is served at his pub himself. And with an open fire in winter and beer garden for the summer, it's a year-round winner.

We ate: Pigeon, huge Scottish langoustines, queenie scallops, rack of lamb, venison burger.

We say: A great local pub with friendly service. Leave room for the homemade desserts!




FoodWell, Salford

With wellness being the current buzzword, Salford's LA-inspired FoodWell couldn't have come at a better time. The health-focussed restaurant certainly has more to offer than standard salads. If you're in a hurry, the deli is the place to go for a poke bowl. If you have more time, indulge in a nourishing restaurant meal. And, for the full zen experience, head to the yoga studio for a stretch.

We ate: Lemon courgette scallops, cauliflower hot wings, charcuterie (all from the vegan Plannt menu).

We say: The mind, body and soul ethos of this bright, chic restaurant and deli is totally on the zeitgeist.



The Ivy, Manchester

It was Kylie Minogue who first broke the news that London's famous celebrity haunt was opening a restaurant in Manchester and, since then, The Ivy has been attracting nothing but glamour. The brasserie offers all-day dining, built around its buzzing but elegant central bar. Then there's Ivy Asia, serving dishes inspired by east and south-east Asia, and finally the charming roof garden.

We ate: Crispy duck salad, fish and chips, asparagus with truffle hollandaise, polenta cakes.

We say: The Ivy dazzles with its décor and service. It's simply the most glamorous venue in the city.



Mana, Ancoats

The opening of this stunning restaurant was highly anticipated; and chef Simon Martin certainly hasn't disappointed with his inventive menu. Whisperings of Manchester's long-awaited Michelin star being awarded here are no surprise when you sample the 16-course menu put together by Martin's talented team of 12 chefs and served in just 105 minutes.

We ate: The set lunchtime menu with paired wines. Highlights included English tostada, monkfish liver pie, blackcurrant wood oyster.

We say: Beautifully lit space with an eye for detail in both décor and food.



Tast Catala, Manchester

The fine food scene of Catalonia has made its way to King Street with the help of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Catalonian chef Paco Pérez, who teamed up to open Tast last year. Choose from a selection of 'tastets', which are slightly more substantial than tapas dishes and offer an authentic journey through Catalonia's most delicious flavour combinations.

We ate: Calamari with squid ink, slow-cooked lamb, peix and chips.

We say: The cool aesthetic is balanced by warm, informed waiting staff who offer honest and articulate opinions on the dishes being served.




Brasserie at Castell Deudraeth, Portmeirion

Lunching in a castle is the stuff of dreams. Throw in the charming pastel-coloured village of Portmeirion, and you've got yourself a complete fairytale day out. Stone fire surrounds and oak wall panelling complement the atmosphere of the brasserie at Castell Deudraeth perfectly while you peruse the bilingual menu. A two-course lunch comes with a free village pass.

We ate: Its renowned Menai Mussels and perfectly-pink cannon of Welsh beef.

We say: Exceptional Welsh service and delicious, down-to-earth dishes using local produce. A great all-rounder.



Freckled Angel, Menai Bridge

The Freckled Angel has slotted perfectly into Anglesey's ever-growing foodie scene. Mike Jones's experimental side shines through in his fusion British-meets-Spanish tapas. It's the perfect setting to follow Mike's philosophy of creating memories to treasure.

We ate: Sautéed squid, pepper and bean cassoulet, twice-baked Perl Las soufflé, spinach and feta filo pie.

We say: Fun, original, innovative. You can feel the love (and blood, sweat and tears) that has been poured into this small, independent restaurant.



Bwyty Mawddach, Gwynedd

Looking out over Mawddach estuary and the Cader Idris mountain range, the setting of Bwyty Mawddach is as impressive as Head Chef Ifan Dunn's menu. Ifan teamed up with his brother Will to transform an old outhouse on their family farm into a top restaurant. The sibling team

now serves up their own Welsh lamb along with the finest

local produce.

We ate: Slow-cooked lamb layered with potato, pancetta and baked aubergine followed by orange and almond cake.

We say: Fine farm food and the kind of cooking that seems to be in sync with the land. Truly delicious.




The Cheshire Saffron Company, Northwich

What began as a bit of an experiment in his father's shed, soon turned into an award-winning venture for Peter Gould, when he teamed up with his brother Douglas to produce British-grown saffron. The grade-one saffron is harvested and processed by hand, making it a true labour of love for the sibling team.

We say: Yes, saffron is a pricey little spice but the right stuff is worth paying for - and this is the right stuff. It's delicate, flavoursome and a little goes a long way. We love that something so exotic is grown on the hillsides of Cheshire.



Clotton Hall Dairy, Tarporley

Clotted cream no longer needs to make the dreaded journey up the M5 to land on our scones, since Henry Cooke became the first Cheshire farmer to produce clotted cream two years ago. He uses a mix of cow breeds at his family's farm to create a unique flavour and, with less distance to travel, it's got that lovely fresh taste too.

We say: Devon and Cornwall can keep their 'jam or clotted cream first?' debate - we'll be dolloping on this Cheshire-made dairy delight first, last and everywhere in between.



Riverside Spirits, Warrington

The gin trend shows no signs of slowing, which is great news for Riverside Spirits, launched by Christine Munro who, at the tender age of 70, started selling handmade jams. Soon needing a new challenge, she entered the world of gin and vodka infusion in 2014 and now produces hand-infused batches of gorgeous bottles, using the finest local produce.

We say: Flavoured spirits can be a sickly sweet affair but judging by the gorgeous grapefruit-infused gin we tested Riverside has swerved this. Ours was a double.




The Lambing Shed, Knutsford

You're spoilt for choice when it comes to Cheshire produce at The Lambing Shed. The shop, butchers and deli are brimming with goodies from the attached farm, which has been run by the Mitchell family for six decades. But for instant gratification, head to the café, where you can gorge on sandwiches, hearty dishes and homemade cakes.

We ate: Roasted red pepper & squash quinoa salad for one of us and homemade fish pie for the other.

We say: Wholesome, quality food and enthusiastic service in a light, bright, child-friendly setting.



Picanha By Fazenda, Chester

Take a tour of South America at Chester's Picanha by Fazenda. Their continuous tableside service sees waiters, armed with the finest cuts of meat, carve straight onto your plate. It's a carnivore's heaven! Control the meat served to you using the indicators on your double-sided card. Just don't forget to leave room for the salad bar.

We ate: Pork collar, chicken hearts and all manner of beef - and a good helping from the salad bar too.

We say: A very fair set price for such good quality meat and a set-up that kids and grown-ups both love.



Sarafina, Wilmslow

It's been an established restaurant in Wilmslow for 20 years. But 2018 saw two brothers take over and transform Sarafina into a modern relaxed dining space and aperitivo bar, serving up homemade bread and fresh Italian food. The relaunch has created quite a buzz, and with kids eating free during the day, it's certainly a family pleaser.

We ate: Smoked paprika chicken wings, tagliatelle with salmon and asparagus, homemade tiramisu.

We say: Consistent, tasty, fresh Italian fare coupled with that Latin love for family makes this restaurant a reliable crowd pleaser.




Flour Water Salt, Macclesfield

Much like its award-winning bread, the Flour Water Salt bakery keeps on rising. From the early days of baking in basements and barns, last year saw the team's café finally open its doors in Macclesfield; and it's been bustling ever since. So much so that owner Paul Robinshaw has recently launched a successful crowdfunder to help fund an expansion.

We say: Leave your visit til late afternoon and you're likely to be disappointed; the locals know to get in early for the moreish bread and pastries. Great coffee too!



Dexter & Jones, Knutsford

With 450 types of bottled beer and 60 bottled gins, it's best to set a bit of time aside to explore Dexter and Jones in Knutsford. But don't worry, there's a bar at the centre of the shop, so you can sit back and sip your way to deciding between local beers from Tatton and Mobberley, and those from further afield.

We say: Try as we may to bore the Dexter & Jones staff into rudeness or surrender, there wasn't a gin-related query they couldn't answer. Their breadth of stock is great but it's their depth of knowledge that sets this local booze merchants apart.



Spearings Butchers, Macclesfield

A good pie is an essential in any true northerner's diet. And the residents of Macclesfield don't have to travel far to find one. Spearings Butchers has been a favourite in the area since 1945, serving up top-quality cuts of meat, local produce and the most talked-about offering; meat and potato pies.

We say: As we become more mindful of the provenance of our produce, Spearings is everything a local butcher's should be; friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about supporting local farming.

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