2018 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, Carden Park
- Credit: Archant
Raise your glasses to the winners of the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards. They celebrated in style at Carden Park
When The Cholmondeley Arms went head-to-head with its sister pub The Church Inn at last year’s Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, it lost out. But 2018 was different. The team from the historic pub, part of the Cholmondeley Estate, were thrilled to hear it announced as the Dining Pub of the Year.
‘Last year, sitting with teams from two of my pubs, I felt like a parent trying to support two of my children,’ said Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars owner Tim Bird. ‘You feel protective of both of them. There was definitely some friendly competition between the two and the team from the Cholmondeley wanted to be able to bring an award home. We didn’t want to always be the bridesmaid.
‘When they read our name out, it was wonderful. It is such an honour to receive the award and it really is a testament to all of the guys who works there. It’s a wonderful old pub that we were determined to see thriving again. This is proof that we’ve managed it. It’s just incredible.’
It has been a fast road to success for Tim and his wife Mary Mclaughlin who as well as owning The Church Inn and The Cholmondeley Arms, also own a handful of other venues including The Roebuck Inn and The Bull’s Head, both in Mobberley and The Three Greyhounds Inn in Allostock, near Knutsford. The couple had always worked for large breweries and drinks companies including Greenalls and they were determined to give back and help revive some of the county’s once loved pubs. It is a poignant year for Cholmondeley, as 2018 marks the 30th year since its conversion from an old schoolhouse to a pub.
‘We’ve always chosen places that were already closed down or in need of a lot of attention,’ said Tim, who lives in Mobberley. ‘We love to see these pubs thriving in their communities again. To see them doing so well and shining brightly is an absolute joy for us.
‘The award for The Cholmondeley Arms could not have come at a better time for us in our anniversary year. We are so honoured and humbled to be recognised by such a prestigious organisation as Cheshire Life.’
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Joining in the celebrations was the team from Barristers Restaurant and Bar in Knutsford, named Newcomer of the Year. In just 12 months, this popular restaurant in The Courthouse has made a big impression on the county’s dining scene. It was opened by 27-year-old Dominic Heywood and his brother Oliver, the founders of Flat Cap Hotels hospitality group. It also owns the 17th century inn, The Vicarage in Holmes Chapel. They saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the empty 200-year-old former court building in Knutsford and embraced it.
‘It really is a massive compliment to receive an award from Cheshire Life,’ said Dominic, who revealed they will soon launch their next venture at The Bridge in Prestbury.
‘It gives recognition to the team who have put in all that effort to make The Barristers what it is. It’s a big pat on the back for them. They are a superb team with a great executive chef in Steven Tuke, head chef Ian Roberts and general manager Gareth Houghton. I’m absolutely thrilled.’
The Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards seek out the county’s shining stars at the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants and food producers and many were in a celebratory mood as the results were announced at the glamorous black tie dinner held at Carden Park
The biggest cheer of the night came from staff at The Hollies Farm Shop Café in Little Budworth when it was named Tearoom/Café of the Year. The celebrations were well-deserved for a business that started out as a small stall with an honesty box on land at the Cowap family farm. Today, it is a thriving business with farm shop, restaurant, café, gift shop and a steakhouse restaurant.
Other winners included the Hayloft at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre who took home the North Wales Dining Excellence Award; City Restaurant went to Caffé Grande by Piccolino in Manchester; Family Dining of the Year was awarded to The Oakwood in Alderley Edge; G Wienholt Bakery, also in Alderley Edge, was named Independent Retailer and the Outstanding Customer Service Award was presented to Nichola Kent from the Cheshire Cat in Nantwich.
There was a big surprise for Claremont Farm’s Andrew Pimbley. His career has already included asparagus farming in Australia, growing tobacco in Zimbabwe, raising tiny Kapenta fish in Mozambique, a bit of frog farming in Cambodia while helping out at an orphanage, and cattle ranching in Venezuela before he returned to the family farm in Bebington. As well as founding the Wirral Food and Drink Festival, he is one of the driving forces that transformed the family business into a farm shop, café and cookery school and a popular visitor attraction. He was declared Cheshire Life Food Hero.
‘This might have my name on it but this really is a family and team award as without them, I am nothing,’ said Andrew, aged 41. ‘The support they give me makes it possible for us all to achieve everything we do at Claremont. I was so shocked when they started talking about asparagus and Venezuela because I knew they were talking about me. I’m so happy to have received this award, it really is wonderful. I feel proud of all of us who have worked to get where we are.’
There were smiles as wide as the River Dee from the team behind Chester’s Jeffrey’s Tonic. It was less than 18 months ago that Michael Robinson and his wife Maureen launched the tonics company. It all started with a book on how to make gin that Michael received as a Christmas gift. It included recipes for syrups. There was no looking back and Michael started making his own. Jeffrey’s, which the couple run along with their friends Steve and Jan Frehley, took the Cheshire Life Food or Drink Producer 2018 accolade.
The award comes hot on the heels of their original tonic winning a double gold at the SIP Awards. Their lime, galanga and orange syrup took home a silver at the international competition.
‘We never expected anything like this,’ said Michael, who makes the tonic syrups in the NoWFood Centre at The University of Chester. ‘We are so surprised to have won a Cheshire Life award, it is just incredible. It’s the award you want to win and we have it!’
Champagne corks were also popping for the Alderley Edge Hotel, Bar and Restaurant head chef, Sean Sutton as he collected the Restaurant of the Year accolade. The 32-year-old took over the successful kitchen from chef Chris Holland four years ago. The business, which had undergone a changing of the guard, including the retirement of its legendary general manager Ahmet Kurcer, has steered the new team to further success. Sean earned the restaurant 3 AA Rosettes within three months of being in post.
Sean, who initially trained in aerodynamic engineering, first fell in love with food as a child when he used to help his Nanna Jean cook. Today, he takes great pride in instilling that same enthusiasm in the young members of the kitchen team.
‘I’m over the moon,’ said Sean. ‘This really means a lot. Cheshire Life is such a respected publication and I’m really proud to have won something in a room full of my peers too. It is a proud moment. I can’t wait to tell the lads back at the hotel as they have worked so hard.’
Nurturing talent is an ethos celebrated by the much-lauded executive chef Simon Radley, who was awarded the biggest prize of the night – Chef of the Year. The culinaire has maintained the Chester Grosvenor’s Michelin star for all of his 27 years and made a huge contribution to Cheshire’s dining scene. This includes an apprenticeship scheme he takes great pride in. So keen is Simon to encourage the next generation that he said his award should have gone to young chefs in the room.
‘I really am very pleased, it’s absolutely wonderful,’ said Simon. ‘I’ve been really fortunate to have a fantastic career at The Chester Grosvenor and it is a place I adore.
‘I’ve been lucky to be able to help train chefs who have gone to do some amazing things and I’ve been even luckier that they’ve come back. I think that says a lot about the kind of place that The Chester Grosvenor hotel is.
‘But I’m a part of the older generation. There are some very exciting young chefs coming through the ranks now, all of whom would be deserving of this award. Cheshire is a great county to be a chef in and I’m proud to be a part of it.’
All the evening’s winners were presented with Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards display plaques. After hearing about Cheshire Life’s nominated charity and watching a short film, generous guests donated over £2,200 for Petty Pool, a vocational college and outdoor centre in Sandiway supporting 90 young people with learning disabilities.
Crab, asparagus and cucumber roll with compressed watermelon, macadamia nuts and lemon puree
Served with Swartland Winery Winemakers Collection Granite Rock Blend White. Sponsored by Hallgarten and Novum Wines
Loin of braised shoulder of lamb with textures of carrot, buttered mash and a sweetbread fritter
Served with Tikves, Cuvee Methodius Vranec. Sponsored by Hallgarten and Novum Wines
Carden Gateau St Honore
A Taste of Heler’s Cheese: Cheshire, Leicester, Blackstone Vintage Cheddar and Orsom Woodew. Cheese course by Joseph Heler Cheese.
Tea and coffee served with Whitakers chocolate
Slingsby Gin and Hallgarten & Novum Wines provided gin and fizz for drinks reception.