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The 2016 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, Carden Park Hotel

PUBLISHED: 17:18 23 August 2016

Cheshire Life Chef of the Year Winner was Aiden Byrne. Photographed here with Sarah Byrne

Cheshire Life Chef of the Year Winner was Aiden Byrne. Photographed here with Sarah Byrne

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The county’s culinary elite descended on Carden Park Hotel for the prestigious Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, writes Emma Mayoh

Cheshire Life Bar of the Year Winner was Piccolino, Alderley Edge. Photographed here are Veronica Ragusa and Simone Farrington receiving the award from Kate Wilson on behalf of The Linen Group
Cheshire Life Bar of the Year Winner was Piccolino, Alderley Edge. Photographed here are Veronica Ragusa and Simone Farrington receiving the award from Kate Wilson on behalf of The Linen Group

It was supposed to have been a rare night out for chef Aiden Byrne and his wife, Sarah. So when the 44-year-old chef patron at Manchester House and The Church Green in Lymm, was named Chef of the Year at this year’s Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, he was speechless.

Aiden said: ‘When I saw the calibre of people up for awards I just thought it was nice to be invited. We weren’t shortlisted for anything.

‘It was a date night for Sarah and I as we don’t get out together much. I never imagined I’d be getting anything like this. It’s just brilliant and such a surprise.’

Aiden is a familiar face to many after he was filmed for the BBC’s Restaurant Wars: The Battle for Manchester. His obsession for food goes back many years when he volunteered to work for free at Stanneylands Hotel in Styal during his summer holidays from college. He has since worked in Michelin-starred establishments and prestigious kitchens including The Dorchester in London. He left there to open The Church Green in Lymm nine years ago and in 2013 he opened Living Ventures’ boldly high end restaurant, Manchester House, which sent a ripple through the city’s dining scene.

The Carden SuiteThe Carden Suite

But Aiden is a chef who is always looking forward. This autumn a book about Manchester House, which he’s been working on for two years, will be published. He’s also scouting out locations in Liverpool for a combined restaurant and cookery school. The school will be for students who have been unemployed more than two years. ‘I want something in Liverpool because it’s where I’m from. It’s time to give something back to the place that’s so special to me.

‘I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m looking after college kids whose hearts might not be totally into it. I want to work with people who will really value the opportunity.’

There were big celebrations for Peter Aston and his wife Linda, from the Congleton Sustainability Group. Congleton Apple Juice, a drink produced by the group using fruit donated and collected from the local area, was named Cheshire Life Product of the Year. It was developed from an idea by their community based volunteer organisation in support of the town’s sustainability project. The group now have their own premises in Congleton where the apple juice and cider is made. It will also serve as a community centre. Peter said: ‘This is absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to tell people that we’ve won. It’s just fabulous. It’s showing that we are doing good work in the community. I see this as an award for Congleton as it’s a place that has supported us so much. It’s wonderful.’

The Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards seek out the county’s shining stars at the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs. The celebrations could be heard around Carden Park Hotel as results were announced at the glamorous black tie dinner.

Duck pastrami with duck liver mousse, pickled beets, elderflower vinegar and gingerbreadDuck pastrami with duck liver mousse, pickled beets, elderflower vinegar and gingerbread

Venues were nominated by readers. The shortlist and winners were chosen by a panel of judges comprising Cheshire Life editor Louise Allen-Taylor, Trevor Stone, who headed the AstraZeneca catering operation, hospitality lecturer and event organiser Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy and Cheshire Life journalist and food writer, Janet Reeder.

Other winners included Porth Tocyn country house hotel, near Abersoch, awarded the North Wales Dining Excellence accolade; The Pheasant Inn at Tattenhall was named Cheshire Life Dining Pub of the Year; King Street Tavern at King Street Townhouse in Manchester was named City Restaurant of the Year and Cheerbrook Farm Shop took home the Cheshire Life Tearoom/Café title. Cheshire Life Independent Retailer of the Year was awarded to Macclesfield’s Cheshire Fish and the very stylish Yu, in Alderley Edge, was named Cheshire Life Restaurant of the Year.

There were big cheers when The Lawns Restaurant at Thornton Hall was named Cheshire Life Hotel Restaurant of the Year. It narrowly missed out on the accolade last year.

It was a special night for staff from Piccolino in Alderley Edge, too. They won Cheshire Life Bar of the Year. Although it opened only last November, this addition to the local social scene is very popular and always lively.

Slow braised short rib and roast fillet of beef with textures of onion, pomme dauphine and Wirral watercressSlow braised short rib and roast fillet of beef with textures of onion, pomme dauphine and Wirral watercress

Simone Farrington, business development manager for Individual Restaurants which owns Piccolino, said: ‘For us, it’s the most amazing thing. I’m so happy it’s making me cry! I can’t wait to ring our general manager, Dario Baldassarro. I just don’t believe it. I couldn’t be more excited. We can’t believe how successful we’ve been. But people were waiting for a place like this. It’s a venue that people talk about. They’d lost Panacea and they wanted something there to give them a great place to eat and drink. They got it with Piccolino.’

The Cheshire Life Food Hero of the Year award went to Ahmet Kurcer, general manager of the Alderley Edge Hotel for over 25 years until his retirement in May this year. Under his stewardship the hotel forged an incredible reputation, which included a 3 AA Rosette restaurant. For many years, he also hosted the most glamorous black tie dinner in the county, the Cheshire Life Champagne Oscars.

All winners were presented with the coveted Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards plaques to display on their premises as well as celebratory prosecco. No-one left empty handed as all those shortlisted took home commemorative plates.

Mascarpone and blackberry delice, vanilla tuille and blackberry and liquorice ice creamMascarpone and blackberry delice, vanilla tuille and blackberry and liquorice ice cream

2016 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards - the winners revealed

Winners’ dinner

To start

Duck pastrami with duck liver mousse, pickled beets, elderflower vinegar and gingerbread.

Served with Feudi di San Gregorio Albente Falanghina.

To continue

Slow braised short rib and roast fillet of beef with textures of onion, pommes dauphine and Wirral watercress.

Served with Larry Cherubino Apostrophe Possessive Reds.

To finish

Mascarpone and blackberry delice, vanilla tuille and a blackberry and liquorice ice cream.

A taste of Orson handmade cheeses including Winston, Woodew, Orson Blue and Lester

Wine was supplied by Hallgarten Druitt & Novum

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