We are the champions - Cheshire Life Food & Wine Awards 2008
PUBLISHED: 01:05 14 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013
A premier league stadium was the venue for Cheshire Life's glitzy Food and Wine Awards gala presentation night
Glitzier and more glamourous then ever, Life Magazines' Food and Wine Awards brought together 200 of the leading lights of the hospitality industry in Cheshire, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, Lancashire and the Lake District in enthusiastic celebration of the region's culinary excellence.
And the stunning City of Manchester Stadium, built for the Commonwealth Games and home to the richest football club on the plaent - the Premier League's Manchester City - provided a fitting backdrop for the gala dinner and awards ceremony for the second successive year.
The event, staged in association with Matthew Clark, wine suppliers to thousands of hotels and restaurants across Britain, is now firmly established as one of the most important in the region's social calendar. And the awards themselves are acknowledged throughout the industry as highly coveted accolades recognising ever-rising standards of quality and distinction.
Competition had been fierce across all 21 of the various awards categories, presenting the independent panel of judges who criss-crossed the North West and North Wales during spring and summer with an onerous task in deciding the ultimate winners.
But, as Archant Life's regional mangaing director Liz Page stressed during the ceremony, all the restuarants, pubs, bars and hotels - and newly added this year, Food Heroes - that made it through on the highly commended shortlists deserve congratulaitions for what in itself is a considerable achievement.
Guests gathered in the Mancunian Suite for a glamourous pre-dinner Piper Hiedsieck Champagne reception before taking their places amid the splendour of the Boardroom, at the tables elegantly decorated by RSVP Event Management and Special Occasion Linen.
The five-course gourmet menu, created by City of Manchester Stadium's Consultant Executive Chef John Benson-Smith, former Northern Chef of the Year and regular on Lord Grossman's Masterchef, exemplified his characteristic skill and wit and demonstrated a master class in large-scale catering expertise.
Undaunted by the fact that the guests represented the region's catering elite, the kitchen brigade delivered an impressive and complex series of dishes with considerable aplomb. Chicken consomme, lifted by wild mushrooms and fresh truffles, was followed by a JBS signature. His 'Bowl of Dinky Fish Bits' comprised chunks of red mullet, seabass and lobster luxuriating in a rich and flavoursome bisque with samphire and baby red chard.
The main course also sprang a surprise. Deliciously tender loin of Welsh mountain lamb arrived 'en croute' though not baked in pastry but rolled bread and served alongside a whole baby pointy cabbage and a tremendous smoked potato souffle. Dessert - 'Chocolate Jowl' - comprising a brandy snap basket of berry fruits, a bombe of iced rhubarb and ginger double cream and a generously proportioned chocolate marquise decorated with a chocolate lattice curl, preceeded a platter of fine cheeses, coffee and petit fours.
Matthew Clark's selection of accompanying wines - all from the New World - was both ideally judged and very interesting: zesty Stonehaven Cellar Selection Riesling from Australia's Limestone Coast; honeyed Nobilo Pinot Gris from New Zealand's East Coast; complex and spicy Flagstone 'The Treaty Tree' Chef's Red Reserve from South Africa's Western Cape and sweet and velvety Hardy's Botrytis Semillon from South Eastern Australia.
The presentation of the awards by Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jane Buckley and news broadcaster Trevor Green was greeted by whoops of delight from recipients' tables. Winners of the Readers' Choice accolades were particularly well received and this year's new awards for local Food Heroes who supply the very best of regional produce were greeted with enthusiasm.
The climax of the evening's presentations was the Outstanding Achievement Award for an individual's exceptional contribution to the North West's burgeoning reputation within the industry.
It went to the tireless champion of local produce, Nigel Haworth, not only an outstanding Michelin-starred chef at the Northcote Manor, Langho, which he owns with Craig Bancroft, but also for demonstrating at the Three Fishes in Mitton, the Highwayman in Kirkby Lonsdale and the Clog and Billycock in Pleasington, that the great British pub can have a rosy future.
In the latest edition of the influential Harden's UK Restaurant Guide, Northcote is rated as offering the best food in Britain - eclipsing any restaurant in London. Co-editor Richard Harden said: 'It will certainly come as a surprise to the capital's chefs to hear that reporters in our national survey find the very best restaurant food of all in the North West.'
Special thanks for a highly successful evening go to the City of Manchester Stadium, David Chell, John Benson-Smith and his team, primary sponsors Matthew Clark, presenter Sarah Jane Buckley and Trevor Green, RSVP Event Management, MCL, Vision Creative, Villeroy & Boch, Digital Ceramics and Special Occasion Linen.
Thanks to our suppliers: Hills Fine Foods, Openshaws Fish, Longridge Dairy Ice Cream, Town and Country Fine Foods, Williams of Flint, Trough of Bowland Water
Meet the winners
Restaurant of the Year - Tom & 101, Stockton Heath
Hotel of the Year - The Chester Grosvenor, Chester
Casual Dining - The Highwayman, Rainow
Newcomer of the Year - Oddfellows, Chester
Food Heroes - The Hollies Farm Shop, Little Budworth
North Wales Award - Tre-Ysgawen Hotel & Spa, Capel Coch
Manchester Restaurant of the Year - Michael Caines at Abode, city centre
Liverpool Restaurant of the Year - Spire, Wavertree
Liverpool Newcomer - Mayur, city centre
Readers' Choice - Pecks Restaurant, Moreton
Outstanding Achievement Award - Nigel Haworth