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And the winner is…

PUBLISHED: 11:54 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:58 04 November 2014

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Essex Life reveals the winners of the 2014 Essex Life Fine Food & Drink Awards, sponsored by Grape Passions and hosted at Down Hall Country House Hotel

PRIDE IN ESSEX

Judge: David Burch, Essex Chambers of Commerce

Sponsor: Hayman’s Distillery

Highly Commended: Hold the Anchovies, Witham

Highly Commended: The Cookery School, Braxted Park

Winner: Chelmsford Star Co-Operative Society

‘It is absolutely amazing to win this award, we feel so proud. We do a lot of work with local suppliers and we are continuing to grow. Our range is now hitting nearly 40 locals suppliers, and nearly every day now we are getting in contact with new ones, and also finding new wonderful things across our region. We are just proud we can get behind Essex and we feel it’s time to really push our Essex producers and show everyone what they are made of. Hopefully winning this award we can highlight that we are actually supporting Essex producers and therefore get more companies coming through to us who have seen it. Really this award is on behalf of the producers, as we work together as a team. We support them and they support us.’

What the judge said…

All three were excellent entrants, but the winners demonstrated a strong determination to support Essex-based food producers in whatever way they can through their The Only Way is Local - Support Your Essex. Producer campaign. Not only do they have over 30 local suppliers in their 39 stores but they also provide support at events such as the Essex Food & Drink Festival, by promotion on Twitter and Facebook and by presentations at Co-op members’ meetings. They are looking to grow the range of products and have also been asked to present to the national Co-op movement on developing local food lines.

FIELD TO FORK

Judge: Shah Ahmed, Star of India

Sponsor: Kelly Turkeys

Highly Commended: The Rose & Crown, Great Horkesley

Highly Commended: Rayleigh Fruit & Veg, Rayleigh

Winner: Calcott Hall Farm Shop, Brentwood

‘It feels really good to win this award and it is a different category to what we would normally feature in. It is such a great feeling. Winning this award is great for the farm shop because it will help reinforce we are a local community business, which grows things and sells good fresh produce to the community that they can trust. We can’t wait to put this award in our pride of place, which is in the porch so everyone will have to see it when they walk through the door.’

CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD

Judge: Elli Constantatou, Visit Essex

Sponsor: Hatfields

Highly Commended: Blackmore Tea Rooms, Ingatestone

Highly Commended: Indian Night, Chelmsford

Winner: The Spotted Dog, Bishop Green

‘To win this award this year is great! It is what we are about and really what my wife is about, as she works front of house and I work in the kitchen. I believe we have won this award because of the service in the restaurant and the ‘yes’ attitude we have. To be proved what we are doing is right, feels absolutely wonderful. It is just confirming what we are doing in our business is correct and this award will hopefully make it more recognisable in the local community and Essex. We will be putting the award on the entrance table, so people can see it when they walk in.’

The judge commented…

‘From the moment you enter the restaurant you get the feeling that this is a very loved venue. Everywhere I looked was immaculate and tastefully designed. This was complimented by a very friendly and genuinely welcoming staff. It was very apparent from the way they interacted with their guests that they were very proud to be working there themselves. Lots of attention to detail is paid by the staff giving the customer a professional and impeccable service.’

TOP TEA/COFFEE SHOP

Judge: Pat Pratley, chair of the Federation of Essex WIs

Sponsor: Star of India restaurant, Leytonstone

Highly Commended: Zoe’s Coffee Shop, Great Dunmow

Highly Commended: Scrumptious Tearooms, Great Dunmow

Winner: Salty Dogs Tea Room and Gallery, Goldhanger

‘It is absolutely brilliant and exciting to win this award. The reason I think we won is because we create a great ambiance and the place is fab. We have nice food with a lovely setting, but the staff really make all the difference, it is very a special place. The staff are polite, charming, attractive and they can sing too, they are just perfect. It is a prestigious award, so hopefully it will enhance the whole business. Thank you!’

The judge commented…

We had a great welcome from the owner and the waitresses who were all wearing pretty summer dresses with coordinating tailored aprons. The freshly--prepared food was attractively served and we understand all locally sourced. The pork pies are made ‘just around the corner’ and full of meat with a beautiful crust! The cakes are to die for and also made in the village. The individual knitted tea cosies were made a by a local friend and added a personal touch to 
tea time.

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

Judge: Stephanie Mackentyre

Sponsor: Harveys Quality Garden Buildings

Highly Commended: Square 1 Restaurant, Great Dunmow

Highly Commended: The White Hart, Great Yeldham

Winner: Haywards Restaurant, Epping

‘We won Chef of the Year last year and it feels amazing to win another award again. I think we have a lot of repeat customers and they obviously like what we are doing in the restaurant. We change the menu quite often and so that’s why people constantly come back, and we have very good staff too. We have been open for 16 months now and we have people returning from the very beginning. Winning Restaurant of the Year is very good for us. This award is going to go straight on the mantelpiece with the other one!’

The judge commented…

None of these finalists actually did anything wrong, it’s just that on this occasion Haywards did it better! The whole experience from the moment we arrived was faultless, from the warm welcome we received, their efficient and highly knowledgeable staff, the food which was outstandingly prepared, cooked and presented and finally their attention to detail in all areas which was superb too.

TOP FARM SHOP

Judge: Ian Dawes, Waitrose Colchester

Sponsor: Wakes Hall Lodges, Wakes Colne

Highly Commended: Lathcoats Farm Shop, Chelmsford

Highly Commended: Elder Street Farm Shop, Saffron walden

Winner: Blackwells Farm Shop, Coggeshall

‘It feels so fantastic to win again this year and we are so pleased as we are always trying to improve the business. To win this one is still just as good as winning last year and it is the third time we have won it! It makes all the hard work worthwhile. We will use this award to advertise as much as possible and people will see this when they read Essex Life magazine, and will hopefully come to our shop. Thank you.’

The judge commented…

Blackwell’s Farm Shop has a bright, open feel that shouts out fresh and homemade. It offers a wide range of own produced and locally sourced products which helps to showcase and support small and regional producers. When you enter, a friendly atmosphere helps create an enjoyable shopping experience.

BEST FAMILY DINING

Judge: The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

Sponsor: Paul Newman Interiors, Hadleigh

Highly Commended: Brambles Restaurant, Chelmsford

Highly Commended: Intimo-Fresco, Chelmsford

Winner: Nanna’s Kitchen at Rivendell Village

‘Winning this award is almost breathtaking. It is our first year in business and we have put everything into Nanna’s Kitchen and our team. We love our customers and we honestly couldn’t be happier at the moment, and to be recongised is just incredible. Winning this award is an opportunity for people to recongise we try to do good food, good coffee and we want people to see we are offering an all-round great service. We hope they now come in and see what we are all about. Our team is going to be really proud and we are really happy too. Thank you so much.’

The judge commented…

Nanna’s Kitchen has really worked hard at offering a distinctive environment which will satisfy all ages and therefore make a very good and reasonably affordable family dining venue. The coffee was good, the food was good and there were children and student menus and offers. There were things to occupy small children while adults ate, but it still felt as much an adult venue as a children’s venue.

BEST ESSEX PRODUCER

Judge: Heather Tarrant, Essex Agricultural Society

Sponsor: Chelmsford Star Co-Operative Society

Highly Commended: Priors Hall Farm, Great Dunmow

Highly Commended: PJ Tarrent

Winner: Kelly Turkeys

‘I believe and hope we won the Best Essex Producer award because it is a recognition of what we do and I think we really do have the best Christmas turkeys you can get. Also, a big thank you to our customers as well! I can’t wait to put this straight in the office with all of our other awards. We are going to promote this because when you win awards people instantly recongise it and it will make a big difference to the business.’

DESTINATION DINING

Judge: Debbie Driver, Harveys Quality 
Garden Buildings

Sponsor: Davonport Kitchens, Colchester

Highly Commended: Memoirs Restaurant, Colchester

Highly Commended: The White Hart Inn, Margaretting Tye

Winner: The Dog and Gun, Little Waltham

‘It’s absolutely amazing. We can’t explain how over the moon we are all feeling at the moment. This means so much to us, it is such a great achievement. The Dog and Gun is still relatively new, it’s still a baby, so it is really good to win something and overall a very good achievement. It is going to help the pub enormously, as more people will be aware of us and they know they will have a good time too. The staff are amazing, we all work really hard and we have had a lot of ups and downs but we have got there. Winning this award is an amazing accolade and we are aiming onwards and upwards for the future. We are going to get a lovely cabinet for our award so everyone can see it and we can hopefully add to it!’

TOP CHEF

Judge: Andrew Oxley, Down Hall Country House Hotel

Sponsor: Allstaff Employment

Highly Commended: Jahdre Hayward 
at Haywards Restaurant, Epping

Highly Commended: Simon Silvester 
at The Starr Restaurant, Great Dunmow

Winner: Simon Edwards at The Spotted Dog, Bishop’s Green

‘I really wanted to win this award, but I was really not expecting it. I wanted my wife to win the Customer Service Award, and we have won both, it is amazing. It is funny how everything turns around. I have been a very old school chef for 35 years and those old things have become fashionable again. I don’t do food to make it look pretty. I do strong sauces, strong flavours and we have turned a circle. This award is going to help us get back on the map.

The judge commented…

Simon Edwards exudes passion about food and this passion for creating quality, home-cooked food is exemplified by the food that is put on the plate. Simon knows his customers, as well as their likes and dislikes, and creates an extensive menu that caters for all tastes. Simon truly is a chef that cooks from the heart and while the choice was no easy decision, it truly was his infectious passion that put him ahead of the rest.

COMMUNITY PUB AWARD

Judge: Nick Shuttleworth, RCCE

Sponsor: Age UK Essex

Highly Commended: The Chequers, Felsted

Highly Commended: The Carpenters, Wickford

Winner: The Old Crown, Messing

‘I think we have won again this year because we have fantastic staff and great support from the community. We are in a lovely little village and I just feel it is the hub of the community. I don’t know what the village would do if the pub died, as everyone comes down to meet together and the pub is very important in the area. I think it’s nice we have been appreciated by our community and the standard has been maintained. In a way the community has thanked us.

The judge commented…

The Old Crown has successfully re-established itself as the focal point of this small, rural community and contributes actively to village life. It combines a traditional village pub atmosphere with locally-sourced bistro-style food. A big innovation this year has been the opening of a shop (there isn’t one otherwise in Messing) selling local produce on the premises.

ESSEX LIFE FOOD & DRINK HERO

Judge: Mike Porter, Technology Crops

Sponsor: Leisure Plan

Winner: Vanessa Howard and Stuart Linehan from Chelmsford Star Co-Operative Society

‘We are very shocked to be honest to win two awards this evening. We don’t know why we have won but I guess it is the outlook for local producers. I enjoy meeting the producers and tasting their products, which they sell for themselves. It is just brilliant as we are a business in Essex and we love working with local people. This county has so much to offer and it is a pleasure to work with everybody. It is also interesting to find new suppliers each day. They contact Stuart, he lists them, we market them, we work with them, nurture them and we watch them grow. We feel very proud of them. I think we both need to let it sink in as it is such a shock to us. Thank you.’

The judge commented…

The Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society have been very prominent over many years in encouraging local produce; they continually support Essex producers and actively seek and meet producers of all sizes in the food and drink supply chain. I have met with Stuart Linehan and Vanessa Howard, and their willingness to seek out and increase the knowledge and survival of Essex produce goes above and beyond any others I have come across. They offer encouragement and strong support to producers, no matter what size or situation. I was particularly enthused by the fact that they are visiting suppliers nearly every week, taking more and more on with over 40 now supplying their retails shops.



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