Wednesday, 02 September 2015

Top awards serve up lashings of praise for food and drink stars

Three West Cumbrian businesses have been handed top honours in the county’s food and drink awards.

Hosted by DJ and author Stuart Maconie, the ceremony in Kendal saw prizes go to the Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter Forest, and to Cockermouth’s Shills of Station Street and Coffee Kitchen.

The awards recognise the county’s top places to eat, drink and shop; the best products, chefs and producers and some of Cumbria’s top food and drink personalities and ambassadors.

The Chef of the Year honour was presented to Ryan Blackburn, of the Cottage in the Wood, at Whinlatter Forest.

He fought off competition from chefs at The Samling at Grasmere and the General Burgoyne near Ulverston.

Judges said: “Ryan displays enthusiasm and passion for his suppliers and enormous knowledge. He is willing to learn from comments and sends out all the right signals.

“He is passionate about what he does and has played a big part in elevating his employer’s hotel and restaurant from a hidden gem to the Cumbrian premier league.”

The Cottage in the Wood narrowly missed out on the Cumbria Life Restaurant of the Year award, which was taken by The Drunken Duck Inn near Ambleside.

Keswick’s Filling Station Cafe was also pipped at the post but received highly commended certificates in both the Best Cafe/Tea Shop and Best Newcomer category.

Judges said: “The owners had created a fun destination out of nothing and they were impressed by the great food and mix of young and older people at the quirky retro-diner.”

In Cockermouth – or the “Seattle of Cumbria” according to Maconie – a couple of businesses were celebrating after winning two awards apiece and being highly commended in a further two categories.

Shill’s of Station Street saw off Tebay Services Farm Shops and Alston’s Moody Baker Co-operative to pick up the Best Specialist Retailer accolade and was runner-up in the Judges’ Special Award for Outstanding Service.

Nick Shill, owner, said: “We are delighted and honoured with the recognition we have received. Shill’s of Station Street and this award stands for everything that we are.”

The town’s Coffee Kitchen was awarded Best Newcomer on the night and was runner-up in the Best Cafe/Tea Shop category.

It was described by judges as an “Aladdin’s cave because the approach from a side street gave no idea of the delights that were inside.”

Andy Walsh, owner, said: “It is fantastic to be recognised and being the best newcomer will open many doors for the Coffee Kitchen.”

This year’s awards were organised by Cumbria Life, Taste Cumbria and Kendal College.

Steven Doherty, chairman of judges and chef/proprietor of the First Floor Cafe at Lakeland’s Windermere store, said: “We now have some of the UK’s best food and drink on our doorsteps and, with so many businesses consistently striving to raise their game, it gets more and more difficult to choose between them but this can only be great news for the customers.”

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