Winner, winner all kinds of dinners
As many top chefs will tell you, it's not all about the accolades - but it's always nice when someone recognises what you do. From street food to bread to beer to the cream of the fine dining crop, enough stars, trophies, gongs and ribbons were handed out in 2021 to really celebrate the best our region has to offer.
It’s great to have something hanging on the wall that you can glance at every now and again and know you’re getting it right
While not all awards made a comeback this year, biggies such as Michelin, AA Rosettes and the National Restaurant Awards meant that the eyes of the food industry were gently but firmly guided northwards.
While the chefs and teams involved are much too modest to brag, we are happy to shout on their behalf. Know anyone we've missed off this list? Add them in the comments.
Right back at the beginning of the year, Michelin raided the Christmas decorations box and dished out its famous stars. Original flavour stars went to Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire and Roots, York for the first time, while mana, The Angel at Hetton, The Black Swan at Oldstead, Star Inn at Harome, Fraiche, Northcote, The White Swan at Fence, Moor Hall, L'Enclume (and the Rogan Empire), The Old Stamp House, Forest Side and The Cottage in the Woods all keeping hold of their stellar baubles.
Michelin also used the opportunity to debut a new award, the Green Star, which has been introduced to celebrate restaurants with a strong ethical and environmental focus from their choice of products to their waste management. Michelin says these restaurants also “go beyond environmental considerations to address the quality of life of their staff, as well as contributing to local, national or global charity and education projects.”
A big hit with our reviewer, who called it "precise, intelligent, food with an underlying dark, witchy madness to it", Prestwich restaurant OSMA Kitchen was added to the Michelin guide this year. Simon Shaw’s city centre Middle Eastern joint Habas also rated a mention. The entry reads: “Arrive early for a cocktail in the bar before moving into the fun, slightly retro-style dining room. Small sharing plates take their influences mainly from the Middle East but there are also hints of the Mediterranean to be seen.”
We can expect to hear more about the 2022 awards very soon, with updates about guide entries throughout the year.
The National Restaurant Awards
While the fortunes of northern hospitality have been up and down this past year, one particular high point was the area's domination of the National Restaurant Awards, causing many a national newspaper critic a bit of shock when they found out just how much train prices have gone up recently.
Restaurants and chefs from the North West and Yorkshire placed highly in the Top 100 with Moor Hall, The Angel at Hetton and chef Tommy Banks coming away with major awards. The Parkers Arms (23), Northcote (34), The White Swan at Fence (36) and Freemasons at Wiswell (38) were all flying the flag for the Lancashire in the top 50 whilst Merseyside and Cheshire were also represented by Fraiche (43) and Sticky Walnut (62) respectively.
Yorkshire also did extremely well with dramatic rises up the rankings for The Angel at Hetton (56 to 2), Skosh in York (40 to 18), The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds (91 to 19), Sheffield’s Jöro (94 to 32) and York's Le Cochon Aveugle (95 to 41). Tommy Banks' Roots moved down a few places (42 to 51) and The Moorcock Inn (14) near Halifax was a well-deserved new entry this year. Cumbria boasted new entries from The Cottage In The Wood (24), Hrishi (39) and Lake Road Kitchen (78).
Simon Martin’s mana was awarded four AA Rosettes making it one of only three restaurants in the UK that were given the honour of Four Rosette status this year, with Confidentials favourite Forest Side in Grasmere and Tuddenham Mill in Newmarket, Suffolk scooping the other two.
York-based restaurant Roots was amongst the recipients of three AA Rosettes, with the only other winners in the north of England being Pentonbridge Inn, Cumbria and The Bow Room restaurant at Grays Court, York.
Purple Olive in Liverpool was named the North West’s Asian Restaurant of the Year at the Asian Curry Awards (plus a nod for the group’s head chef Atik Sheikh) while Al Maidah in North Manchester was awarded Best Buffet.
Manchester hosted the Best Asian Restaurant Awards in 2021 and notable northern wins included Royal Nawaab, Levenshulme, for Best Asian Buffet Restaurant and Kebabish Original, Blackburn, for Best Casual Dining. GupShup in Hale won the award for Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the North of England.
Two Best Chef awards were taken home by Mofizur Rahman of Chutney Masala in Wilmslow, Ashwani Rangta of Asha’s, Manchester and Mohammed Iftekher Hussain of Baby Kingfisher Restaurant in Blackpool. Hassan Choudhury, director of Al Maidah, took home a Community Hero award for leading his team to help feed NHS staff during the pandemic.
Takeaway & Street Food
Stockport is clearly the place to spend a Friday night in as The Spinn and LAPD Food all got a mention, with the regional prize going to Hazel Grove's Bun and Bone Club. Manchester Arndale's Salt & Pepper won Deliveroo's Best Newcomer Award.
The British Street Food Awards were held in Leeds this year, with northern street food heroes featuring strongly among the nominees. Archchi's Sri Lankan street food took home Best Snack, while Most Sustainable went to Grounded Mcr for its pedal-powered coffee and cake. Meanwhile, Liverpool's plant-based chippy Woo Tan Scran won Best Newcomer at the Golden Chopsticks Awards.
Manchester welcomed its Food and Drink Awards back with open arms (and mouths). Ramsbottom's Baratxuri was crowned Manchester's Best Restaurant, including a win for Rachel Stockley as Best Chef. Read through our full list of MFDF winners for a range of deserving champs including Escape To Freight Island, Ramona, Pollen Bakery and Lily's.
Estrella Damm also sponsors a list of the 50 Best Gastropubs in the UK– food critics, hospitality experts and chefs from all over the UK vote in their hundreds to put together this list of pubs where the grub is top-notch. For 2021, notable North West entries included Confidentials favourites The Parker’s Arms, The Freemasons at Wiswell and The Angel at Hetton.
But the 2021 list is practically old news as the Top 50 Gastropubs for 2022 will be announced at an event at Freight Island later this month - with Steven Smith from Freemasons on the pans for lucky attendees. While we expect to see many repeat offenders from 2021’s list, there are so many great gastropubs in our surrounding countryside areas such as High Peak we can’t help thinking there will be a few more northern entries tickling the top 50, plus with the likes of Fountain House and The Black Friar opening recently, we might even see a city centre entrant.
Tom Kerridge's Bull & Bear won the Best Roast from popular Instagram account Rate Good Roasts. The top 13 also featured Mustard & Co in Crosby, Shear's Yard in Leeds, Ancoats' Edinburgh Castle as well as roasts from York, Lancashire and Cumbria. In fact, the south barely got a look in.
Craft beer meisters Seven Bro7hers won a Silver Medal for their Pilsner at the London Beer Competition, swiftly followed by a gold award for their Honeycomb Pale Ale and a double gold for the Watermelon Wheat Beer at the European Beer Challenge 2021. Head brewer Jack said: “Winning awards has never been a massive focus of mine. We hold ourselves to our own standards and would hate to become complacent, but it’s great to have something hanging on the wall, or sitting in the office, that you can glance at every now and again and know you’re getting it right.”
The north is practically awash with award-winning gin, and this year was no exception, with Stockport Gin winning in the traditional category the Gin Guide Awards. Ulverston’s Shed 1 had a double win, plus took home gold at the World Marmalade Awards for its Gin Marmalade. The Spirit of Manchester Distillery’s rum brand One-Eyed Rebel also took home an award from the World Rum Awards.
As for bars, Vice & Virtue, Jake’s Bar and Below the Stairs in Leeds, Evil Eye in York and Berry and Rye and Red Door in Liverpool represented the north in the UK’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars. Look out for the 2022 list being announced soon.
There was even a win in the wine category as the UK’s most northerly vineyard, Dunesforde Vineyard, near Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, won two awards at the Independent English Wine Awards.
Bakery and confectionery
La Chouquette in Didsbury won the Best Bakery in Lancashire at the England's Business Awards 2021 as well as being nominated for a Tiptree World Bread Awards prize.
Irina Ruseva of Flour & Soul Bakery in Urmston was named the North West’s Bread Hero by the Tiptree World Bread Awards. In addition, she received the Zeelandia Award for Sustainability.
Wigan did the north proud at the British Pie Awards with a chicken kiev version from Baldy’s Pies. Liverpool pie-maker Pullman Jack's also impressed with its cherrywood smoked pulled pork and Bury black pudding pie.
Dormouse Chocolates, which has its workshop on Deansgate Mews, won two golds at the Academy of Chocolate Awards for its Trio Reserve Chocolate.
Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. Yet more proof that the food and drink scene in the North is something to be very proud of.