A bumper Manchester Food and Drink Festival has come to a close with a glittering awards ceremony and gala dinner in the gothic surroundings of Gorton Monastery.
Now in their 21st year, the awards aim to celebrate the innovative and high quality restaurants, bars and individuals who contribute to the hospitality industry in the region.
As well as guests from Manchester’s bars and restaurants, celebrities attending on the night included Coronation Street’s Sair Kahn, Mikey North and Victoria Ekanoye, The Smiths’ Mike Joyce, XS Radio’s Clint Boon, and acclaimed actor Ian Puleston-Davies.
Reflecting Manchester’s expanding and constantly evolving food and drink scene, the awards were presented in 18 different categories, covering everything from premium and fine dining to affordable eats; from best newcomer and best vegetarian offering to street food trader of the year.
The shortlisted venues were officially nominated by a judging panel comprised of the region’s leading food and drink experts and critics. The public then voted for their favourites via the MFDF website. The public votes were combined with scores from the judging panel obtained via mystery shop visits.
“All the categories were very strong this year and reflect the high standards that are abundant in the city’s hospitality industry,” said Phil Jones, the founder of the festival. “The winners should be immensely proud, as should the nominees.”
Who were the big winners on the night?
Following on from being named the 13th best restaurant in the UK by The Good Food Guide and being awarded four AA Rosettes, Adam Reid at The French was awarded the biggest award – Restaurant of the Year – beating a shortlist including The Rabbit, Where The Light Gets In, Umezushi, Sugo in Altrincham and Levanter.
The restaurant in the Midland Hotel also took the title of Premium and Fine Dining Venue of the Year. El Gato Negro won the title last year, and other shortlisted venues this year included The Rabbit, Where The Light Gets In, Umezushi, Hawksmoor and Grafene.
Celebrating the best informal dining establishments in Manchester, Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year went to Levanter, the Spanish bar in Ramsbottom. The shortlist included Indian street food and beer kitchen Bundobust, Albert’s Schloss, Ancoats restaurant Elnecot, and Porta and Sugo, both in Altrincham.
It’s been another bumper year for new openings in Manchester, but The Creameries in Chorlton took the title of Newcomer of the Year. Celebrating the best new food and drink operations to open in Greater Manchester since the last awards decision period in June 2017, the shortlist included Wood Manchester, Elnecot, 20 Stories, Randall & Aubin and Blanchflower.
The Creameries also won the Sustainable Restaurant Award, which recognises commitment to environmental and ethical practices in Greater Manchester’s restaurant industry.
Chef of the Year award went to Rachel Stockley from Baratxuri in Ramsbottom, in recognition of her skill, menu, commitment and contribution to the dining scene. The shortlist was otherwise male-dominated, consisting of Adam Reid at the French, Sam Buckley at Where The Light Gets In, Richard Sharples at Hispi, Ben Mounsey at Grafene and Omar Rodriguez Marrero at Umezushi.
Neighbourhood restaurants did well throughout the night, but also had their own category: Out of Town Restaurant of the Year. This was won by Where The Light Gets In, with a shortlist made up of The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, Sugo, Porta, Levanter and The Creameries.
The awards also celebrated cheaper options, with an Affordable Eats category for establishments where a main and drink can be purchased for under £10. This was won by Mi & Pho in Wythenshawe, with Lupo Caffé Italiano in Salford, Platzki, Eat New York, Fusion Lab and Lord of the Pies in Chorlton making up the shortlist.
There has been huge growth in meat and dairy free dining in Manchester, and a Vegetarian Offering of the Year award went to Lily’s in Ashton, with a strong shortlist including Bundobust, Indian Tiffin Room, Chaat Cart in Marple, Elnecot and Amma’s Canteen.
Good service was recognised as well as the food offering, with a Front of House award going to 20 Stories. It beat off competition including Wood, Piccolino, The Rabbit, Adam Reid at The French, and Hispi.
In terms of drinks, Bar of the Year was awarded to Science & Industry, which beat Cottonopolis, Hawksmoor, Flok, Albert’s Schloss and Patron.
Pub/Beer Bar of the Year, which focuses on quality and range of ales and atmosphere, was awarded to Port Street Beer House, with a shortlist including Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar, Café Beermoth, Trackside Bar in Bury, Heaton Hops in Stockport and The Bay Horse Tavern.
Coffee/Tea Shop of the Year was won by Pot Kettle Black, which beat competition from Ancoats Coffee, Idle Hands, Takk, Ezra and Gil and Fig and Sparrow.
Other winners including Hatch, which won the Pop Up, Event or Project award; Pollen Bakery, which won Retailer of the Year; Oh Mei Dumpling, for best Street Food Operator; and Marble Brewery, which took Brewery of the Year.
An Outstanding Achievement award, which recognises individuals who contributed something outstanding to the food and drink industry in Greater Manchester over the last 21 Festivals, went to Jeremy Roberts, the CEO of Living Ventures, whose portfolio of brands includes Manchester House, The Alchemist, Grand Pacific, Artisan and Gusto.