Hospitality businesses in the Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth area shone brightly during an evening of celebration at the first ever Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards last week.
In partnership with Warwickshire County Council, Coventry BID and Visit Coventry, the first live local awards event since lockdown brought together more than 40 businesses vying for success across 15 food and drink categories.
The finalists had previously come under the scrutiny of a judging panel, including celebrity chef Glynn Purnell. And earlier in the month the ‘Yummy Brummie’ was joined by his former boss Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth to preside over a cook-off to find the Chef of the Year.
The panel also consisted of Russell Allen, managing director of award-winning butcher Aubrey Allen; entrepreneur, investor and speaker John Stapleton and food influencer Chris Hardy AKA ‘The Fat Foodie’, as well as Foodie Awards committee members.
Two of the headline winners of the night were The Barn Kitchen, formerly of Binley Woods, which was named The Leamington Courier Foodie Champion, and Dhillon’s Brewery in Coventry which enjoyed triple awards success with: Artisan Drink Producer of the Year; Pub/Bar of the Year and The Godiva Award.
Kelly Iles and her team at The Barn Kitchen cooked more than 96,000 meals for frontline NHS workers over 100 days as well as sweet treats later on in the pandemic.
Kelly, who now runs The Enchanted Tea Room in Leamington, dedicated the award to her late father who succumbed to Covid in January this year.
She said: “We were delighted to win this award after the most challenging 18 months in hospitality, but we felt that the need to step up to the plate was greater than that to save our business so our small deed to feed the NHS soon became a mammoth project. The frontline staff are the real heroes and we would like to dedicate our award to them as well as my Dad Ricky Perkins who would have been so proud to see us win.”
Reacting to a successful night for Dhillon’s Brewery, Trish Willetts, director of Coventry BID and award sponsor, said: “The Coventry Brewery have their brewing facility by the CBS Arena, and took their first city centre unit during lockdown restrictions in early 2021. They opened in the Christchurch Spire, one of Coventry’s three iconic Spires, and have gone from strength to strength.
“During the same time the team turned their brewery into a hand sanitising manufacturing unit to help with the battle of the virus supplying city centre businesses. Now they are embarking on their second bar which will be the Coventry City Tavern, a sports bar due to open on the outskirts of the city centre in August, with sponsorship from Coventry’s very own football team. They hit adversity in the eyes and kept on, keeping on!”
Picking up one of the other special gongs, The Covid Resilience Award, was the mother and daughter team behind Hooray’s British Gelato Kitchen in Stratford-upon-Avon, Sara Young and Sasha Burke.
Sara said: “After an extremely difficult year we were thrilled to be recognised for this award. Like all small business owners at the beginning of the pandemic, the knowledge that there was no way we could service our debts or meet the financial commitments of our business, not to mention pay our staff or ourselves in the coming weeks, let alone months, was sickening.
“During the past 18 months we have had to diversify and adapt our business, as have many other hospitality venues. Being forced to develop a new way forward will hopefully not only mean the continuation but the growth of our business.”
Other Warwickshire winners included Warwick Street Kitchen in Leamington which was named Café/Coffee Shop of the Year.
Owner Lydia Papaphilippopoulos-Snape, said: “The Foodie Awards was a much-needed celebration of the local hospitality industry so to be honoured with the win means a lot to us. The entire WSK team is super chuffed and humbled to be able to bring the award home - here's to another year of serving our amazing community!”
Teenager George Carter from Bishops Tachbrook established Pasta Brothers at the start of the first lockdown after his GCSEs were cancelled. Today he is winning awards.
Collecting the Best Newcomer Award, he said: “I was so bored and demotivated that I decided to combine my love for cooking Italian food with my desire to make money and I started Pasta Brothers in May 2020. What began as a hobby selling to family and friends grew quickly to the business it is today.
“There are some incredibly talented people in Coventry and Warwickshire and it was an honour to be among them all at FarGo Village during the awards on Thursday evening.”
Price’s Spices in Leamington scooped two awards for Artisan Food Producer of the Year and Express to Success (joint winner with Swirls Gelato, of Leamington).
Owner Michael Price said: “These awards acknowledge the hard work that goes into making the products and running the business. Being part of the Foodie Awards shows the strength and diversity of independent food businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire and how well supported they are by people in the region.
“By also winning the 'Express to Success' award this gives us great confidence that our product range is ready for a wider audience.”
Farm Shop of the Year was awarded to Hilltop Farm Shop and Cafe in Leamington.
Farm Shop Manager Lotte Ellis said: “It is so wonderful to be recognised as leaders in championing all things local and for the judges to appreciate our farm to fork ethos.
The award night was a brilliant showcase of lots of great local businesses and there was some tough competition, so it meant an awful lot to win this one!
“It’s been a really tough time for everyone over the past 18 months and our Farm Shop has really thrived as people have chosen to shop local and take a greater interest in where their food comes from, so we have loved being able to reach more people and reduce food miles for many.”
Jessica Mooney collected the Food or Drink Experience Award for her artisan breadmaking school Bread for Life, in Leamington. Reacting to the award, she said: “I’m absolutely thrilled.”
But it was a Coventry business that beat off strong opposition to claim the prestigious Restaurant of the Year award, marking the 20th anniversary for Turmeric Gold in Spon Street.
Owner Jay Alam said: “We are absolutely thrilled. It’s a tremendous accolade which is all the more meaningful as we are this year celebrating our 20th year in business.
“We have always taken pride in not only delivering the highest quality of service, but having the ability to evolve to ensure we meet the ever changing needs of our customers, but never losing sight of our commitment to providing the ultimate dining experience.
Jay was also a finalist in the Chef/Cook of the Year category which was eventually won by Tobias Reutt who runs Earlsdon Supper Club.
Tobias, who has only been operating for two years, said: “I'm over the moon. The awards have provided an impressive platform for the industry. We've already started arranging collaborations with several finalists for ESC at Home experiences, so keep
your eyes peeled.”
Independent Business of the Year was awarded to Proof Bakery in Coventry.
Founded to help refugee women learn professional baking skills and find steady employment, they also offer business deliveries and run popular bread-making workshops for the public.
Chernise Neo, owner, said: "We are completely over the moon! This award is a real encouragement following the many pandemic pivots of the last 15 months. A pat on the back to our whole team including our refugee bakers and a nod towards the ways that independent food businesses contribute to their local economy and community."
Coventry-based Stripclub Streetfood claimed the headlines in the Best Streetfood category. Owner Tom Hope said: “This is an amazing achievement for us and it’s great to be recognised for the journey we’ve had thus far. The recognition means such a lot for a small independent company like ours.”
The all-new Coventry and Warwickshire Foodie Awards are the result of 18 months of planning for the committee, a partnership between Talk Business UK, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Eat With Ellen and Chalmers News PR.
Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: “I'm both relieved and inspired to have finally been able to host the first Foodie Awards and welcome all the finalists, supporters and guests to celebrate their amazing achievements from the last 18 months.
“It’s fair to say that, after a series of postponements, at times we had our doubts about whether it could even happen, but all the organisers felt strongly that it would be a much-needed boost to the industry as it emerged from a very difficult time, so we were determined to adapt and push on.
“A big thank you as well to all our sponsors, without whom the night would not have been such a huge success - Visit Coventry (Coventry City Council); Visit Warwickshire (Warwickshire County Council); CW LEP; Comesto; Aubrey Allen; BID Coventry; NFU Mutual Central Warwickshire and Warwickshire College Group. Now bring on Foodie Awards 2022!”
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for tourism at Coventry City Council said, “I was delighted to see so many businesses represented at the awards – they did our thriving food and drink sector proud. They gave a real boost to the hospitality sector in Coventry and Warwickshire and at just the right time. It’s been a tough year, but the awards ceremony reminded us that there’s great food and drink in our high street names, our independents and our new businesses.”
The event, which was hosted at The Box at Coventry’s FarGo Village, also raised more than £1,000 for the nominated charity, The Trussell Trust network of eight foodbanks in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Samantha Stapley, chief operating officer at the Trussell Trust, said: “The support of the Foodie Awards will help food banks within our network continue to provide the lifeline of emergency support for local people in crisis, while we work in the long term to build a hunger-free future.
“As the pandemic continues, more people are likely to need a food bank’s help. Food bank teams are working tirelessly to ensure help continues to be available.”
Look out soon for news of the opening date for entries to the Foodie Awards 2022.
Or keep an eye on the website at: www.foodieawards.co.uk
Best Artisan Drink Producer: Dhillons Brewery, Coventry
Best Artisan Food Producer: Price’s Spices, Leamington
Best Café/Coffee Shop: Warwick Street Kitchen, Leamington
Chef/Cook of the Year (Sponsored by Aubrey Allen): Tobias Reutt, of Earlsdon
Best Food/Drink Experience (sponsored by NFU Mutual): Bread For Life,
Best Farm Shop: Hilltop Farm, Leamington
Best Independent Business (sponsored by Warwickshire County Council):
Proof Bakery, Coventry
Newcomer Award (sponsored by CWLEP): Pasta Brothers, Bishops Tachbrook
Pub or Bar of the Year: Dhillons Brewery, Coventry
Restaurant of the Year: Turmeric Gold, Coventry
Street Food Trader of the Year: Stripclub Street Food
Express To Success Award (sponsored by Comesto): Joint winners: Price’s Spices, Leamington and Swirls Gelato, Leamington.
Covid Resilience Award (Sponsored by Visit Coventry): Hoorays Gelato,
Foodie Champion (Sponsored by The Leamington and Warwick Courier Series):
The Barn Kitchen, Leamington
The Godiva Award (Sponsored by Coventry BID): Dhillon’s Brewery