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2018 Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards, Ribby Hall Village

PUBLISHED: 16:35 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:35 17 December 2018

Chef of the Year, sponsored by Total Foodservice Solutions. The winner was Moor Hall's Mark Birchall
, flanked by host, Andy Crane (left) and sponsor, Simon Howarth

Chef of the Year, sponsored by Total Foodservice Solutions. The winner was Moor Hall's Mark Birchall , flanked by host, Andy Crane (left) and sponsor, Simon Howarth

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The leading culinary lights in Lancashire and the Lake District were honoured in our Food & Drink Awards at Ribby Hall.

Restaurant of the Year, sponsored by Stephensons Catering Equipment. The winner was the Freemasons at Wiswell
. Paul Barnes (right) with Becci Williams and Robert IzzardRestaurant of the Year, sponsored by Stephensons Catering Equipment. The winner was the Freemasons at Wiswell . Paul Barnes (right) with Becci Williams and Robert Izzard

This is something that’s been 20 years in the making, it’s not something that’s just happened in the past 18 months,’ said Mark Birchall, chef patron of the much-lauded Moor Hall in Aughton. ‘It’s been 20 years of my life that I have worked for this success. And it means so much.’

The talented Adlington-born chef, who spent several years running the kitchens at L’Enclume in Cartmel, won’t be forgetting 2018 in a hurry. Moor Hall, a restaurant with rooms that only opened just over 18 months ago, has achieved levels of excellence most people in the industry will only ever dream about. Within six months Moor Hall was awarded its first Michelin star, followed by a Best Breakthrough gong at the British GQ Food and Drink Awards, recognition from the Good Food Guide, a place on the National Restaurant Awards list and a Lancashire Life Food and Drink Award in 2017 for Restaurant of the Year. And at the start of October came the accolade chefs dreams about – goldust in the form of two Michelin stars. And it was to much applause, but no great surprise, that Mark was named Chef of the Year at this year’s Lancashire Life & Lake District Life Food and Drink Awards. ‘I’m really flattered, I’m absolutely over the moon,’ said Mark. ‘It’s been an amazing year. I decided to take a massive gamble leaving something that was one of the most talked about restaurants in Europe to what could have been nothing.

‘Now, we’re one of those talked about restaurants. There’s not many things that compare to what’s happened this year. There’s the birth of my son, winning two stars and things like this award tonight.

‘It’s a dream come true to have a restaurant like we have in Lancashire, the place I call home. I feel quite emotional, it really means the world to me to have this award. My dad, David, will be so pleased for me too. It just feels amazing. I’m really happy.’

Outstanding Customer Service, sponsored by The Menu
. The winner was Quite Simply French
, of Lancaster. Laura Queliaa and Jenifer Knowles collected their award from Tony and John Alberti, who appeared on Love IslandOutstanding Customer Service, sponsored by The Menu . The winner was Quite Simply French , of Lancaster. Laura Queliaa and Jenifer Knowles collected their award from Tony and John Alberti, who appeared on Love Island

It was a double celebration as Moor Hall’s newest restaurant, The Barn at Moor Hall, was named Newcomer of the Year, less than a year after it opened. Under the leadership of head chef, Dom Clarke, Moor Hall’s sister business has led the field pulling in diners in their droves and carving itself out a niche as a top quality casual dining venue. Dom and the team were awarded the Lancashire Life accolade just a few weeks after receiving a prestigious Bib Gourmand from Michelin.

‘I never expected this at all, it’s absolutely brilliant, I just didn’t see it coming,’ said the 38-year-old, who has worked in Manchester’s Lowry Hotel, the Lake District’s Gilpin and The Ryebeck and Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa and Island in Scotland.

‘The hard work everyone has put in is starting to pay off,’ he said. ‘I love the diversity of it all at The Barn. The produce, the equipment, it’s like a chef’s playground. It’s so good to get this award not just for myself but also for the boys in the kitchen to see what they’re doing is worthwhile and being recognised.’

Further confirmation that Lancashire is a county with some of the best food and drink in the world came from Burnley’s Batch Brew. Batch’s Industrial Strength Gin - it’s 55pc proof – was named Lancashire Life Food/Drink Product of the Year. It received the accolade just a few months the San Francisco World Spirits Competition where it was won a prestigious Double Gold and the Best Gin Award.

‘It’s been a real journey for us. To win best drink in the world and then to be recognised locally is really special,’ said operations manager, Claire Plowes. ‘We’ve come from a basement in Burnley only four years ago. To go from that to this and being so recognised makes me emotional.

‘We’ve just completed exports to Italy, China and Canada. We’re not here to be big, necessarily, we want to be recognised as a good gin, working hard and celebrating our heritage. We’re from Burnley and we’re proud to represent the county. We were the first Lancashire distillery and we hope we have inspired others.’

Our awards is an evening that reveals the county’s shining stars and celebrates the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs.

Many from the region’s culinary elite filled The Woodland Suite at Ribby Hall for the gala evening which began with a drinks reception hosted by Slingsby Gin.

Guests then moved into the Woodland Suite, dressed beautifully by Event Station and Whitehouse Event Crockery, for an outstanding meal prepared by Chris Parsons and his brigade and immaculately served by the Ribby Hall team. Wines from Hallgarten accompanied the meal, which concluded with an impressive cheese board from Butlers.

After a welcome from editor Roger Borrell, the evening was hosted by broadcaster Andy Crane.

The shortlist was chosen by a panel of independent judges including Trevor Stone, who headed the giant AstraZeneca catering operation, dedicated chef and lecturer Nick Hatch and food writer, Emma Mayoh.

Among the winners were Miaitalia, of Bolton-le-Sands, who received the Family Dining award and The Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite who were awarded the Restaurant with Rooms accolade. Greendale in Chatburn was named Tearoom/Cafe of the Year in recognition of the work owners Trevor and Louise Rutherford have done since they took on the business three years ago.

The couple, who run it with children Ashley and Kelsey, were at Puddleducks in Dunsop Bridge for more than a decade.

‘I just love making really good food, particularly bread. You’ll always find me in the kitchen covered in flour,’ said Trevor. ‘We’re real, we’re friendly and we offer a warm welcome.

‘It’s so nice to be recognised. We’ll celebrate by getting up tomorrow and making bread.’

The Cartford Inn, who already received two AA Rosettes and a spot on the prestigious Top 50 Gastropubs list this year, took home the Dining Pub award in recognition of the stellar food being turned out by head chef Chris Bury and his kitchen team.

The Samling Hotel in Windermere was awarded the Lake District Dining Excellence accolade – marking a positive end to what manager Kirsty Thomas described as a tough year finding the right team. It was also recognition for former Gidleigh Park chef Peter Howarth whose appointment last year sent a clear message this is a hotel that means business.

Two of the county’s shining stars were recognised with special awards. Graham Wilkinson, former Kendal College principal, was named Lancashire Life Food Hero and the team at Quite Simply French in Lancaster received the Outstanding Customer Service Award. ‘It’s such a privilege to get this, it was such a surprise and it is such good news,’ said QSF manager Laura Quelina. ‘It’s just beautiful. We work hard, try hard and it’s fabulous to be acknowledged.’

Bowland Food Hall, part of James’ Places Holmes Mill development, was named Independent Retailer. Alison Ashworth said: ‘I’m over the moon, I feel shaky, I’m that happy.’

Another big prize went to the Freemasons at Wiswell, named Restaurant of the Year. Chef patron Steven Smith’s passion has earned him applause from all corners for producing show-stopping food while maintaining the atmosphere of a local pub.

Becci Williams, hostess at the Freemasons, said: ‘This is for all of the wonderful work Steven does and all he has achieved.’

Each winner was presented with plaques to display as well as celebratory champagne magnums from Hallgarten.

More than £1,000 was also raised for Hospitality Action, a charity that offers vital assistance to all who work, or have worked within hospitality but find themselves in crisis.

Click here to see the full list of winners

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