The South West's food, drink and hospitality sector is currently operating in the toughest environment for many years, yet powerful feelings of pride and determination were the overriding emotions at the 2023 Food Reader Awards which took place on Monday 15th May.
The event was a huge success and received a much-needed shot of positivity for the industry at this difficult time. Attendees were resolute in their belief that, while the year ahead looks to be difficult (as a result of food and fuel prices and a recruitment crisis), pulling together is the best way for independent businesses to survive.
The awards which, each year, are held at a different location in the South West, celebrate the best food, drink and hospitality businesses from Cornwall to the Cotswolds. The votes are cast by the magazine and online platform's readers and this year individual votes numbered 100,000.
The event was held at the beautiful Nancarrow Farm in Cornwall, its team creating an incredible feast that Jack Stein, in his acceptance speech, pronounced the best food he'd ever eaten at an awards dinner. Stella West-Harling MBE of Ashburton Cookery School, which won Best Cookery School, topped that by announcing it to have been one of the best events she'd ever attended.
The evening was hosted by Food Magazine editor Kathryn Lewis and Salt Media director Jo Rees, who revealed the winners of 13 award categories. The full list follows:
Sponsored by Salt Media
Jack Stein – Rick Stein Restaurants
Sponsored by Dole Food Service
One Fish Street, St Ives
Sponsored by The Eco Laundry
Bovey Castle, Dartmoor
Best Cocktail Bar
Sponsored by RAW
The Library, Bristol
Sponsored by Indy Coffee Guide
The Whole Hog, Lyme Regis
Best Dining Pub
Sponsored by Luscombe Drinks
The Cornish Arms, Tavistock
Best Food Product
Sponsored by Potters Beans
Bath Soft Cheese, Bath
Best Drink Product
Sponsored by Great British Gourmet Experiences
Sandford Orchards Devon Red, Devon
Best Indie Retailer
Sponsored by Enotria & Coe
The Beckford Bottle Shop, Bath
Best Farm Shop
Sponsored by Pebblebed Vineyards
St Kew Farmshop & Café, Cornwall
Best Cookery School
Sponsored by Rodda's
Ashburton Cookery School, Devon
Sponsored by Knightor Winery
Crocadon, St Mellion
The Farm Table at Darts Farm, near Exeter
Sponsored by Nancarrow Farm
Scarlet, Mawgan Porth
Food Magazine editor, Kathryn Lewis, said: “From the fantastic food and the faultless service to the fun-loving crowd and beautiful Cornish sunshine, last night's Food Reader Awards at Nancarrow Farm was the best yet. Chef Jack Bristow and team did an amazing job, crafting a rustic three-course feast for over 100 of the region's top chefs, hoteliers, producers and foodie entrepreneurs.
“Every year we're blown away by the number of votes we receive from Food Magazine readers and the quality of this year's winners is testament to their good taste. It's great to see new businesses, such as Best Restaurant winners One Fish Street in St Ives and Best Newcomer winners Crocadon in St Mellion and The Farm Table at Darts Farm near Exeter, rubbing shoulders with South West stalwarts Ashburton Cookery School (Best Cookery School) and Bovey Castle (Best Foodie Hotel).'
Jo Rees said: “When we launched Food Magazine 20 years ago, we were repeatedly told: ‘People don't care about local food’ and ‘There's not enough good food and drink companies to justify a magazine’ and ‘There aren't any good places to eat out’, but we knew that things were changing, which gave us the confidence to create the UK's first local food magazine.
“The first two issues were created in a spare bedroom by two people sharing a phone and a laptop, but with the passionate belief that, by working with the South West's food and drink industry we could help protect our shared food culture from being dismantled by multinational corporations with no interest other than short term profits. The industry has boomed in recent years, but this year looks to be a tough one, so I urge everyone to do their best to support their local restaurants, producers and retailers to ensure they stay in business – we all want to have more retail and culinary options than just supermarkets and fast-food outlets.”
The supporters and sponsors of the Food Reader Awards 2023 include lead sponsors Dole Food Service and Rodda's, The Eco Laundry, RAW Food and Drink PR, Enotria & Coe, Hattingley Valley, Knightor Winery, Pebblebed Vineyards, Luscombe, Potter Beans, Salt Media and Wicked Wolf. Ingredients were supplied by George Cleave Fishmongers, Nancarrow Farm and Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream.