Best food and drink in Hunts, it’s official

THE best purveyors of food and drink in Huntingdonshire gathered together at the Old Bridge in Huntingdon this week to discover the winners of the district s first Food and Drink Awards. Nominations for the competition, organised by The Hunts Post and Hun

THE best purveyors of food and drink in Huntingdonshire gathered together at the Old Bridge in Huntingdon this week to discover the winners of the district's first Food and Drink Awards.

Nominations for the competition, organised by The Hunts Post and Huntingdonshire District Council, were received from all across the district in four categories: Junior Chef, Producer of the Year, Pub of the Year and Restaurant of the Year.

After much tasting, sipping and debate by the competition's judges, the winners were announced by BBC Look East's Jane Deith on Monday.

Opening the evening, Andy Veale, Editor of The Hunts Post, said: "These awards have been devised to celebrate all that is good about fine dining and drinking in the district, as well as the great food producers who supply our restaurants, pubs, farmers' markets and supermarkets with their produce."

"As this is the first year of the awards, it is very much a learning curve for the organisers.

"But we have been well supported by the judges and sponsors who have backed the idea and given their time to help make the awards a success and find those businesses and chefs dedicated to quality.

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"And we believe we have found the best - not only in the eventual winners but also among the short-listed businesses. They have all demonstrated dedication to food, service and quality."

The first award of the evening to be presented was Junior Chef of the Year (more details about the competition can be found on the opposite page).

This award, sponsored by Anglian Water, gave 11-14 year-olds the chance to show their skills in the kitchen using local ingredients as well as their flair and imagination.

Following a cook-off on Saturday at the Saxongate Centre in Huntingdon between six young chefs, 14-year-old Tommy Rogers was announced as the winner.

Tommy, whose parents run the New Sun Inn at Kimbolton, delighted the judges - Lisa Taylor from Anglian Water, and chef John Betham - with his wild rabbit dish - described as "restaurant quality".

The second presentation was for Huntingdonshire Producer of the Year, which was sponsored by Tesco.

This proved a hard category to judge as it covers such a wide area of the food industry. But Huntingdonshire does have some very good producers working from permanent sites or at the markets.

The business had to produce great local produce, and demonstrate a commitment to providing the best quality and service possible.

Those short listed were: River Nene Organic Vegetables, Yaxley; Porch House Traditional Pork, Wistow; Tom's Cakes, Somersham; and Glebe Farm Organic, Kings Ripton.

The winner, announced by Sam Nundy of Tesco, was Tom's Cakes - described as "a real local success story". The judges said "the business uses lots of local ingredients, including flour, eggs and seasonal fruits, to produce some fantastic cakes".

Owner Tom Dolby said: "We have been going for six years and have grown very slowly. We don't do much advertising, so it's nice to be recognised - it makes it all worth while."

The third award of the evening was for Pub of the Year. This was a hotly contested category with about 20 vying for the title, but after some hard work by the sponsors CAMRA, the shortlist was whittled down to hree.

These were: The River Mill at Eaton Socon, The Pheasant at Keyston, and the Snooty Tavern at Great Staughton.

Andy Shaw, chairman of the Huntingdonshire branch of CAMRA, announced the winner as The Pheasant, which is owned Jay and Taffeta Scrimshaw. They have been running the pub for two years and have owned the pub since April.

Taffeta said: "This does mean a lot. We recently bought the pub and we have a really good team that has been working with us for quite a while. We have been working so hard and really want to make this place work."

The final presentation of the evening was for Restaurant of the Year, sponsored by Waitrose.

Nominations were made by the public through The Hunts Post and eventually after sifting through the criteria, a short list of four was drawn up: The Barn, Pidley; George Inn, Spaldwick; The Old Bridge, Huntingdon; and the New Sun Inn, Kimbolton

Stuart Johnson, manager of Waitrose St Ives, and Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the FSB, were the lucky judges who got to visit the finalists and decide on the winner.

The Huntingdonshire Restaurant of the Year was announced as The Barn at Pidley.

Owner David Newman said: "We are delighted. For a new restaurant to take on the big boys and win in the first year of the award is brilliant. We are very proud and the certificate has been put near the bar for all our customers to see. We come at this from a different angle, we are a farm diversification - we can introduce you to the meat you will have on your plate next week and our suppliers are other local award-winning producers of livestock.

"Our chef Jeremy Irson was brought up on his grandfather's farm in Godmanchester and he trained at The Savoy so he understands about sourcing the best possible local ingredients."

The evening also included a charity raffle in aid of the Dreamdrops Appeal at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. This raised £180 which will be used to provide some extras for the young patients in the new children's unit.

Thanks were given to f the sponsors and to John Hoskins, owner of the Old Bridge in Huntingdon, who provided the food and drink on Monday evening.