Tourism Awards 2021-2022: Meet the Taste of East of England Award finalists

The Alma Inn and Dining Rooms lobster dinner

The Alma Inn and Dining Rooms serves locally sourced food seven days a week including fresh lobster, fish and artisan sausages - Credit: Anthony Cullen

The finalists have been announced for the Taste of East of England Award, sponsored by Adnams, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.   

This award recognises restaurants, hotel restaurants, coffee shops, cafés, tea rooms and bistros demonstrating innovation and excellence in food, beverages and customer service. 

Alma Inn and Dining Rooms 

Run by innkeeper Nick May since 2011, the Alma Inn and Dining Rooms is a popular restaurant in Harwich, Essex. With a history that stretches back to the 16th century, the beautiful building retains its charm and character, with period features creating a comfortable atmosphere.

The Alma is now one of the busiest pubs in Harwich, serving locally-sourced food seven days a week. Fresh lobster, fish and artisan sausages married with locally-grown vegetables are all prepared with flair by the skilled chefs, and the bar is stocked with local ales, gins and wines.

The judges said the food was extremely fresh, with all fish, meat and produce bought locally. The team are clearly proud of their history in Harwich and their part in the community. All the staff seemed very enthusiastic and created a lovely atmosphere.

Herb crusted chateaubriand from the Pig & Whistle

Herb crusted chateaubriand from the Pig & Whistle - Credit: Justin Mullender

Pig & Whistle Restaurant

The Pig & Whistle is a cosy countryside restaurant in Chelmsford, Essex, serving seasonal menus featuring classic British dishes, complemented by exotic influences. Owners Brendan Curran and Justin Mullender launched the business eight years ago, transforming the building from a quiet 16th century pub into a busy restaurant.  

In 2018, the Pig & Whistle Restaurant was awarded Best Customer Service at the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards and was named Most Romantic Restaurant in Essex in both 2019 and 2020 by OpenTable.  

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The judges said the food was exceptional both in presentation and taste, and was accompanied by delicious wines. All staff were professional, knowledgeable, calm, efficient and courteous throughout and it is clear this restaurant is run by people with a genuine passion for good food. 

The English Whisky Co. small batch whiskies

The English Whisky Co. is based at St George’s Distillery in Norfolk where it produces its single malt, grain and small batch whiskies - Credit: The English Whisky Co.

The English Whisky Co.

The English Whisky Co. became England’s first registered whisky distillery in more than a century when the Nelstrop family founded it in Roudham, Norfolk in 2006. Today, The English Whisky Co.’s guided tours are a firm favourite in East Anglia. Before the pandemic, an estimated 80,000 people visited the site annually. 

The family-owned business is based at St George’s Distillery in Norfolk where it produces its single malt, grain and small batch whiskies, as well as bramble liqueur, nog whisky cream and dessert wine. The site also features a bistro, which is open seven days a week. 

The judges said the menu contained a range of locally-sourced produce which was explained well and showed great support for some local businesses. The dishes were unique and the owner explained he had brought a South African touch to some of the dishes, which originated from his roots. 

Lion Brasserie smoker salmon

The Lion Brasserie serves food sourced from Mersea Island, Hadleigh and Manningtree - Credit: Lion Brasserie

The Lion Brasserie

The Lion Brasserie in East Bergholt, Suffolk, is a luxury brasserie and bar located in the heart of Constable Country within a large walled garden with manicured lawns. The state-of-the-art kitchen serves fish sourced from Mersea Island, meat sourced from Hadleigh and fresh fruit, vegetables and fruit juices sourced from Manningtree. The bar serves the finest local products including real ales, fine wines and champagnes. 

Owner Jonathan Peachey wanted to create an elegant dining experience in East Bergholt and launched The Lion Brasserie in September 2020. Opening during the pandemic has presented many challenges, but the team has adapted by offering takeaways and erecting a large sail tent in the garden for outside dining. 

The judges said the service was superb, both in knowledge and friendliness, with an infectious enthusiasm shown by all the staff and the kitchen. The meat, fish, vegetables and some wine and beer are all sourced locally and the meat and fish are sustainable. 

Black garlic glazed Dingley Dell pork fillet from the Maids Head Hotel 

The Maids Head Hotel has recently had a multi-million-pound refurbishment including the WinePress Restaurant’s new contemporary dining space - Credit: Maids Head Hotel

The Maids Head Hotel

The Maids Head Hotel has been in the hospitality business for more than 800 years. Located in Norwich’s Cathedral Quarter, the Norfolk hotel has 84 bedrooms and a restaurant that has been awarded with 2AA Rosettes. 

The Maids Head Hotel has been privately owned since 2012 and since then has embarked on an exciting multi-million-pound refurbishment, including the WinePress Restaurant’s new contemporary dining space. Guests can enjoy the casual dining menu or afternoon tea in the lounge, Maids Head Bar and Inside Out Courtyard. Sunday lunch is also very popular. 

The judges said the food at The Maids Head Hotel was absolutely delicious. 

The winners of the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022 will be announced at a black-tie event held at Imperial War Museum Duxford on Thursday, February 24.