A prestigious food awards ceremony has revealed a thriving local gastronomic scene, with restaurants, tea-rooms, growers and bed and breakfasts each gaining recognition for their commitment to culinary excellence.
Food companies in the Standard’s patch picked up an impressive trophy tally in the Select Lincolnshire Food and Drinks Awards 2013 held in Lincoln on Thursday night.
Three local firms took top spots in the hotly contested competition, with others enjoying highly commended recognition from judges - marking one of the most successful years in recent history.
The Windmill in Burgh le Marsh took the Restaurant of the Year award, for the second year running, which proud owners Sharon and Chris Noble are delighted with.
Sharon said: “It felt fantastic to win for the second year running and we are very proud to know that all the hard work has paid off and been rewarded.
“We always try to do everything right and be consistent, which I think is the key to our success.
“It’s all about greeting customers when they come in the door, creating a nice friendly atmosphere and using good, fresh local produce, served by friendly and efficient staff.”
The Windmill noticed a boost in trade following last year’s award, which Hogsthorpe based company Willows Farm Fruits hopes to enjoy after its success in the Grower of the Year category.
The arable farm grows strawberries, raspberries, blackberries plums and most other soft fruits, which owner David Pridgeon says he is passionate about.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the Select concept, so it was nice for a small company like ours to get recognition from someone who thinks we deserve it. We are always beavering away trying to produce good quality strawberries and it is nice to see the effort has paid off.”
Spilsby’s fourth generation family-run ice cream producers Dennett’s also gained an award for its tearooms in Lincoln.
Claire Dennett, who has been running the Bailgate based tearooms since 1995, says it was ‘very gratifying’ to receive the award after narrowly missing out several times in recent years.
She said: “I’ve been nominated before and finished in the top three but this was the first time I’ve won.
“It’s something I’ve been working long and hard at over the past 17 years so it’s very gratifying to get the award.
“I hope they appreciated that we are a family-run business and value old fashioned customer service - everything is freshly made and served in an unhurried environment where your customers can come and chill-out for a while.”
The tearooms were established as a flagship to demonstrate the value its ice cream products can bring to other businesses.
Last year’s Bed and Breakfast of the Year, Caxton House in Skegness, narrowly missed out on the top spot this year but received a high commendation from the judges.
Owners Paul and Wendy Seabrook said the repeated recognition was like a second victory for them, as Paul had been battling cancer all year.
Wendy said: “He has been really poorly so it’s been a lot of hard work between us - to get a highly commended is a really fantastic place to be.
“I think it’s because we try to offer local produce and provide varied menus to our guests and something that’s a little bit different.
“Last year’s award has been good for businesses because customers appreciate the fact that we go the extra mile and I think it’s also good for Skegness because it shows we can provide for our visitors.”
The ceremony was streamed live over the internet for the first time in its history, generating more than 1.2 million tweets, which organisers say has placed Lincolnshire firmly at the heart of great food.
Principal development officer for Lincolnshire County Council, Lydia Rusling, said: “In addition to our guests - we were pleased to welcome a further 470 people who watched online via our live stream, thanks to the partnership with OnLincolnshire for this year’s awards.
“Sound testament to the interest in our county’s food and drink.
“It was also a good opportunity for us to show how we have now brought together Tastes of Lincolnshire and Select Lincolnshire to help consumers ‘select’ quality Lincolnshire produce, especially when interest in the source of food in this country is in the news.”