Tag Archive: awards

  • Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    House of Feasts, Eye Green, Peterborough


    Hitchen’s Barn, Oakham, Rutland
    Boboli, Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire
    Bar Iberico, Nottingham

    The winner is House of Feasts in the village of Eye Green near Peterborough, which impressed with its take on modern Polish cuisine.

    Chef-patron Damian Wawrzyniak shows drive and passion to showcase a largely unknown and underrated European cuisine, giving it a modern twist using local ingredients.

    Sunday lunch at House of Feasts

    It’s not all boiled potatoes and dumplings at House of Feasts – far from it. Damian takes the best of Polish cuisine and modernises and refines it with dishes such as Royal Smalec (as served to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), and Cambridgeshire Organic Pork Belly Hong Kong-style. The pork is brined with soy, cooked with orange, star anise and honey, fermented apples and marjoram.

    Sunday lunches are a big hit at House of Feasts and we enjoyed the ham hock – brined and cooked in beer and served with roasted Cambridgeshire potatoes and vegetables. This was followed by aerated chocolate mousse with whipped cream, cocoa, preserved red currants and salted caramel.

    Damian Wawrzyniak

    Hitchen’s Barn of Oakham served us a delicious main of sea trout with new potatoes, samphire and brown shrimp.

    Sea trout at Hitchen’s Barn

    Bar Iberico in the bustling centre of Nottingham wowed us with some tasty tapas, including ‘Josperised’ bream with caramelised lemon and green sauce.

    ‘Josperised’ bream with caramelised lemon and green sauce at Bar Iberico

    Boboli in the peaceful backwaters of Kibworth Harcourt served us a main of rolled neck of lamb.

    Neck of lamb at Boboli
  • Great Food Club Awards 2020: The Results

    The Winners

    Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Yearfull details & pictures
    The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold, Leics
    Last year’s winner: John’s House, Mountsorrel, Leics

    Casual-Dining Restaurant of the Year (new category)full details & pictures
    House of Feasts, Eye Green, Peterborough, Cambs

    Dining Pub of the Year full details & pictures
    The Wheatsheaf, Greetham, Rutland
    Last year’s winner: The Olive Branch, Clipsham

    Asian Restaurant of the Year (new category) full details & pictures
    Sanctua, Oadby, Leics

    Classic Pub of the Year (new category) full details & pictures
    The Black Horse, Aylestone, Leics

    Café of the Yearfull details & pictures
    The Larder, Oakham, Rutland
    Last year’s winner: Kavanagh’s, Oakham

    Food Shop of the Yearfull details & pictures
    The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    Last year’s winner: Christopher James Deli, Leicester

    Food Producer of the Year full details & pictures
    Elms Farm, Costock, Leics
    Last year’s winner: Redhill Farm Free Range Pork, Gainsborough, Lincs

    Drink Producer of the Yearfull details & pictures
    Round Corner Brewing, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    Last year’s winner: Wharf Distillery, Potterspury, Northants

    Farm Shop of the Yearfull details & pictures
    Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Market Harborough, Leics
    Last year’s winner: Harker’s Farm Shop, Clipston-on-the-Wolds, Notts

    Bakery of the Yearfull details & pictures
    Best Sourdough Producer: Small Food Bakery, Nottingham
    Best Cake Baker: Hambleton Bakery, Rutland
    Last year’s winner: The Garage Bakehouse, Market Harborough

    Butcher of the Year (new category)full details & pictures
    Best High-Street Butcher: The Snobby Butcher, Nottingham, Notts
    Best Catering Butcher: Price & Fretwell, Tibshelf, Derbyshire

    Food Hero of the Year (new category)full details & pictures
    Pratik Master for his work at Wigston News & Deli in Leicestershire

    Important information

    The judging process
    Our judges have visited every shortlisted business. They’ve eaten – anonymously where possible – at all the pubs, cafés and restaurants. They’ve chatted to each of the producers and shop owners to get under the skins of their businesses.

    How the shortlist was compiled
    We asked our members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 3,000 online votes were cast between July 1 and July 31, 2019. The top four vote winners in each category made the shortlist – five where there was a tie between fourth and fifth. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded. Click here to see all shortlisted businesses.

    Ineligible businesses
    Businesses that won GFC awards last year were not eligible to be shortlisted this year. Our aim is to showcase a broad range of independents and by not allowing a single business to win an award two years in a row, we go some way to achieving this aim.

    Click here to see the previous year’s winners.

  • Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold, Leicestershire


    The Jew’s House, Lincoln
    Hambleton Hall, near Oakham, Rutland
    Prévost, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
    Ascough’s, Market Harborough

    The winner is The Hammer & Pincers in Wymeswold, Leicestershire. This restaurant has evolved into something special. The food hits all the right notes via a unique style of cooking that the kitchen here has made all its own. What you get is skilfully prepared, ingredient-led fine-dining imbued with the laid-back characteristics of great comfort food, and finished with a sprinkling of decadence and fun.

    Rosary Ash goats’ cheese soufflé

    Dishes we’ve loved here include Rosary Ash goats’ cheese soufflé with allotment rhubarb and rose chutney; baked Alaska with ginger ice cream; hay-smoked celeriac carpaccio with braised venison shin and apple and lovage salad; and cumin & lime sugar grilled hake fillet with aloo tikki, summer bean and tamarind chutney and cauliflower pakora. The Saturday Grazing Menu is a delight from start to finish.

    Hay-smoked celeriac carpaccio with braised venison shin
    Baked Alaska with ginger ice cream

    With a stylish, intimate interior to match the food, The Hammer & Pincers really is a treat.

    Inside The Hammer & Pincers

    Hambleton Hall is a jewel in the East Midlands’ dining crown. When the sun glitters on Rutland Water and you browse the menu from Hambleton’s stunning terrace, there are few better feelings of ‘dining expectation’ anywhere in Britain.

    And Hambleton Hall’s food delivers on that promise, too. The cooking is exceptional and impressively consistent. If you want a traditional ‘fine dining’ experience, this handsome Rutland gem is incredibly hard to beat.

    Crispy pig cheek starter at Hambleton Hall

    The Jew’s House in Lincoln is located in one of Britain’s oldest buildings. Everything about eating here feels neat and polished, from the delicious homemade bread you receive on arrival, to the top-quality service. Ingredients are lovingly chosen and put together with genuine skill. It provides a sophisticated, satisfying dining experience.

    Salt lamb with Jerusalem artichoke at The Jew’s House

    Stylish Prévost in Peterborough is a hidden-away restaurant that you should seek out. Lee Clarke and his team’s cooking is full of ambition, passion and vibrancy, and they choose their ingredients with care.

    60-day aged dairy cow at Prévost

    Ascough’s in Market Harborough straddles the boundary between casual and fine dining. Perennially popular, it does what it does well, offering good cooking and exceptional value for money.

    Inside Ascough’s
    Starter at Ascough’s
  • Farm Shop of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Market Harborough, Leicestershire


    Welbeck Farm Shop, Welbeck, Notts
    March House Farm Shop, Great Dalby, Leics
    Hackwood Farm Shop, Radbourne, Derbys

    The winner is Farndon Fields Farm Shop of Market Harborough. It started with a farmer selling a few spuds direct from the field out of his garage. Some 36 years later, it has become a genuine destination shopping experience that remains close to its founding principles of local and seasonal.

    Nicola Stokes of Farndon Fields Farm Shop

    Entering the shop, customers see a wonderful array of beautifully arranged fruit and vegetables, much of it still grown on the Stokes family farm in nearby fields. Several other local growers now produce specifically for the shop. There is plenty of information about varieties and what each is best for.

    Customers then move to a butchery, complete with new maturing cabinets where Charolais and Aberdeen Angus beef from less than 10 miles away is displayed, along with lamb from the next-door farm.

    There is a bakery, frozen section, dairy counter, and a wine and spirit section that again features local producers such as Welland Valley Wines, Warner Edwards and Two Birds. The on-site café is exceptional.

    The Farndon Fields cake counter

    Farndon Fields does a good job of engaging with and listening to its customers. It has thoughtfully expanded over the years to offer one-stop shopping of the utmost quality.

    March House Farm at Great Dalby near Melton Mowbray has been successfully selling its meat at farmers’ markets for two decades. In 2018, the owners built a large butchery-focused farm shop on-site, as well as a big, airy, impressive café. They sit next to fields and farm buildings.

    Paul McDonald of March House Farm at the stunning butchery counter

    All the meat in the shop except the chicken is raised on March House Farm. Their popular sausages, black pudding and salt-beef are produced on-site. This is farming and retail where provenance, quality and welfare are genuinely important. Beef comes from pasture-fed Angus-Fresian crosses and Shorthorns, and cows that single suckle. Many Leicester people will attest to the quality because this is the beef behind the fabulous Crafty Burger in St Martin’s Square. March House Farm Shop also sells a range of excellent locally sourced produce.

    March House Farm Shop

    At Hackwood Farm Shop near Derby, Georgina and Neil Crofts have done an outstanding job of converting some old farm buildings into one of Derbyshire’s most popular farm shops and cafés. The butchery sells locally-reared Dexter beef, Packington chicken and venison from Calke Abbey. They make their own sausages, bacon and hams, and have expanded their deli offering, which provides high-quality ingredients for their popular café.

    The café at Hackwood Farm Shop

    The café serves more than 200 afternoon teas a week and you often need to book for breakfast at weekends.  “Any café can do a similar menu, but something about the way we do it – local, seasonal food in an honest old building – seems to resonate,” says Neil. “It’s not complicated, it’s just real, and people like it.”

    Welbeck Farm Shop sits at the heart of Welbeck Abbey Estate in north Nottinghamshire – a food destination of national significance. The Estate is home to The School of Artisan Food, Stichelton Cheese, plus a celebrated bakery, brewery and a number of small food business start-ups. Welbeck’s first-rate farm shop provides a wonderful showcase for food from the Estate and the surrounding region.

    Welbeck Farm Shop’s superb butchery counter

    At the heart of the success of this beautifully appointed farm shop is its fine butchery, which provides lamb and game from the Welbeck Estate, pork from neighbouring Clumber Park and beef from five local farmers. Then there is its sought-after bread and, in addition to Stichelton, a stunning cheese selection supplied in collaboration with Neal’s Yard Dairy. Another draw is the in-store raw-milk vending machine.

    The cheese counter at Welbeck Farm Shop
  • Drink Producer of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    Round Corner Brewing, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire


    Brentingby Gin, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
    Rothley Wines, Rothley, Leicestershire
    Witham’s, Grantham, Lincolnshire

    The winner is Round Corner Brewing of Melton Mowbray for its outstanding, well-balanced beers, relentless energy and policy of teaming up with other food and drink independents.

    Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan

    Round Corner was founded by two Irishman who met in New Zealand. Head brewer Colin Paige, who has produced award-winning beer around the world, met business partner Combie Cryan in Wellington. Fate shoved them towards Melton Mowbray.

    Round Corner’s taproom at Melton Mowbray Cattle Market

    A friend had just bought Melton Cattle Market, the largest town-centre cattle market in the UK, which attracts 350,000 thirsty visitors every year. It proved an irresistible destination for the new brewery. With money raised from friends and family, they spent £650,000 kitting out the brewery and creating a simple taproom with clear views of the mash tuns and fermenters. You walk in just yards from the chatter of the auctioneer and are immediately assailed with the heady smell of malt and hops.

    The core range is characterised by distinctive, crisp beers done well – with no self-consciously wacky stuff. They include Frisby, a bright, clean lager that picked up a Silver at the International Brewing Awards, and Gun Metal, a black lager with a creamy head and counter-intuitively crisp taste which won a Gold. Hopping Spree, a 6.8% hop bomb is up there with the best in its class – bursting with flavour from Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra hops.

    The beers are outstanding, but what makes Round Corner stand out more is the energetic way it teams up with other independent local food businesses to put on great events. Each Friday a different street-food producer comes to the brewery to cook up, while Colin, Combie and the team serve their exceptional beers.

    The other finalists

    In a hamlet just outside Melton Mowbray, Bruce Midgely has built Brentingby Gin into one of the UK’s most dynamic craft gin companies in just two years. Bruce made 300 trial runs before using his engineering skills to create a unique ten-plate copper still, fondly known as ‘Ayanda’.

    Bruce Midgley with ‘Ayanda’

    Brentingby’s gins are superb: exceptionally clear, clean and well-balanced. The London Dry is juniper-led, balanced by floral and spice notes. Black Edition ramps up the pepper and pine characteristics. And Brentingby’s pink gin features subtle but exotic floral notes from hibiscus, rooibos and baobab. All receive consistently excellent reviews, and some 6,000 bottles leave the distillery each month. Growth plans are ambitious.

    Witham’s of Grantham makes two key products: Sparkling Elderflower Infusion (3.5%ABV) and Sparkling Elderflower Wine (12%ABV). Both are made with Swithland Spring Water from Leicestershire and hand-picked Lincolnshire elderflowers. The wine uses a blend of Italian grapes.

    Charlie and Gemma Ruigrok, founders of Witham’s

    Each year, Witham’s picks around 20,000 elderflower heads, avoiding roadsides and margins of intensively cultivated fields to make some 4,500 bottles. Using méthode champenoise they produce a crisp, dry wine with a fine mousse, citrus from Trebbiano grapes, richness from Chardonnay and a glorious floral aroma from the elderflower. Witham’s is on a mission to show people that elderflower fizz can be a dry, sophisticated drink that sits neatly between prosecco and the new wave of fine English sparkling wines.

    English wine might be a success story, but Leicestershire remains a challenging place to grow grapes and make fine wine. All credit then to Rothley Wines, founded by Liz Robson, who from just a couple of acres on the edge of the village of Rothley produces a range of award-winning red, white and sparkling wines.

    Liz Robson

    The range includes the very Leicestershire pairing of King Richard III – a bright, spicy white – and King Henry – a light, Beaujolais-style red made with Rondo and Regent grapes. Probably most successful is High Hopes – a sparkling white made from 100% Orion. It has a pleasing soft dryness and balance of flavours from peach to melon and hint of ginger. It should be a staple at Leicestershire weddings and celebrations. 

  • Food Shop of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire


    Just So Italian, Market Harborough & Stamford
    Wigston News & Deli, Wigston Magna, Leicestershire
    Barrowden & Wakerley Community Shop, Barrowden, Rutland

    The winner is The Melton Cheeseboard. This small shop in the centre of Melton Mowbray is packed to the gunnels with over 150 cheeses. The local selection is strong, with Stiltons from Long Clawson and Cropwell Bishop, Lincolnshire Poacher in all its forms, Cote Hill Blue and many more. Its busy cheese counter is also home to hatfuls of stunning UK varieties, such as Bath Soft Cheese, Cornish Yarg, Five Mile Town Goats’ Cheese, Ribblesdale Superior, plus many European classics, such as Gorgonzola and Raclette.

    But there’s more at The Melton Cheeseboard: Hambleton Bakery bread, award-winning pork pies from Leeson’s of Oakham, cured meats from Melton Charcuterie, gins from Burleighs Distillery, and yoghurt from Manor Farm of Thrussington.

    Topping it all are the Cheeseboard’s friendly, knowledgeable staff, led by owners Tim and Lyn Brown, who have run the shop since 2005. They know their cheese, so if you need advice, you just need to shout.

    Just So Italian has branches in Market Harborough (the original) and Stamford, and will soon open a Leicester outlet. Visiting is a feast for the senses. If offers delicious food-to-go or eat-in including pizza, pastries and sandwiches.

    Inside Just So Italian in Market Harborough

    The shop is also crammed with Italian delicacies such as arancini, ndjua, focaccia, pasta and much more. Every product, even the baked items, is imported from Italy by owners Danilo and Alison Trozzi.

    Wigston News & Deli is much more than just a cornershop. Owner Pratik Master has turned it into a beacon of local food and drink. Transforming a typical suburban newsagent into a bustling food hub, while also retaining its community values, is a huge achievement. Therefore we’ve named Pratik our Food Hero of the Year 2020. Read more here.

    Barrowden & Wakerley Community Shop is at the heart of village life in Barrowden. Anyone who wants to see just how valuable a shop can be to a village community should pay it a visit. Its shelves are stocked with a good selection of locally produced food and drink, such as bread from King’s Cliffe Bakery, sausages from Grasmere Farm and beer from The Grainstore Brewery. But the shop’s true strength lies in its ability to bring the village together through food and drink.

  • Butcher of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Snobby Butcher (Johnny Pusztai), Nottingham – Butcher of the Year
    Price & Fretwell, Tibshelf, Derbyshire
    – Catering Butcher of the Year


    Hambletons, Oakham, Rutland
    The Artisan Butcher, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

    The inimitable Snobby Butcher (aka Johnny Pusztai and his hard-working team) win our Butcher of the Year Award for their commitment to local sourcing, passion for traditional butchery, and excellent customer service.

    Johnny Pusztai

    Now the owner of the shop where he used to work as a lad, Johnny and his excellent crew battle hard to keep the customers coming back day after day. One regular customer is Nottingham’s double-Michelin-star winner Sat Bains.

    The new Himalayan rock salt dry-ageing cabinet at The Snobby Butcher

    Johnny and team also choose their produce with care. Beef comes from a farm in Hoveringham and also from Brackenhurst Agricultural College (Johnny recently bought the college’s entire herd), and lamb comes from a farm in Wellow that Johnny part-owns.

    You’ll find a huge array of sausages at The Snobby Butcher in Sherwood, Nottingham

    The new Himalayan rock salt dry-ageing cabinet is a great addition to the shop, but it’s the traditional values of locality, friendliness, and farm-to-plate butchery that win this award.

    Price & Fretwell wins the Catering Butcher of the Year Award for its consistency, excellent products and superb customer service. A supplier of pubs and restaurants, it started out as a small butchers shop in the village of Blackwell but evolved into a catering business.

    Nathan Price of Price & Fretwell (right) with Great Food Club’s Matt Wright

    Dry-aged beef farmed in Leicestershire and South Yorkshire is Price & Fretwell’s speciality, but it also offers lamb from Burghley Park Estate and chicken from Church Hill Farm.

    The cold store at Price & Fretwell

    The other finalists

    Hambletons deserves credit for its incredible, highly professionally run meat counters – the latest of which can be seen at Gates Garden Centre in Cold Overton near Oakham.
    Hambletons’ display fridge at Gates Garden Centre near Oakham

    ‘The Artisan Butcher’ (formerly The Meat Room) in Market Harborough is a brilliant addition to the town
    A close-up view of The Artisan Butcher’s display
  • Bakeries of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    Small Food Bakery, Nottingham – Sourdough Producer of the Year
    Hambleton Bakery, Exton, Rutland – Cake Baker of the Year


    Bisbrooke Artisans, Bisbrooke, Rutland
    Bakery Cottage, Melton Mowbray, Rutland

    The winners are Small Food Bakery of Nottingham for its sourdough, and Hambleton Bakery of Rutland for its cakes.

    This category was judged via a blind tasting, with experienced baker and chef Chris Ansell (executive chef at The Olive Branch) supplying his expert opinion.


    After all the scores were added together, the clear winner in the Sourdough Category was Notttingham’s Small Food Bakery. Founded by Kimberley Bell, Small Food Bakery is a former Radio 4 Food & Farming Awards ‘Best Food Producer’.

    The Small Food Bakery team

    Their winning Radford Wild loaf is naturally leavened sourdough made with UK-grown wheat from Gilchesters Organics, sea salt and water. Its robust flavour and aroma, moist, springy texture, and even crumb won the day.

    Small Food Bakery’s winning sourdough – the Radford Wild (centre)

    The contest was close. All loaves supplied by the four finalists were of excellent quality. Congratulations to all.


    In the cake blind-tasting, Hambleton Bakery’s chocolate & hazelnut brownie triumphed, for its truffle-like richness and intense flavour. Special mention to Bakery Cottage, whose brownie, with its melt-in-the-middle consistency, came close.

    Julian Carter, head baker and co-founder at Hambleton Bakery
    Hambleton Bakery’s winning brownie
    Bakery Cottage of Melton Mowbray makes cake boxes, which you can order online
    Bakery Cottage brownies

    Pictures from the blind-tasting

    Clockwise, from bottom left: Sourdough loaves from Bisbrooke Artisans, Small Food Bakery, Hambleton Bakery and Bakery Cottage
    Chef Chris Ansell judges one of the loaves
    Recording the scores
    Remnants from the brownie tasting session
  • Asian Restaurant of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    Sanctua, Oadby, Leicestershire


    Sarpech, Oakham, Rutland
    Gurkha Lounge, Peterborough, Cambs
    Herb, Leicester

    Sanctua is the winner for its stunning vegan cooking.

    We ordered Sanctua’s vegan banquet, which combined extraordinary flavour combinations. The main – ‘A Celebration of the Sweetcorn Harvest’ – comprised smoky, charred lime, herb-and-chilli butter corn on the cob with peanut-butter curry, coriander chutney, pepper, tomato and corn salsa, plus crispy spicy fried corn nuts. It was served with tadka couscous, garlic flatbread and kachumber salad.

    ‘A Celebration of the Sweetcorn Harvest’ at Sanctua

    Sanctua’s chef-patron Bindu Patel’s cooking is inventive and tasty, embracing Ayurvedic principles (one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems). Her experience working at Michelin-star restaurants, including Gymkhana and Trishna in Mayfair, has provided her with all the tools to excel.

    Green falafel at Sanctua

    Other Sanctua dishes we recommend include a starter of green falafel and pomegranate chaat with pickled beetroot, carrot and tahini chutney, ‘green goddess’ dressing and tamarind chutney. And the dessert of warm tapioca, vanilla bean, toasted almond and brown sugar kheer with caramelised spiced roasted chilled plums.

    Amuse bouche at Sanctua

    Sarpech in Oakham served an excellent Thali for Sunday lunch in bright surroundings with very helpful and friendly staff. Sarpech is a truly excellent restaurant and comes highly recommended.

    Our thali at Sarpech

    Herb in Leicester provided tasty vegetarian dishes from Kerala, such as a fresh-tasting and vibrant Green Papaya Stew. 

    One of the dishes at Herb in Leicester

    And the Gurkha Lounge in Peterborough transported us to Nepal to sample authentic dishes, such as ‘Mo Mo’, cooked by an owner who regularly visits his homeland to collect recipes from his mother. 

    The Gurkha Lounge
  • Dining Pub of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Wheatsheaf at Greetham


    The George at Alstonefield, Staffordshire
    The Queen’s Head at Belton, Leicestershire
    Bells Kitchen at The Bell, Finedon, Northamptonshire

    The winner is The Wheatsheaf at Greetham. There are fewer pub classics than you might expect on the menu at The Wheatsheaf. Instead, you are presented with a choice of more ambitious dishes – each hearty, as you would expect in a pub, and each packing seriously big flavours. We were impressed by what we found, and we loved the kitchen’s ambition.

    At The Wheatsheaf, we enjoyed a perfectly cooked roast fillet of cod with saffron and garlic mayonnaise sitting on greens and new potatoes in a rich, flavoursome mussel sauce. The grilled quail, potato pancake and truffle oil was also excellent.

    The Wheatsheaf’s roast fillet of cod

    The George at Alstonefield is another top dining pub and it came close to taking the title. Nestled in an idyllic Peak District village, it has bags of character and style. Our starter of hen’s egg with black pudding crumble and green tomato ketchup was simple but delightful.

    The George at Alstonefield
    Pork belly at The George

    At The George, our main of local pork belly was cooked to perfection and we particularly enjoyed the smoked celeriac mash.

    The dining room at The George

    Bell’s Kitchen at The Bell in Finedon offers a retro dining experience in a wonderful old inn dating back to 1598. If you are looking for old-fashioned, honest cooking then this is your place.

    Inside The Bell
    Our food at Bell’s Kitchen

    Meanwhile, The Queen’s Head at Belton gave us a friendly welcome and some solid pub classics.

    The Queen’s Head at Belton
    Our steak at The Queen’s Head
  • Producer of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    Elms Farm, Costock, Leicestershire


    Vine Farm Dairy, Great Dalby, Leicestershire
    Kingarth Farm Dairy, Burton Overy, Leicestershire
    Home Farm Produce, Grove, near Retford, Nottinghamshire

    The winner is Elms Farm of Costock. Elms Farm is run by the Brown family, who have a long heritage of managing farms. As a family, they are passionate about sharing their way of life with other people so they too can learn about animal husbandry and care of the countryside.  

    Phil Thatcher of Elms Farm, Costock

    The butchery is run by Phil Thatcher, who sells the farm’s native and heritage breeds of cattle such as Dexter, plus Suffolk sheep and Tamworth pigs. Beef is typically aged for 28 days, although they have aged it for 60 days at a customer’s request. The butchery also sells locally produced herb-fed chicken and other local products.

    Elms Farm’s butchery counter

    Kingarth Dairy of Burton Overy has a herd of 107 pedigree Holstein and is open seven days a week, selling milk from the farm vending machines. Caroline Barbour also sells cream, milkshakes and butter jars for those who want to make their own butter. This is surprisingly easy, it took us less than 10 minutes! As they say it’s just three hours from grass to glass!

    Kingarth Farm Dairy’s ‘butter jar’
    GFC editor-at-large Philip Seaman with Caroline Barbour of Kingarth Farm Dairy

    Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby is a well-established dairy with a mixed herd of over 350 Holstein, Jersey and Montbeliarde. The farm has installed a vending machine in the village and plans to produce cream, butter and cheese in the future.

    Milking at Vine Farm Dairy

    Vine Farm supplies the local community and also some local establishments such as The Olive Branch of Clipsham, Gelato Village of Leicester and Rutland’s Hambleton Hall. The latter supplies bread waste, which Vine Farm mixes into its cattle feed.

    Vine Farm’s vending machine in Great Dalby

    Home Farm of Grove near Retford is another generational farm, this one with a prize-winning herd of Limousin cattle, which provides the beef. Matthew and his partner Paula are focusing on rare breeds and raise Gloucestershire Old Spots and Large Blacks, from which they produce bacon and gammon.

    Paul and Matthew of Home Farm Produce

    Home Farm Produce sells its products, which include beef jerky, home-cured Pastrami, American Style Corned Beef and Bacon, direct to local customers as well as Gainsborough and Doncaster farmers on markets. Matthew and Paula are passionate about what they do and have lots of plans to expand into other rare breed animals.

    Large Blacks on Home Farm near Retford

    Judging the Producer Category for the 2019/20 Awards was especially tough. On our visits, all four farms demonstrated an admirable passion for their products. Each produces excellent-quality food and drink and there was so very little to choose between them. Congratulations to them all.

  • Classic Pub of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Black Horse at Aylestone, Leicestershire


    The Green Man at Ropsley, Lincolnshire
    The Geese & Fountain, Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire
    The Stamford Arms, Groby, Leicestershire

    The winner is The Black Horse at Aylestone. It’s a wonderful surprise when The Black Horse suddenly appears when you walk around a suburban corner in Aylestone. The joy continues when you walk through the front door.

    For us, The Black Horse is exactly what a ‘real’, ‘proper’ or ‘classic’ pub (whatever you want to call it) should be. It’s well cared for, friendly, cosy, unique, laid-back and serves unpretentious homemade food alongside good cask ales and real ciders. The homemade fish and chips with mushy peas we ate here was spot on.

    Mini fish & chips at The Black Horse (the chips came in a separate bowl and aren’t pictured)

    The Geese & Fountain is a village pub that works hard to offer something different and of high quality. The beer selection is ever-changing and seriously good, and the food is locally sourced, homemade, pleasing and hearty. If this was our local, we’d be ecstatic.

    On our visit, we enjoyed choosing from a selection of 40 local sausages and around 30 ciders during the Geese & Fountain’s Sausage & Cider Festival.

    The Geese & Fountain offered 40 types of sausage at its Sausage & Cider Festival in October 2019

    The Green Man at Ropsley also ticks all the ‘proper pub’ boxes. It’s a superb asset to the village and simply a great place to be, especially in the warm and buzzing bar on a Friday night.

    Local sourcing is a high priority here, and when we visited, it was a pleasure to wander in and eat a delicious Lavinton Lamb burger.

    The Green Man’s Lavinton Lamb burger

    The Stamford Arms is a large, bustling, well-run pub with a big menu and friendly staff.

  • Food Hero of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020

    The winner of this special award is Pratik Master for his work transforming his family shop, Wigston News & Deli in Leicestershire, into a unique and special food and drink business.

    Pratik Master with his wife, Bee

    Throughout 2019, Pratik, also the owner of Leicester restaurant Lilu, has transformed his much-loved family corner shop in Wigston Magna, into a local food hub, showcasing local artisan producers.

    He’s replaced bottles of Echo Falls with excellent Leicestershire wines from Rothley Wine Estate; swapped standard sliced bread for loaves from Hambleton Bakery and Bisbrooke Artisans; exchanged plastic milk cartons for bottles from Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby.

    In total, around 30 local producers and retailers are represented in the shop, including Melton Charcuterie, Gelato Village, Cocoa Amore, Choux’tique and Christopher James Delicatessen. What’s more, ready-to-cook curries from Lilu’s kitchen are available every weekend.

    One of the cake displays at Wigston News & Deli

    Our Food Hero award marks the bravery and relentless energy Pratik has shown in transforming his corner shop.

    We hope Pratik and Wigston News & Deli will inspire independent shop owners up and down the UK.

    Pratik’s shop sells bread from Bisbrooke Artisans and Hambleton Bakery
  • Café of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2020


    The Larder, Oakham, Rutland


    Lambert’s, Stamford, Lincolnshire
    The Harley Café, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
    All Mine Cakes (By The Lake), Southwell, Nottinghamshire

    The winner is The Larder in Oakham. Its wall-mounted roll of brown paper showcasing the regularly-changing menu features lots of interesting and tempting options. Soups and bowls include the likes of smoked mackerel chowder with sourdough garlic dippers; and herbed chicken, peach and feta with quinoa, leaves, lime and mustard dressing. The sandwiches come with five bread options, all from Hambleton Bakery, and the breakfasts are a delight.

    Menu at The Larder

    The ‘Rainbow Club’ sandwich (on Hambleton Seven Cereal bread) that we ordered during our visit was packed with fresh, tasty ingredients and came with a fresh, well-dressed salad. Faultless.

    The Larder’s ‘Rainbow Club’ sandwich

    Local sourcing is at the heart of The Larder’s ethos, and the blackboard showing off its suppliers features Northfield Farm in Cold Overton, Leeson’s Butchers of Oakham, The Melton Cheeseboard of Melton Mowbray, Feast & The Furious, also of Melton, and Vivia Crump’s Chutney of Oakham.

    The Larder is a worthy winner due to this local-sourcing policy and its outstandingly varied and interesting menu.

    The other Finalists…

    The Café Category was tough to judge, with all four Finalists showing why so many people voted for them. We recommend them all.

    Lambert’s of Stamford

    There exterior of Cafe Category Finalist Lambert’s of Stamford – this is a brilliant café that was pipped at the post by The Larder
    Ham & cheese sandwich we enjoyed in Lambert’s

    The Harley Café, Welbeck

    Our trip to The Harley Café – another excellent venue – was made all the better thanks to this superb cheese sandwich and awesome salad
    Cake counter at The Harley Café

    All Mine Cakes (By The Lake), Southwell

    All Mine Cakes (By The Lake) is in a stunning location next to a lake near Southwell
    All Mine Cakes has a stunning selection of cakes and a warm, welcoming and modern feel