Winners of 2016 St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Awards announced as festival comes to a close

PUBLISHED: 13:23 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:23 06 October 2016

Samera Butt of the Six Bells in St Michael's Street, St Albans

Samera Butt of the Six Bells in St Michael's Street, St Albans

Archant

The 2016 St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival served up a platter of prestigious awards for the district's food luminaries.

St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016

A dozen accolades were presented to representatives from restaurants, pubs, shops and market stalls at a glittering ceremony on Monday.

The Kate D’Arcy award for outstanding customer service went to Six Bells pub manager Samera Butt after she impressed regulars with her helpful attitude and sparking personality.

She said: “I am very honoured. I would like to know who nominated me – I am still in the dark about that, so I can’t even thank them.

“I enjoy my job and a big part of it is getting to know the customers and keeping them happy. It is not hard work so much as good fun.”

St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016

Almost 3,000 people nominated their favourites for the prizes during an online poll earlier this year.

The top three in each category were then put on a short-list of finalists with the judges deciding on the winners after making surprise visits and tastings.

The Cheese Wheeler beat off competition from fellow finalists Hatch, Farr Brew and Heaven is a Cupcake to take the Festival’s first ever market stall prize.

The business is run by Martin Knap who sells British and European cheeses, including rare varieties like Cornish Yarg, from a van that opens on one side.

St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016

Hatch founder Chris Evans was declared the district’s Food and Drink Champion for 2016, a special award nominated by the Festival steering group’s judges.

He grew his takeaway café business, based in the Maltings Shopping Centre, from scratch and also created the Canteen on George Street.

This year, he also started Panko, on Holywell Hill, a katsu diner inspired by Japan’s fast food culture.

Dylan’s at the Kings Arms achieved the impressive feat of taking two awards for best bar and best restaurant.

St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks won the best pub award, and landlord Christo Tofalli said: “We were all bursting with pride when we went up to collect the award. I honestly cannot say how much that means to all of us at the pub.

“Naturally we thank all of our great customers. It means such a lot to have this support from the community and to know we are doing something right, and I also want to thank my incredible Fighting Cocks team.

“We have all worked so hard to continually keep bringing something new and exciting to the pub, and making the experience for customers a truly fantastic one. We are always thinking of ways to make it better and better - and it is a team effort from the best team in St Albans!”

Mayor Cllr Frances Leonard said: “The Festival is a fantastic showcase for the area’s thriving food and drink industry.

St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016St Albans Food and Drink Festival Finale 2016

“This year’s winners can be proud of their success as the competition is getting more intense every year. I’m sure those businesses that missed out will be trying even harder in 2017.”

The week-long Festival finished with a street finale on Sunday which attracted 15,000 people.

The event - one of the biggest staged in the city centre - included 110 stalls, chef schools, workshops and even a display of butchery skills.

Among the attractions were a pop-up village green showcasing pub culture, a family zone and live music stage powered by bicycles.

There was also a kitchen garden and pop-up restaurants including one on a double-decker bus.

It was organised by the council and sponsored by SA Law with support from the Herts Advertiser, Radio Verulam and Oaklands College.

Full list of winners:

Best Local Producer – Hedges Farm, North Orbital Road.

Best Independent Food or Drink Shop – Buongiorno Italia, Lattimore Road.

Most Family Friendly Venue - George Street Canteen, George Street.

Best Takeaway – Godfrey’s Fish and Chips, High Street, Harpenden.

Best Market Stall – The Cheese Wheeler.

Best Café – The Bakehouse, Heritage Close, High Street.

Best Pub – Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Abbey Mill Lane.

Best Bar – Dylan’s at The Kings Arms, George Street.

Best Newcomer – Tabure, Spencer Street.

Kate D’Arcy Award for Customer Service – Samera Butt, The Six Bells, St Michael’s

Best Restaurant - Dylan’s at The Kings Arms.

Food and Drink Champion – Chris Evans.

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