Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2015 winners share their local foodie favourites
PUBLISHED: 19:34 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 20:04 03 December 2015
Once the Champagne corks stopped popping, this year's winners returned to doing what they do best. Matthew Williams catches up with them all
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2015
1 How does it feel to have won at the awards?
2 What does the future hold for you?
3 What’s your favourite local foodie treat?
Pub of the Year
The Onslow Arms, Clandon
Person interviewed: Barry Haynes, general manager
1. Without doubt, this award is the highlight of my personal career and I feel immensely proud and privileged to manage such a wonderful team. The evening itself was fantastic. The food, the setting, the tension: it felt like The Oscars!
2. I’ve been general manager from the very first day The Onslow Arms opened, so I treat it like my own ‘baby’ and I am always looking at ways we can improve things. Consequently, we are installing an online booking system to make it easier for customers to reserve tables and we are looking to host even more Gourmet, Quiz and Wine Nights next year.
3. As I have two young daughters, getting out and about to eat is a rarity. But, if the opportunity presents itself, my wife and I love to go to our favourite restaurant where we had our first meal together. It’s a lovely Thai restaurant in Walton-on-Thames called Khao Sarn.
Tea/Coffee Shop of the Year
The Green Rooms of Godstone
Person interviewed: Sylvia Crimi, owner
1. It feels absolutely amazing to say we own an award-winning tea room! We had both gone to the evening just expecting to have a generally good time, so winning it was a complete surprise – but a very, very pleasant one. I have to admit my favourite moment of the evening was seeing my name printed on the front cover of the Surrey life magazine! That was SO cool!
2. The Green Rooms of Godstone is only two years old. The first couple of years was definitely about finding our feet, working harder than we ever thought we could and building up our business from nothing. We absolutely love our job and we would love to see The Green Rooms continue to flourish, as it has been, but also to continue to expand on our outside catering events. Our decadent afternoon teas are becoming more and more popular for birthdays, baby showers and for weddings.
3. Now this may be a bit of a controversial answer, but I would have to say my all-time favourite place to eat in Surrey is a little place located in a residential street: my mum and dad’s. If I didn’t, I would risk my mum refusing to cook for us again and I just cannot let that happen!
Services to the Community
Person interviewed: Chris Moore, chief executive
1. It feels fantastic to have won this award, especially after the restaurant scooped last year’s award for Best Local Menu and was a runner-up for Restaurant of the Year. It’s humbling for the whole team to be recognised for their hard work in transforming lives through hospitality training. When you see a prisoner graduate from the scheme, join the UK workforce and they are still hard at work 12 months down the road then you know you’ve done the job.
2. Heading into 2016, we are looking for future sites within prisons across the UK, so we can build more training restaurants and reach our goal of 10 prisoner training schemes in operation by the end of 2017. Currently, we train up to 160 prisoners a day in food service, food preparation, food hygiene and horticulture and we hope to continue increasing this number so that we are releasing 500 Clink graduates per year into employment.
3. My foodie treat would have to be cycling out to the Stephan Langton pub in Friday Street near Dorking for a relaxed lunch. It’s in the middle of the countryside, with beautiful views.
Newcomer of the Year
The Art of Curry, Godalming
Person interviewed: Sameena Thompson, owner
1. It feels amazing! When you toil away on a new business, with endless hours of cooking what you believe is great food, you don’t always know what the outside world thinks. Knowing that the readers of Surrey Life were the ones to put us in the final, and then the judge thought well enough of us to pick us as the winner, is a very good feeling! The endorsement and recognition are great encouragement to keep on doing what we are doing, and so this award means an awful lot to us.
2. It’s all systems go! As a young company with so much growing to do, an award like this is a real boost. It means that we can have the confidence to step up production and supply a wider range of lovely farm shops, delis and fine food outlets, so that more people can experience our sauces. We will continue with the farmers’ markets as they’re where we got our first opportunity and we are very grateful for that. We also hope to work collaboratively with Surrey chefs and illustrious venues on creating a few pop-up restaurant nights and maybe even an Indian festival!
3. A Chinese restaurant that has recently caught our eye is the Forum Court in our hometown of Godalming. A restaurant that you might just walk by, but go in and the food is fantastic! Our other favourites are pubs: The Mulberry in Chiddingfold for its great food and ambience and the Three Horseshoes in Thursley for its wonderful seasonal menus. Another guilty pleasure is a good old browse in Secretts Farm Shop, a real treasure trove!
Innovation of the Year
Person interviewed: Ian McCulloch, founder
1. We’re obviously chuffed, and it was a great night! Our favourite thing was that it was a very clearly local event; all of the guests had an interest and stake in making sure that the distinctive character of Surrey was brought to the fore. We also thought the quality of entrants was very high.
2. We are about to complete a full year with our licences and we are very excited about 2016. Before Christmas, we should have an apricot eau de vie on the shelves, a plumb eau de vie, rye vodka, as well as some blackberry gin cordial, and, looking forward, another distinctive gin, some liqueurs and possibly a very limited release whisky. We are looking to expand in the UK and further overseas (we currently export Silent Pool Gin to Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy and France), so 2016 will hopefully see us growing faster than we did in 2015.
3. We love The Queen’s Head and The Onslow Arms, which are both in Clandon, as well as our local, The Drummond Arms in Albury. We obviously appreciate all of the support we get from restaurants locally. My personal favourite though is the Sicilian, Al Vicolo, in Guildford.
Farm Shop of the Year and independent Retailer of the Year
Garsons Farm, Esher
Person interviewed: Nigel Chandler, farm shop manager
1. We are delighted to have been chosen to fly the flag for best farm shop and independent retailer in Surrey. The whole team was excited to attend such a fun night and glittering dinner in the luxury surroundings of the Foxhills resort.
2. Looking ahead to next year, our mission is to continue to dare to be different by seeking out small local suppliers and to work together for the greater good of independent retailers.
Butcher of the Year
Surrey Hills Butchers, Oxshott
Person interviewed: Simon Taylor, owner
1. There are two things that stand out for me about the awards this year: first of all, to be a butcher these days you have to have endured the decline of our trade. So, basically, to make the final three was an achievement in itself. As for winning, we are incredibly proud; I hope it was our passion and desire to educate and reconnect people to real food that helped. Secondly, the fact that the awards recognised butchery as a category shows there’s an understanding for real traceability and responsible service.
2. I like to think that part of the reason we won the award is because we are an unfinished story. In the four years I have owned Surrey Hills Butchers, we have come a long way but we still have much more to come. We are currently working on helpful videos to add to our website, butcherscook.com, as well as offering butchery workshops for both private and corporate events.
3. At the awards, it was great to see so many fantastic businesses worth looking up afterwards. I can personally vouch for Dan Britten of Britten’s in Guildford, as his clean, seasonal approach will always get me going back. On the night, we shared a table with The French Table and behind us was Ben Piette of London House; both I can’t wait to visit. On our way out, we bumped into Steve Drake, of whom I have heard so many good things. All I need now is to clear the diary!
Producer of the Year
Dylan’s Ice Cream, Haslemere
Person interviewed: Ben Govier, founder
1. I’ve lost count of the amount of people that have approached me to congratulate us. The best part of the night was the conversation with our table mates.
2. I’m really pleased with the Milk Barn, our staff and our customers. It makes it an incredibly happy place to be. So if I can maintain that atmosphere I’d be happy, although if the opportunity for a second shop came up then...!
3. Crosbies cakes in Witley. As well as supplying all of the cakes we sell in the Milk Barn, their millionaire flapjack is the greatest creation ever.
Best Local Event
Woking Food & Drink Festival
Person interviewed: Sam Marshall, lead economic development officer at Woking Borough Council
1. It feels fantastic to have won. These awards just go to show how much brilliant talent there is locally in this industry. My favourite thing about the awards night was seeing the reactions and the support of the whole audience for each winner.
2. Well, 2016 will see the return of the festival, over a larger area with a continued focus on improving the quality of the event. So just like every year so far, there will be plenty of things to enjoy.
3. That’s an easy one; even if I’m a little biased. My favourite local foodie treat is The Restaurant at Tante Marie, right here in the centre of Woking. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should!
G Live, Guildford
Person interviewed: Glenn Prested, general manager
1. We were thrilled and humbled to be nominated by the readers of Surrey Life, so to actually win is an amazing feeling! On the night of the awards, the level of passion and dedication in Surrey for providing exceptional quality food and service really shone through. Although it was a competition, it didn’t feel ‘competitive’. All of the nominees and winners share a common goal.
2. Over the course of the next year, we will continue to listen to feedback from customers and reflect it in our menu options and food and drink offering. We will also continue to innovate, building on the success of the Hogs Back Bar and pre-show dining offer, which allows customers to return to their table during the interval. The readers of Surrey Life and our customers have endorsed the offer in its current form through their nominations, so our view is: if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it!
3. We’re lucky to have such a wide range of cafés, bars and restaurants in Guildford, and beyond, across Surrey. And it’s not just the staple chain restaurants; there’s a healthy mix of small independently- owned establishments coming through who are upping the ante against the established brands. As it stands, there’s never been a better time to go out and try something new!
Best Family Dining
Rose & Crown, Thorpe
Person interviewed: Clive Price, owner
1. We feel honoured to have won and are still dining out on it! The setting for the awards was beautiful and the meal excellent. Possibly the funniest moment, though, was the lady we met who admitted to inadvertently “tasting” some of the Farrow & Ball paint tester pot in her goodie bag!
2. Part of our company ethos is that we are “ever evolving, embracing change” so although we are very happy we are not at all complacent and are always looking at ways to improve our customers’ overall experience. An extension of our restaurant area would be top of our wish list!
3. We like to eat out as much as possible to keep up with current trends and see what others are doing. Stovell’s in Chobham is fantastic and sausage rolls from the Breadstall Street Bakery at Woking’s new Market Walk are particular faves for us.
Best Local Menu
Britten’s Restaurant, Guildford
Person interviewed: Dan Britten, head chef
1. It is a great privilege to be a winner. I enjoyed everything about the evening: it was brilliantly organised, was in a fantastic location and everything from the personalised Surrey Life magazines to the ambience and the band were fabulous.
2. Things are moving really fast for us at Britten’s in 2016. We will be offering more fantastic food to a growing customer base and building our business from the foundations we’ve built in the past (almost) two years. And as for next year’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards – Best Restaurant or Best Chef... who knows!
3. While there’s some great restaurants round here, my next trip is into London to see what is happening at Street Feast in Dalston and to grab myself some tasty treats. I will also be visiting Lyle’s in Shoreditch to see what the amazing James Lowe is doing with the fine produce this country has to offer.
Restaurant of the Year
The French Table, Surbiton
People interviewed: Eric and Sarah Guignard, owners
1. We feel incredibly honoured – especially having seen the calibre of our fellow finalists, and who has won in previous years. Absolutely delighted and very, very happy. It was our first year at the awards night and it was wonderful. To see the support that Surrey restaurants, bars, pubs, food and drink suppliers all have for each other was to witness something really very special.
2. 2016 will be our 15th year in Surbiton, so we might plan a special wine pairing evening to celebrate. There are also plans afoot to make our tasting menu available at lunch as well as dinner. Mostly, we want to still be delivering on each and every service and welcoming both old and new faces.
3. Our favourite local foodie treat has to be a trip to Garsons Farm, Esher, for pick-your-own, fresh, local produce and such a wide variety of vegetables. We love it.
Chef of the Year
Steve Drake of Drake’s Restaurant, Ripley
Person interviewed: Steve Drake, chef owner
1. It really is a great privilege to have won this award, and even more so for the second year in a row. The whole evening was fantastic, the atmosphere was so charged with excitement. The audio-visual element was particularly good.
2. I am really excited about 2016; as always, I am fully focused on creating new dishes, trying new techniques and looking after our customers... doing what we know best.
3. Although I like to eat quite healthily these days, I have to confess that one of the local foodie treats has to be our new fish and chip shop, which has just opened in Ripley.
A further taster for Surrey foodies...