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The very best of food and drink in Cumbria

Published on: Wednesday 31st January 2018

Forty-six of Cumbria’s best restaurants, dining pubs, cafes, chefs and food businesses are today named as finalists in the 2018 Cumbria Life Food & Drink Awards.

The seventh annual celebration of the county’s vibrant food and drink sector takes place at Kendal College on Thursday, March 22, hosted by journalist, broadcaster and food critic Jay Rayner.

The prestigious Restaurant of the Year category will be chosen from Ambleside’s Old Stamp House and Lake Road Kitchen, and The Castle Dairy in Kendal, while the hotly contested Dining Pub of the Year sees north Cumbrian newcomer Pentonbridge Inn, near Longtown, up against previous winners The Drunken Duck, near Ambleside and The Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite.

Other newcomers making their mark are Mathilde’s in Grasmere, nominated in Best Cafe and Best Newcomer, and Penny Blue at the Halston in Carlisle, also a finalist in Best Newcomer.

Producers and specialist retailers are recognised in the Taste Cumbria section of the awards, with Ginger Bakers, Lakeland Mues and Lovingly Artisan competing for the Best Food Producer award, and a new category for Best New Product showcasing Blood Orange Rooibos tea from Tea Keepers, Black Garlic Ketchup from Hawkshead Relish and Sourdough Toasting Loaf from More? The Artisan Bakery.

The finalists were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges chaired by chef and restaurant consultant Steven Doherty and Graham Wilkinson, principal of Kendal College.

The other judges are Mary Houston, head of food development for The Westmorland Family Group; Stephanie Thompson and Keith Sutton, Cumbria Life’s restaurant critics; Mike Bevans, former hotelier and columnist for Taste Cumbria magazine; Richard Axford, assistant head of school for the Lakes School of Hospitality and Management at Kendal College; and Rachael Oakden, editor of Taste Cumbria magazine.

Cumbria Life readers made more than 1,000 nominations for their favourite places to eat, and the judges used these in conjunction with visits, reviews, and industry accolades to decide the finalists and winners.

The Cumbria Life Readers’ Award is judged on reader nominations alone, while The Taste Cumbria awards required businesses to submit an entry form.

The evening ends with special awards including Rising Star, Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Contribution.

Editor Richard Eccles said: “We’re in our seventh year and the Cumbrian food and drink scene just gets better and better. 2017 has been a year of new venues, investment, innovation and accolades which set the scene for an exciting and closely contested 2018 awards night.”

Host Jay Rayner is a regular on television screens, appearing as a judge on MasterChef and a food pundit on The One Show. He hosts the BBC Radio 4 food panel show The Kitchen Cabinet and is a feature writer and restaurant critic for The Observer.

He said: “I’m delighted to be presenting the Cumbria Life Food & Drink Awards. They’re an excellent way to spotlight the best of the region’s offering and can only help to raise standards across the sector. It should be a cracking night.

Jay Rayner