Congratulations to all of the 2016 winners...
Foodie Favourite of the Year
Di Meo’s Ice Cream, Whitley Bay
For places like Di Meo’s which are as much a part of the landscape of the North East’s coastline as St Mary’s Lighthouse, it can sometimes feel like you’re taken for granted. This year, though, four of their ice creams were commended in the Great Taste awards, giving everyone a scarcely-needed reminder of just how brilliant they really are. Their exceptional ice creams are, for a lot of us, the true taste of the North East seaside, and the national recognition which they’ve earned over the last 12 months proves their position in the firmament of our food scene.
Restaurant of the Year
The Raby Hunt
It’s hard to talk about The Raby Hunt without tipping into hyperbole, but given that James Close and his team have earned two Michelin stars, an accolade that’s unprecedented in the North East, you’ll forgive us for gushing a little. A relentless, tireless quest for the best of the best in every department has pushed this restaurant into the country’s elite class, creating unique, stylish, daring plates which balance a real command of flavour and texture with theatrical flair.
Informal Dining of the Year
Having grown to dominate the street food scene with their command of Middle Eastern flavours over the last five years, Papa Ganoush’s expansion into a permanent home in Whitley Bay shows how much innovation, application, and a love for great food is appreciated in the North East. With their constant experimentation and refinement, plus a real sixth sense for knowing what its customers want, Papa Ganoush are showing the way forward for all new street food start-ups.
Pub of the Year
The Staith House, North Shields
Since opening just over three years ago it has always been near the peak of the pub pyramid in the North East, but the last year has seen The Staith House go from strength to strength – Head Chef John Calton and his team have been hoovering up awards and accolades for their superlative food over the last 12 months – their position on the North Shields fish quay means they can get the very best of the North East’s produce, and they really make the most of it. All the while managed to balance their gastro inclinations with an open, community feel and a bar stocked with great beers.
Bar of the Year
Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle
Having ridden the crest of the gin wave, Pleased to Meet You has continued to expand and diversify itself – the extensive library of gins and David Kennedy’s fine cooking are still very much in evidence, but now they’ve added The Viceroy, an experimental, underground bar with a late-night feel. As the first big hit on High Bridge Street, it acted as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the street into a cool shopping, eating and drinking location. Everything here speaks of understated quality, and it’s that which sets it above its rivals.
Accommodation of the Year
A closely contested category our 2016 winner is entering their twentieth year in business. Managed by a small, hands-on team, Coquet Cottages offer a unique selection of privately owned luxury holiday cottages to rent, all presented to an exceptionally high standard, with 70 percent achieving the Gold Award standard from Visit England.
Hotel of the Year
The Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland
This jewel in the North East's hospitality crown, once a sanctuary for the local pious white canons, has rapidly become a favourite place to drink, eat and stay. Delicious food, the cosiest of bars and the most welcoming of rooms all in its own unique style means it is a worthy winner of Hotel of the Year.
Attraction of the Year
We are blessed with many first-rate attractions in the North East, but Beamish consistently excels. Despite their unwavering popularity, they are constantly striving to improve their cultural contribution and have this year increased their collection of buildings and artefacts and secured £10.9 million funding for the introduction of a 1950s Town. Beamish is not only a much-loved local institution, but an internationally admired attraction. It is also looking to the future as well as preserving the past.
Performance of the Year
A closely contested category, there have been many outstanding performances this year, but Kynren was truly special. Run by a team of more than 1,000 volunteers, this spectacular 90-minute show used live animals, ships, a steam train, mass choreography and pyrotechnics to tell 2,000 years of history, and attracted over 100,000 visitors. The ambition, imagination and pure scale of Kynren makes it a fitting tribute to the extraordinary history of our region. It’s also a symbol of what can be achieved with vision, ambition and investment.
Retailer of the Year
Knitsley Farm Shop
Multiple winner of Farm Shop of the Year, Knitsley has its own butchery, deli, café, bakery and farm shop. Their offer is outstanding and their commitment to showcasing the best local produce second to none. This is a classic example of not only making an opportunity for retail work, but doing it to effect and creating a loyal following both locally and from further afield.
Business of the Year
Sir John Fitzgerald
SJF’s pubs and bars have become North East institutions – the name itself is a signifier of quality and a guarantee of a good time, whether you’re visiting one of their traditional real ale pubs, modern gastropubs, cool bars or the stylish Café Royal. This year has seen them successfully complete major redevelopment of The Chillingham in Heaton, and they have big plans for the future. SJF are a significant and valued employer in the North East.
Entrepreneur of the Year
Alice Hall, Pink Boutique
Alice is the Creative Director of Pink Boutique – an online ladies’ fashion brand. This year, the company went through its second major expansion in terms of its space and its staff and has grown to post impressive annual sales, shipping an increasing number of garments on a monthly basis. An eye for the opportunity and business flair make Alice Hall a worthy winner.
Designer Maker of the Year
Even if you haven’t heard of Trapeze Creative, you’re likely to recognise their iconic creations. Founded in 2012, the company specialise in large-scale three dimensional display schemes (primarily for shopping centre Christmas displays). They take creativity onto a vast, elaborate and commercially successful scale, and the standard of their work has won them plaudits and customers in the local area but also on a national and international scale.
Health & Beauty Award
Beau Monde Salon Spa
There were many worthy contenders within this field but with the focus very much on 2016, this brand new luxury day spa in the heart of North Northumberland offers a comprehensive treatment list, including a hair salon, alongside its spa packages. Although small, it is perfectly formed and although new it has already attracted a loyal clientele and we congratulate them on a successful launch of this new venture.
Changing Lives Award
Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care
Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care celebrated its fifth birthday this year. To date it has helped tens of thousands of patients through its free transportation service to and from the Freeman and RVI Hospitals which it provides for outpatients undergoing chemotherapy treatments, radiotherapy treatments or both. Dedication, a belief in a cause and sheer hard work all make this inspirational charity a fitting winner in their field.
Promise and Potential Award
Teenager Brandon is a figure skater, member of the Whitley Bay Ice Skating Club and the British squad, and ranked number one in the UK Novice A men’s category. This year, he was placed first in the Murrayfield Open Level 6 category to add to his numerous achievements since he began skating in 2013.
Best Regeneration or Restoration Award
South Tyneside Council
This year South Tyneside Council continued their £100 million project to reinvigorate South Shields' town centre: The Word, National Centre for the Written Word. The state-of-the-art library and cultural centre is a real beacon for our region, not only providing a much-needed community hub but attracting visitors from far and wide to this iconic space.
Best Programme at a Venue 2016
Laing Art Gallery
One the country’s most engaging and exciting galleries, Laing Art Gallery are great representatives of the North East and its culture on an international scale. This year alone masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, Peter Blake, Frank Auerbach and Leonardo da Vinci have all graced their walls, drawing people to the city from across the country and further afield, as well as reiterating its importance to locals. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
Creative Contribution Award
The Biscuit Factory
The Biscuit Factory is a real asset to the North East. The UK’s largest independent contemporary art, craft and design gallery, it has revitalised a suburb of Newcastle and helped to make art accessible to a growing Northern audience. Not only does it offer a lively events and exhibitions programme, bringing some of the country’s most talented artists to the region, but it is constantly expanding its offering with new artists’ studios, function spaces and culinary offerings.
Contribution to the North East Award
Northumberland National Park
This year, the Northumberland National Park celebrated 60 years. The authority not only helps to maintain the upkeep of one of the North East’s biggest tourist attractions but also works to support those living within the National Park’s boundaries. Looking to the future, their ambitions include making the National Park accessible and enjoyable for a wider range of people. The combination of sustained hard work and their vision for the future makes them a worthy and inspirational winner of our Contribution to the North East Award.
Lifetime of Achievement Award
The Duchess of Northumberland