Brighton and Hove is an '˜up-and-coming' food city

On Monday evening the Brighton and Hove Food Awards 2016 celebrated this fantastic city's wonderful hospitality sector.

Friday, 18th November 2016, 3:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 2:28 pm
2016 Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival Awards photo ©Julia Claxton
2016 Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival Awards photo ©Julia Claxton

On Monday evening the Brighton and Hove Food Awards 2016 celebrated this fantastic city's wonderful hospitality sector. I was invited to the festivities to join the great and the even greater that make up the food and drink scene that I feel privileged to write about each week.

Our hosts for the evening would be My Hotel in the centre of Brighton where the awards took over the Merkaba cocktail bar. We arrived at 6.30pm sharp and discovered an already heaving and bubbly atmosphere. Clutching our drinks tokens we headed to the bar for a glass of the excellent Ridgeview Cavendish. Other options included Blackdown spirits and mixer, or a can of Beer Collective craft beer; given it was an awards night sparkling wine seemed the only way to go.

As in previous years the awards were presented by Andrew Kay from Latest, and local radio presenter Allison Ferns of BBC Sussex. They took to the stage at 7pm and, after a brief period of crowd control and a few technical hitches, got the awards started. Learning from past experience, it was decided to ban all winner's speeches and to only call up the gold winners; not because of any controversial past speeches, rather as a time-saving exercise.

2016 Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival Awards photo ©Julia Claxton

The first award was a celebration of Brighton's growing food and drink production industry. Not only do we have excellent places to eat and drink but the city also has an ever-increasing group of producers who are promoting the city beyond its borders. Up for the award this year were Brighton Gin, Boho Gelato

and Brighton Bier.

For me there was a clear winner in this category and it looks like the judges agreed and it was a popular decision. After a superb year, which saw two of their beers win international gold and their Downtown Charlie Brown go on to challenge for international recognition, Brighton Bier took gold. Next year is set to be another exciting one for the brewery who are opening their own Brighton Bierhaus in the city.

Once they were off the awards came thick and fast. I will not go through the whole list, which you can browse at your leisure elsewhere in the paper. On a personal note, I would like to congratulate Fourth and Church for their bronze in the Best Newcomer (it should have been gold if you ask me); the Chilli Pickle for their win in the hotly contested Best International Cuisine; Butlers Wine Cellar for their gold in best Food and Drink Shop; and finally, one of my favourite places in Brighton, The Basketmakers Arms for yet another gold in the Best Pub category.

2016 Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival Awards photo ©Julia Claxton

A couple of the awards were not without a touch of controversy. Infinity Foods taking the gold for Sustainable Food Business when many thought it would go to Silo, especially following their win at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. The Best Food Pub category pitched The Ginger Pig against the Ginger Dog for a bit of internal rivalry with the younger upstart the Ginger Dog taking the award. Be sure to cheer on head chef '˜Big Jim' Villiers on Masterchef: The Professionals as he enters knockout week.

Finally, I want to congratulate the big winners of the evening who deserve some additional recognition. The Set took the gold for the coveted Best Restaurant category, and The Curry Leaf Café had a fantastic evening making the top three in no less than five categories. Special mention to head chef Kanthi Kiran Thamma for his gold in the Food Hero category for all his work supporting charities both in Sussex and back in his native India. They also took gold in the Young Chef of the Year category with Roman Mikulica taking the crown.

Brighton's man of the moment, Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees, picked up the Special Recognition award for all the work he and his team have put in for the city. This was a much-deserved award and when I spoke to him afterwards he was very pleased; although slightly worried it might represent a lifetime achievement award and it would be downhill from now on. Based on the huge year Michael and

64 Degrees have had I am sure that the only way is up.

With the awards over it was time to hit the bar and the buffet which featured some amazing Indian nibbles from the neighbouring Chilli Pickle. Awards events such as this are always a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the variety of venues to eat and drink in Brighton and it is always great to be reminded of this.

I would like to extend my thanks to Nick and the team behind the Brighton and Hove Food Awards who do a great deal all year to support the local hospitality scene both in Brighton and beyond. The main thanks, however, should go to each and every chef, bartender, owner and producer who work tirelessly to make Brighton one of the most exciting up-and-coming food cities in the UK.