Hear from the #CrumbsAwards winners

The third Crumbs Awards were rocking – and bulging at the seams. But who took home the gongs? That would be this inspiring lot…

Best Casual Dining: B Block Pizza

What makes B Block so good? Part of it, of course, is to do with the quality – this is some fine food, no doubt – and part of it is to do with B Block’s location (Keynsham’s Chocolate Quarter), and quite how quickly it’s become an important part of its community. There’s a massive focus on families, for instance (they offer kids’ pizzas for £1), but they also run cinema singalong nights and sponsor the Keynsham 10k; behind the scenes, their apprentice, Chris Barry, became Weston College’s Apprentice of the Year.

“We had record takings this year,” says Adrian Kirikmaa, food development manager at retirement village specialists St Monica Trust, which runs B Block, “and have worked with all sorts of charities, including Bristol Sport Foundation, Bright Sparks, Bristol Soup Run, FareShare and The Matthew Tree Project. We also had a marvellous Belly Laughs event with Josh Widdicombe and local comedy legend – and Crumbs Awards host – Mark Olver.”

What did the judges say? “As well as having a clear focus on sustainability and local produce, B Block has become a real hub for all ages in the community.”

Let it B Block…

Best Restaurant: Bulrush

Bristol’s unassuming but excellent Bulrush offers “thoughtful, innovative and modern cooking alongside warm, caring and informed service,” says restaurant manager Oscar Neill. “We’ve given the restaurant a bit of a spruce up here and there, and – as a result – have a space that we feel relaxed and comfortable in, and think our guests will too. Also good: retaining our Michelin star.”

Oh yes, that star: Bulrush first earned it this time last year, and has kept its place in Michelin’s prestigious list for 2020, too.

“Samphire? It’s next to the gong!”

“Chef George Livesey and his team spend every day 100 per cent focussed on delivering the very best food they can, and truly love making people happy through food,” Oscar says. “The recognition of our peers in the supremely talented Bristol and Bath food scene inspires us to keep on pushing and elevates everything we do.”

What did the judges say? “Offering a modern best of British selection, this beloved Bristol restaurant consistently creates distinctive and memorable dining experiences.”

Best Event: The Coffee House Project

Our patch is full of excellent coffee houses – and people who really know and respect coffee – so what might happen, thought Sofia Simou and Louisa Parry, if we could somehow bring them all together? Their inaugural Coffee House Project event, full of panel discussions and hands-on workshops at The Passenger Shed, did just that last year. “Whether it’s the roasters, the startups, the old-timers or just visitors wanting to learn, have fun and enjoy a new experience, we wanted to bring people together for a fun and caffeinated couple of days,” they say. “To give these discussions longevity, we recorded podcasts at the event too.”

Well, that’s a different kind of coffee round.

The really remarkable thing about these guys is how quickly they operate: in just 12 months they met, formed a company, created a concept, developed a brand, and delivered a festival that got over 1,300 visitors through the doors. The guys are already working on CHP 2020, and there might be smaller pop-up The Coffee House Project events throughout the year too.

What did the judges say? “This inventive project has brought renewed passion into the local coffee scene whilst working tirelessly raising awareness for sustainable food usage.”

Best Industry Service: Duchess Media

One of the great things about the Crumbs Awards is that plenty of people there know each other already – and those who don’t are keen to meet colleagues and rivals they’ve respected from afar. But perhaps best-connected of all are Meg Pope and Frankie Wallington of Duchess Media, a marketing, events and PR agency that works exclusively with independent Bristol food and drink businesses. Their last year has been a huge one, the team doubling in size to help them promote such exciting new openings as Seven Lucky Gods, Masa and Mezcal and Black Rock.

“and then he said, is that a small glass?!”

“We’re totally obsessed with the Bristol food and drink scene,” they say. “There’s nowhere like this city for passion, creativity and amazing community spirit when it comes to food, and we’re so, so proud to be a part of it. That’s why winning a Crumbs Award means so much – to be recognised for our support of the industry by the people driving it forward is massive.”

What did the judges say? “Hard-working, trusted and a go-to marketer for many independent food businesses across five successful years. 2019 capped the biggest and best yet for Duchess Media.”

Best Café: Eat Your Greens

One of the best of the recent crop of vegetarian and vegan cafés is Eat Your Greens, chef-proprietor Babs Greaves’ gaff on Wells Road offering, she says, “inclusive plant-based eating in a homely and relaxing space, with friendly service and locally sourced ingredients.” The great team here are exceptionally close, and Babs is especially chuffed, she says, that they’ve managed to source so much from local growers, such as Redcatch Community Garden and Barley Wood Walled Garden. “It’s paramount to me to support other small businesses,” she says, “and feeling part of the community of Totterdown is great. Plus, it’s so affirming to see that the Crumbs judges value the things we’re passionate about – and it’s always wonderful to feel you’re making food that people really like!”

Eat Your Greens (just not with the award, as tempting as it may be)

They’ve great plans for next year too – “I’m going to crack gluten-free vegan Yorkshire puddings, for sure” – but most of all they’ll keep on keeping on with their simple but enticing recipe: solid ethics and values, lovely staff and tasty food.

What did the judges say? “Eat Your Greens succeeds in making plant-based food accessible to everyone. Passionate staff, seamless service and outstanding quality produce, locally sourced: great!”

Best Retailer: Field and Flower

When James Mansfield and James Flower founded Field and Flower, they wanted to help up the quality of British meat and fish. “We support indie British farmers and fishermen,” they say, “and we want customers to know where their food has come from, who farms it, the life our animals have led and how our meat is butchered. Every cut and catch is 100 per cent traceable from field and sea to fridge.”

These two are out-standing in their field. Ahem.

Over the past year their online presence has grown hugely, they’ve launched a new sustainable, seasonal fish range and a seven-day delivery service, and they’ve reduced the plastic packaging in their meat boxes; plus, alongside their Crumbs award, The Telegraph has named them Best Meat Box, calling theirs ‘a cut above the rest’. Next year they’ll be expanding their product range yet again, with new soups, stocks, sous-vide and sauces, and launching a new loyalty scheme. “Overall,” they say, “we hope to continue to grow in a sustainable way, bringing on new small farms and independent producers from across the South West.”

What did the judges say? “Field and Flower delivers high-quality produce and sustainable fish to customers’ doors, straight from Somerset. A fast-growing, reliable business.”

Best Foodie Pub: The Gallimaufry

Much loved Gloucester Road indie restaurant, bar, live music venue and arts space The Gallimaufry – ‘The Galli’ to its friends, and there are many of them – is a genuine institution, giving a platform to all sorts of local outfits: food producers, drink makers, artists and musicians. The menu is evenly split between vegetarian and meat and fish options, prices are reasonable, and the quality is high – and this last is true of The Galli’s arty side too. Indeed, co-owner James Koch has just launched a record label, Astral Tusk, specifically to support the city’s emerging modern jazz scene. It might not be quite what you’d expect, but that’s The Galli all over.

“I think I left the gas on”

What did the judges say? “The Galli holds a special place in the heart of Gloucester Road, providing an eclectic mix of friendly venue space and revered seasonal food. Incredibly forward-thinking!”

Best Revolutionary Tech: Huggg

Never heard of Huggg? You will: it’s a micro-gifting platform, allowing people to send real-life treats in an instant. (Think coffee, cake, cinema tickets and more.) And it’s not just in Bristol and Bath but nationwide, with over 1,000 partner locations across the UK. “People are using Huggg to treat their friends and family,” says head of brand Olivia O’Brien, “while businesses are using it to surprise and delight their customers, reward their teams – and be more human.”

Oh we see. You’re Huggg-ing

Named a Forbes ‘One to Watch 2019’, Huggg has big ambitions: no less, in fact, than becoming the world’s leading micro-gifting app. “It’s been a bonkers, wild ride so far,” Olivia says, “with none of that set to change for 2020. This year we grew our supply base from around 300 sites in three cities to over 1,000, and have seen thousands of people and companies choosing to send Hugggs. (And thousands more redeeming them, of course.) People have an intrinsic desire to make others feel good, and we’ve built something that enables you to do just that – in an instant. We’re a small team with big ambitions, and to be recognised for that feels good. Almost as good as a Huggg.”

What did the judges say? “This clever start-up has found a niche by offering redeemable Huggg cakes and coffees, benefiting the region’s cafés.”

Best Front of House: Her Majesty’s Secret Service

This neighbourhood cocktail bar is now four years old and credits much of its success to the way it’s removed pretension from the cocktail world; the team have built a strong range of low- and no-alcohol cocktails into their offering, too.

BRB, having a block party.

These guys are notably green-minded, being among the first in Bristol to champion the reusable straw, and making sure all their single-use garnishes (like pea shoots and micro herbs) are completely edible. Service, however, is what they won for – the team here is small (just five of them) and though the bar itself is highly theatrical (with its hidden doors and a telephone box entrance), the welcome is relaxed, informal and friendly. Make no mistake, these guys are top-notch bartenders – they compete regularly in national competitions – but their lack of ego is equally important to HMSS’s ongoing success.

What did the judges say? “Consistent team, consistent quality means that this destination cocktail bar concocts a special place for a quirky night out.”

Best Drinks Producer: Hullabaloos Lemonade

“Our mission is to create a new wave of natural, premium soft drinks to be remembered, because they pack a punch with their zingy bursts of fruity awesomeness,” say owners Randa and Leigh Abdullah-Hucker. “You’ll find no baddies or bubbles in our drinks, as we use only fresh fruit juice and no chemicals, colourings or preservatives.”

Didn’t bottle it this time…

The guys set up Hullabaloos Lemonade in 2014, initially to sell fresh lemonade at events throughout Somerset. But it quickly became apparent that the potential market was rather larger than that, the turning point coming when a large local farm shop asked if they could bottle it. They could, of course, and since then sales have increased year on year; indeed, over the last 12 months production has doubled. “We feel very lucky to be making lemonade for a living,” the guys say, “and hope this comes across. Crumbs is seen as a real foodie magazine, and to be recognised by such experts in their field means a huge amount to us.”

What did the judges say? “This product has been a labour of love for its founders, creating a unique product. Hullabaloos Lemonade has gone from strength to strength, demonstrating impressive growth.” hullabaloos.rocks

Best Food Producer: Ivy House Farm

Geoff Bowles runs Ivy House Farm with his wife, Kim, and the pair have a simple mission: “to provide,” he says, “high-quality organic Jersey dairy products from our small, family-run farm.” The last few years have been exciting ones, as they’ve introduced glass bottles to their range to cut down on plastic usage – “that’s really taken off, which we’re chuffed about” – and for the first time became Royal Warrant holders. “Winning this award, though, has been the cherry on top,” Geoff says. “It means everything to us, and shows that we’re striving to be the very best organic dairy producers.”

These boys, we like their stile.

This is a business with the welfare of its herd of Jerseys at the heart of what they do, too. (Thank Geoff’s son, Darren, for that.) But their plans don’t end here. An extension to the dairy is nearly complete, giving them a sparkling new milk production area and butter room. Pat and Pauline, their head butter-makers, can’t wait.

What did the judges say? “This family-run farm has a strong focus on top-notch organic dairy products, whilst being a shining example of high animal welfare.”

Best Supplier: Larkhall Butchers

Larkhall Butchers is a contemporary butchers shop with traditional values, specialising in dry-aged beef, game, poultry and pork.

“We work with local suppliers, such as Jamie’s Farm over in Box, and have a real passion for where our produce comes from,” says boss Peter Milton. “This year we’ve been trying to become as eco-friendly as possible: hence our 100 per cent electric vans, and further focus on local produce. We’re also building up the next generation of butchers, and have trained three full-time butchers in 2019 alone.”

Gone green? You should lie down, Pete.

And there’s more to come from these guys, not least a total renovation of their store in Larkhall – a residential and shopping area on the eastern edge of Bath – during 2020. “Winning a Crumbs award gives us a sense of pride,” Peter says, “as it puts us right in amongst so many people and businesses we hugely respect, like Chris from The Olive Tree.”

What did the judges say? “Larkhall Butchers strongly champions the use of sustainable food. Another strong, impressive year.”

Rising Star: Daniel Jimpson, Old Ham Tree

“Old Ham Tree is a proper pub, serving homemade pub grub in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” says apprentice Daniel Jimpson, who won Crumbs’ Rising Star award. “The team is solid – everyone has been here for two years or more – and we’ve increased the number of customers we get, including those returning on a regular basis. But though it’s a very small team, we still have three members of staff on apprenticeship schemes at some level or other. In fact, I’m looking forward to helping train the newbies.”

Next up, Daniel plans on expanding his horizons by travelling, while both working on his future career and helping this top-drawer Holt boozer enjoy another successful year.

What did the judges say? “Daniel goes far beyond customer expectations and provides unrivalled service with his strong product knowledge. An invaluable cog to this vibrant village pub.”

Best Chef: Chris Cleghorn, The Olive Tree Restaurant at the Queensbury Hotel

Our two cities have plenty of great restaurants within their boundaries, of course, but not so many with Michelin stars: Casamia, Bulrush, Paco Tapas, Wilks, and this one, The Olive TreeRestaurant at the Queensberry Hotel in the centre of Bath. This place is perhaps best described as relaxed fine dining, with modern techniques pressed into the service of classic flavours.

“This last year has been an incredible one,” says head chef Chris Cleghorn. “Not only were we awarded our first Michelin star last October, but we’ve just found out that we’ve maintained it too, meaning we’re still the only Michelin star restaurant in Bath. Our aim is for every customer to have an exceptional experience, and since Crumbs magazine focuses on the area’s dining culture and the best in our area, it’s a special honour to be recognised.”

Ageing it with the wine won’t secure another one Chris.

Since the awards ceremony, Chris has taken time out to support Fareshare South West – which helps to feed thousands of children from deprived areas – by cooking breakfast for the children of St Martin’s Primary School. “We do this using surplus food,” Chris says, “and I’m all for no waste. In fact, you can expect to see The Olive Tree working with many important causes in the future, as it’s important we give back to the community.”

What did the judges say? “Chris’ flair and knowledge of flavours mean he creates original contemporary dishes from classical ideas. Also impressively keen to help the next generation of chefs.”

Best Bar/Pub: Orchard Inn

This December sees the first anniversary of co-owners Steph Iles and Sam Marriott taking on the lease at The Orchard Inn on Bristol’s Harbourside, and things have been all go ever since. “We hope that our genuine passion and enthusiasm for cider – and for traditional freehouse pubs generally – is apparent,” Steph says, “and at a time when bars are outweighing ‘proper’ pubs, I like to think that the Crumbs judges wanted to show their respect to a true Bristol institution. The continued support of the regulars who have been drinking here for years has been so important to Sam and me – it shows we must be doing something right! – but we’re also pleased to have attracted new customers, who’ve since become regulars too.”

Get inn!

They’re currently planning a party for the locals to help them celebrate their first year – “we want to take them to a wassail at one of our cider maker’s farms,” Steph says – and they’re keen to get involved with external events, to showcase their incredible ciders.

What did the judges say? “The Orchard Inn is a stand-out offering in Bristol, with cider at the heart of what it does. A true, honest local pub.”

Best Roaming Kitchen: Queen and Whippet Catering

“We help private and corporate catering clients delight their guests with relaxed fine dining,” say Jo and Pete Cranston, founders of Queen and Whippet Catering. “Using incredible West Country produce we create restaurant-quality menus that showcase our values, and through consistently positive client feedback we’re confident that our food and service are really hitting the mark. When the thank-you cards drop onto our doormat, it makes our hearts absolutely sing!”

These guys set out to create a tailored experience for every event, and as well as the big stuff love running smaller, more intimate supper clubs; they’ve become a recommended supplier at local venues that share their ethos too, including Hilles House and Parish’s House.

Album dropping 2020

What do they think swayed the judges to pick them as winners?

“Perhaps they’ve tried Pete’s cave-matured Cheddar gelato,” Jo says, “as it seems to win everyone over? Starting up a food business is tough, and winning a Crumbs Award validates our decision to stick it out and keep the quality high.”

What did the judges say? “Queen and Whippet smartly seized an opportunity to provide high-class catering, with distinctive themed menus for private and corporate clients.”

Best Cookery School: Square Food Foundation

Square Food Foundation teaches people of all ages and abilities how to cook good food. “This year we launched an ambitious programme with a local primary school, Oasis Academy Connaught,” says founder Barny Haughton, “and over the next year we’ll work with their children, families and staff to transform food culture and tackle food poverty. Our 12-week training programme, How To Be A Chef, continues to gather momentum too, and this autumn seven young people, who are not in employment, education or training, will take their first steps towards working in the food industry.”

Barny started his cookery school back in 1998, but though the location’s changed the ethos remains the same. “We’re still championing cooking as something that’s critical to our health, and the health of our planet,” he says. “We’ll keep working with our partner organisations, teaching their staff and service users how to cook, and we’ll continue with our own programmes. Learning to cook is not only a useful life skill, it’s a way to connect with other people, improve health, save money and live independently.”

What did the judges say? “Square Food Foundation isn’t just a cookery school. Its clever offering is making a real impact on those most vulnerable in the community. We applaud you!”

Best Newcomer: Eight Stony Street

“Eight Stony Street is a Frome wine-based business that seeks to give people multiple reasons to cross the threshold,” says owner Kent Barker, “so we have a wine shop, wine bar and restaurant, all committed to the highest quality. That’s why our cured meats come from The Real Cure in Dorset and our coffee is from Dusty Ape in Trowbridge; most of our wines are from small family concerns too.”

Kent is proud that he’s managed to take a “bare, empty, failed business” and turn it into an award-winning one, employing 25 people and serving plenty of loyal customers. “I’d have thought, though, that we won for our amazing staff, who we’re so proud to have working for us and who always go the extra mile,” he says. “Something like this makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

In November these guys start their first sourdough courses, and they’ll run a wine course next year too. The biggest news, though, is that they’re now looking for a second site – probably in Bristol.

What did the judges say? “These clever and ambitious operators have rapidly created one of Frome’s finest restaurants, with a vibrant modern offer on an appealing post-industrial site.”

Best Initiative: Step and Stone

Step and Stone is a bakery specialising in award-winning artisan lavosh in five delicious flavours: classic, poppyseed, rosemary and sea salt, sesame, and smoked paprika and cayenne. These slim, elegant flatbreads go perfectly with cheese, dips or pâté, and are made from top-quality local ingredients. All very tasty – but their lavosh, of course, is not the only reason they won.

“We’re actually a social enterprise, working with young people with learning disabilities to help get them into paid employment,” say executive directors Jane Chong and Jane Kippax. “Though educational opportunities are often much better for a young person with a learning disability than they were, it’s a different story when it comes to getting a job. Only a shocking six per cent are in paid work, in spite of over 60 per cent saying they would like to be.”

Can someone get us one of those hats for Christmas?

Step and Stone is all about increasing that statistic by teaching baking and employment skills, enhancing confidence and social skills, and then aiming to find paid employment for the trainees, if that’s what they wish. “We work with around 40 young people at the moment and to date have five that we’ve placed in paid jobs, with another three well on their way,” Jane Kippax says.

This year has been a good one: they’ve been lucky enough to win a large grant from the National Lottery, and their lavosh is winning them awards: two Taste of the West Awards, a Great Taste Award, and now a brace of Crumbs Awards too.

“These ones are particularly special to us,” says Jane Chong, “as they’ve been awarded by the food community. We really want to get the message across that, with the right support and opportunity, a person with a learning disability can do a very good job – and that all sorts of businesses can accommodate a member of staff with a learning disability. Winning really increases our exposure; after all, we want to change the world, one lavosh at a time!”

What did the judges say? “Step and Stone brings confidence and pride to people passionate about learning culinary skills all across the region. A hard-working team using food to change lives.”