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Food and Drink Festival Award Winners

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Market trader Tara Acton “hit the champagne” after winning one of this year’s prestigious St Albans Food and Drink Festival Awards.

Tara was presented with the Kate D’Arcy Award for Outstanding Customer Service at a glittering ceremony at the St Albans Museum and Gallery.

She founded her Vegan Treats stall 18 months ago and has now quit her job in the film industry to manage the enterprise full-time.

It was so overwhelming to win and I just hit the champagne, celebrating all night,

she said.

I had a fry up breakfast the following morning to recover – a vegan one, of course, with no sausage, bacon or eggs. 

Customer service is something I pride myself on so I am very pleased to get this recognition. I enjoy going to the Charter Market stall on Wednesdays and Saturdays, seeing all my regulars and having a chinwag.

Among the other winners were Darlish, the UK’s first Persian ice cream parlour which won the trophy for Best Local Producer. 

It is renowned for its exotic Middle Eastern flavours including Tahini and Iranian Pistachio as well as its Baklava Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Reading Rooms, Wheathampstead, a micropub selling craft beer, was declared Best Newcomer, and the Fleetville Larder took the Best Café title.

Earlier this year, residents nominated almost 200 favourite venues and producers with more than 3,000 votes then being registered.

The top three in each category were judged by a panel from the Festival’s steering committee who made surprise visits to the venues. 

They chose the 13 winners according to criteria such as product quality, customer service and atmosphere with the awards ceremony being held on Monday 23 September.

St Albans Mayor, Councillor Janet Smith who attended the ceremony, said:

It’s a fantastic achievement to win one of these coveted awards because the competition is so intense and I congratulate all the winners.

They have put in a tremendous amount of hard work and shown great culinary and hospitality skills as well as a passion for what they do.

Councillor Mandy McNeil, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Business, Culture and Tourism, said:

The St Albans Food and Drink Awards is a terrific way to celebrate our incredible independent food and drink industry and support them in what is a tough economic environment.    

I enjoyed meeting and talking to all the nominees who do so much for our local economy and help make the District an outstanding visitor destination.  I was also thrilled to present the best café award to the Fleetville Larder.

The Food and Drink Festival has been running for more than a decade now and is a very effective way of promoting our businesses with the awards being one of the major highlights.  

The nominees and winners are mums, dads, sisters, brothers, cousins, families and friends, many of whom grew up in the community and now serve the community, not just with food or drink, but with fundraising, donating time and money to good causes.

So, the awards are also a reminder to us all about how important it is to eat, drink and shop locally.  We want to celebrate them all again in 2020. 

The winners, all based in the City unless otherwise indicated, were:

Best Restaurant for Special Occasion: Tabure.
Best Restaurant for Everyday Dining: Per Tutti.
Best Pub: The Green Man, Sandridge.
Best Bar: The Bishop’s Cave.
Best Café: Fleetville Larder.
Best Local Producer: Darlish
Best Food & Drink Shop: Buongiorno Italia
Best Market Stall: Eat Wholefood
Best Takeaway: The Pudding Stop
Best Place to Work on the Go: George Street Canteen
Most Family Friendly Venue: DavVero
Best Newcomer: The Reading Rooms, Wheathampstead
Winner of the Kate D'Arcy Award for Customer Service:  Tara’s Vegan Treats.

Radio Verulam, the District's community radio station, broadcast the event live and it can still be heard on their Listen Again service:

The Food and Drink Festival, which promotes all aspects of the District’s booming food and drink industry, began on Monday 23 September and runs until Sunday 6 October.

Among the other highlights are the annual St Albans Feastival which is held from noon until 5pm in St Peter’s Street on Sunday 29 September.

Gin & Jazz, an evening of music as well as food and drink tastings, will take place in George Street on Friday 4 October.

A vegan street market will be staged on St Peter’s Street on Sunday 6 October, bringing the Festival to a close.

The Festival is organised by St Albans City and District Council with the help of a steering group.  More information including a full list of Festival events tickets can be found here:

Pictures: Tara Acton after receiving the award with her partner Glenn Rawlings (top); the Mayor, third from left in front row, with some of the award winners.

Councillor contact:
Mandy McNeil,
Portfolio Holder for Business,
Culture and Tourism:
Tel: 07854-198999.

Media contact:
John McJannet,
Principal Communications Officer 
Tel: 01727 819533