The Urban Food Awards 2016

Categories: News and previews

Ed Smith gives us the lowdown on this year’s winners of The Urban Food Awards

Last night Borough Market hosted the third annual Urban Food Awards. The event took place in the Market Hall, with the rumble of trains rolling overhead and the hustle and bustle of a Borough evening providing an apt setting to celebrate the hard work and remarkable contribution of urban growers, producers and retailers to this city.

The space, the event and the people involved were busy, energetic, and innovative. Drinks were provided by The East London Liquor Company (this writer can recommend their gin…), and food from Market traders Soul Food and Gourmet Goat kept attendees more than sated.

But, of course, the main talking point was the awards themselves, which are part of the Urban Food Fortnight which is jointly run by the mayor of London, London Food Link and Borough Market.

The awards are open to London companies with 50 employees or fewer, with 11 award categories split between the themes of ‘people’ and ‘produce’. A panel of judges, including the food writer Olia Hercules and chefs Tom Hunt, Rowley Leigh and Oliver Rowe presided over the final shortlist, which stemmed from thousands of nominations and votes by the public.

Nick and Nadia

Wild applause and vigorous nods
The first award was presented by the mayor, Sadiq Khan. Fresh from his trip to north America, Mr Khan proudly noted that we can forget New York and its bagels, Montreal and Tim Horton’s coffee: London is where it’s at for food right now, and exclaimed (to wild applause and vigorous nods of agreement) that “we have the most innovative food scene on the planet”.

He was also keen to note his support for a new initiative aimed at raising awareness of food waste to tackle hunger in the capital. Linked to that initiative was a new award for The Best Surplus Food Initiative, which was won by our very own Gourmet Goat, who were praised for their use of vine leaves from Enfield, leftover bread from Olivier’s Bakery, whey from local cheese production and other supposedly ‘waste’ products from around the capital—not least the use of kid goat, which is a byproduct of dairy production.

It was illuminating to hear about the winners of the other award categories, too. Some winners are well known already, but many were receiving recognition on this level for the first time—a great result for them and for interested Londoners.

Brick House, a bakery based in East Dulwich, achieved a clean sweep in the Londoners’ Loaf categories, winning both the plain and special for their miche and double chocolate sourdough loaves. This is an ever-growing, quality field of food production in the city, and both categories must’ve been highly competitive.

Brick House bakery

Local farmers and producers
Gourmet Goat were also double winners, collecting the award for Sustainable Street Food. Other winners included The Food Assembly, who won the Best Retailer category after building a community network of 12,000 members and supplying them with fresh food directly from local farmers and producers.

Growing Communities were praised for providing initiative Roots to Work, as they use their own Hackney-based farms to grow food for a vegetable scheme to teach people how to grow and cook organic food.

I was intrigued to hear about Forty Hall Community Vineyard, who have found they can grow grapes in Enfield and have recently released their first batch of wine for sale to the public. They received the Capital Growth’s Growing Enterprise in recognition of this frankly almost unbelievable achievement.

The night proved sweet for two different honey producers, as Bermondsey Street Bees were named as producers of London’s best honey, and Bee Collective picked up Most Inspiring Producer, for providing a honey extraction service to London beekeepers and volunteering opportunities. Friend of Borough Market Jenny Costa (nee Dawson) of Rubies in the Rubble was on hand to present this one—the Mayor’s new war on waste is right up her street.

Best Retailer winners

Small but quality brewers
I think I saw Wild Card Brewery’s Queen of Diamonds IPA at the bar. It certainly should have been, as it picked up the hotly contested Beautiful Brew award. As with bread, there’s a large number of small but quality brewers in London now, so it’s significant to be acknowledged as producing the best of the ales.

The wonderfully titled supergreen frilly mixed salad, produced by GrowUp Urban Farms, was named the best of London’s Leaves, and Fruit Magpie’s fruit cheese was named winner of the Proper Preserves category, for preserves made in London using produce grown in the city, or collected as waste. Something to look out for—perhaps to have next to some London cheese on a slice of Brick House miche (assuming there’s any left after all that honey)?

All in all, a set of worthy winners, and a truly warming, engaging and inspirational awards evening. London’s food scene is thriving, and it’s brilliant to see hard working people achieve recognition for the produce and opportunities they provide. Same again next year, please—perhaps with categories for urban cheese and cured and smoked meat producers?

Full list of winners:
Gourmet Goat, Best Surplus Food Initiative
Queen of Diamonds IPA, Wild Card Brewery, Beautiful Brew
Bermondsey Street Bees, Heavenly Honey
Supergreen frilly mixed salad, GrowUp Urban Farms, London Leaves
The Brick House miche, Brick House, Londoners’ Loaf (plain)
Chocolate sourdough loaf, Brick House, Londoners’ Loaf (special)
Fruit cheese, Fruit Magpie, Proper Preserves
The Food Assembly, Best Retailer
Forty Hall Community Vineyard, Capital Growth’s Growing Enterprise
Bee Collective, Most Inspiring Producer
Growing Communities, Roots to Work
Gourmet Goat, Sustainable Street Food