Hi-Life Dining Awards 2008

It was quite a night at last night’s Hi-Life Dining Awards. Held for the second year at the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate it was a celebrity studded spectacular to honour those restaurants voted the best by the club members.
Unlike other awards of this type, this club membership system means the selections are made by the restaurants’ own customers rather than by the critics and know-alls who too often see establishments putting on their best coat for their arrival.
It’s a sort of people’s dining Oscars.
Some award winners were deservedly uncontroversial – Alison Seagrave (Harvey Nichols 2nd floor) was named best chef for the second year running and Stock was named best Manchester restaurant.
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But it’s not all about Manchester with the club members also voting on the best north east retaurant ( Blackfriars of Newcastle) as well as Merseyside (Negresco Deco), Lancashire (Thyme @ Sirloin), Yorkshire (Casa Mia Millennium) and Ireland (Deanes of Belfast).
A couple of awards were, perhaps, a little more surprising – Grill on the Alley was deemed to have the best atmosphere (not something I noticed) and Castlefield’s Albert’s Shed was voted best overall restaurant.
A full list of winners to follow.
But what of the food for this prestigious occassion where celebrities and customers mingle to celebrate everything food?
Serving several hundred foodies must be every chef’s nightmare but the Hilton pulled it off. (Having been to a similar occassion at London’s Park Lane Hilton I can confirm that Manchester’s was not only a more interesting menu but also better presented.)
To start there was homemade gravadlax which was good if cut a little too thinly for my greedy taste. This was accompanied by celeriac and a perfectly dry, grapey, rounded New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
The main course saw the chef pull a culinary joke on us. Fillet of lamb accompanied by mini shephards pie made from shredded and, almost muttony, shoulder of lamb. It was a strong effort but looking aroud, didn’t seem to suit everyone’s taste.
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The dual dessert of lemon tart and the strongest, most powerfully Ribena-inspired blackcurrant sorbet I’ve ever tasted completed this robust meal.
See more pictures from the event – and share your own – at the Flickr group for this blog.

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