The Shippon and Courtyard Café, Wrexham win the Year of Discovery Food Challenge!

The winners of the North East Wales ‘Year of Discovery’ food challenge were voted on at a live cook-off on Monday afternoon.

The Shippon restaurant based at the Plassey Holiday Park in Wrexham and the Courtyard Cafe at Wrexham Museum were crowned the winners at Y Celstryn Restaurant, at the Deeside Coleg Cambria campus.

The eateries were amongst four to compete for the accolade of best dessert and ‘small plates’ having scored the highest from a team of mystery shoppers during the past month. The lucky judges this year who got to try the dishes included head judge Grant Williams from the West Arms, Llanarmon DC, Jim Jones CEO of Go North Wales, Kerry Thatcher from Visit Wales, Jane Clough from Taste North East Wales, Angharad Jarvis from Coleg Cambria and Olivia Lumsden, head chef at the Chainbridge Hotel.

Year of Discovery 2019 Final
Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas with 2019 Winners

Now in its fifth year, the popular winter food challenge drew entries from 19 cafes and restaurants from across North East Wales who all designed a new dish that would celebrate the best local produce on offer in the region.

Their dish of chickpea and apple fritters, Knolton Farm Welsh rarebit and Pen-Y-Lan pork meatballs had been well received and feedback had been positive from customers.

Also fighting to win the ‘Small Plates’ category, was the winner of 2018’s ‘Year of the Sea’ challenge, Gales of Llangollen. The wine bar and restaurant, which is the oldest in Wales, was established 40 years ago and has around 500 wines on its books. Branded ‘Gales taste of Wales’, head chef Jack Hatley brought together smoked trout and lavabread tortelinni, Dee Valley Welsh lamb cutlet with Home farm Overton black pudding mash and a Maesmor Hall pheasant doughnut with wilted spinach wild mushroom and red wine jus.

The dessert entries then started, with Strawberry Fields Cafe at Bellis Brothers serving up four mini desserts using homegrown produce and recipes from the cafe’s own recipe book.

Year of Discovery 2019 Final
Year of Discovery 2019 Final

The ‘Plat o bedwar pwdin’ consisted of Welsh border tart, raspberry ripple cheesecake, strawberry pavlova and carrot cake.
Finally, the winning dessert dish by the team at Courtyard Cafe at Wrexham Museum, was entitled ‘Heaven on Earth’ in the form of rich chocolate cake, berries and Chilly Cow espresso ice cream. Karen Harris from the museum said the dish celebrated the amazing diversity of the food quality in the area and took inspiration from the Lloyd George quote about the Ceiriog Valley in Wrexham being ‘a little piece of heaven on earth’.

The winners were presented with their awards by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, the deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism. He added; “I’d like to congratulate all the winners – the event was a real showcase of the wealth and quality of produce we have to offer in Wales. Knowing where the ingredients are sourced adds to the whole dining experience – it’s the story of the food and drink, and something which is increasingly important to our visitors. The process has enabled us all to discover more about what we have locally.”

Speaking on behalf of the North East Wales Tourism Marketing team, Wrexham Destination Manager Joe Bickerton added; “All four finalists dishes were exceptional, but overall, the last month has provided the platform for all of the participating eateries to benefit from new customers and develop relationships with new, local independent food producers in the region which is the primary aim of the competition. We’re now really looking forward to celebrating another great year for tourism in the region as we move into the busy Spring period.”

Year of Discovery 2019 Final
Year of Discovery 2019 Final