Community blog post
Living and working in south-west London for several years, I’ve walked past Fulham’s prestigious Hurlingham Club many-a-time. With its high walls and guarded entrance, it has an aura of mystery about it, so naturally I’ve always wanted to know what it was like inside.
As one of the most exclusive private members’ clubs in London, it’s not somewhere I ever expected to set foot. So, when I was invited to the Time & Leisure Food & Culture Awards held at the club, I was pretty darn excited.
The Hurlingham Club was the perfect setting for an awards ceremony. With a grand hall in the middle of lush green, perfectly manicured lawns and peacocks roaming the grounds (yes, peacocks!), it lived up to my visions of grandeur.
I mean, there was even a pink carpet!
Time & Leisure is a publishing company covering south-west London and Surrey, with a monthly circulation of 106 000. Their annual Food & Culture Awards are a celebration of the area’s thriving food, drink and entertainment scenes.
Now in their eighth year, 2018 was the first year to include a culture segment to recognise local events, festivals, venues, and community initiatives.
The Tasting Stands
What is a food and drink awards event without some food and drink?!
Prior to the awards ceremony, there were tastings from some of the best suppliers in south-west London and Surrey.
I wandered the stalls with a friend, chatting to vendors and tasting their wares.
There was a delightful amount of alcohol on offer, including beer from Wimbledon Brewery, gin from Good Life Gin Co. and Pinkster, and rum and whisky served with Long Tail mixers.
Not gonna lie, I had my fair share of “samples”…
I was really excited by Wimbledon Brewery’s new Pale Ale. It’s perfect for those who prefer something a little lighter, without that strong hoppy taste. It’s really easy to drink so perfect for beer drinkers (like me) who don’t like it to taste too “beery”.
Pinkster is an artisan gin, flavoured and coloured with fresh raspberries. So as not to waste the delicious gin-soaked fruit, they also sell Boozy Berries and Gin Jam. Ingenious.
I don’t drink dark spirits often but Long Tail Mixers may just change that! Not a fan of whisky or bourbon, I went for rum with their Ginger Lime mixer, which was delicious! The flavour of the mixer wasn’t too overpowering or sweet so it didn’t mask the taste of the alcohol, it complemented it.
The mixers also come in Blood Orange and Island Spice; I’d highly recommend them as an alternative to your standard rum and Coke.
After all that alcohol, I figured I’d better try some of the non-alcoholic beverages on offer…
I was drawn to the scent of Chimney Fire Coffee’s fresh brews. They sell a range of ethically and sustainably sourced coffee beans, as well as bottled cold brew coffee. Yes, please!
I had a taste of some freshly brewed coffee and though I’m not a massive black coffee drinker (almond-latte, please) it was really easy to drink and had a great flavour.
I think it was the Kenyan coffee that I tried and I’d definitely be keen to sample more from their range.
Real Kombucha is honestly unlike other kombuchas I’ve tried before. Though still made with fermented tea, their drinks had quite a dry taste, more like a non-alcoholic alternative to sparkling wine.
They are currently served in high-end restaurants but I think they’d do really well on the events circuit.
Food wise, there were plenty of amazing cakes and treats on offer. How gorgeous are these pieces by Ann’s Designer Cakes?
I was also impressed with the cute sweet-topped mini cheesecakes by Pleesecakes. They do offer full-size cheesecakes as well but these little guys make the perfect party treats.
Unfortunately, no one had any vegan options on the day (that’s my omni friend taste-testing the cheesecake!) but both cake vendors said they do offer vegan treats in their range; if they taste as good as their non-vegan cakes look, they’re bound to be amazing!
So I didn’t eat much to soak up all that alcohol (oops!) but thankfully, Chateau Rouge was offering jam and chutney with crackers, so I did grab a couple of bites of those!
I’d love to try out their Artisanal Drinking Chocolate, which I was informed was vegan-friendly. They also had a range of beautiful-looking teas and coffees.
The Awards Ceremony
After a couple of hours of sampling, we headed through to watch the presentation of the awards.
As the event covers south-west London and Surrey only, it was nice to see businesses from my neck of the woods up for awards; my favourite local pub was shortlisted but sadly didn’t win!
With everything from Best Pub, to Family Attraction of the Year, and Most Innovative Arts Project, the awards covered every aspect of dining and entertainment in my corner of the capital.
And the Winner Is…
Historically, 99% of winners in the Time & Leisure awards have been independents. Although there was the odd local branch of a chain like Wagamama or Bill’s in the running this year, happily that trend seemed to continue. Here’s the full list of 2018 winners:
Best Service – The French Table, Surbiton
Best Coffee & Tea House – Bourbons Coffee Shop, Sutton
Best Food & Drink Retailer – Bayley & Sage, Wimbledon
Best Pub – The Grey Horse, Kingston
Best Eating Experience: Epsom – Blacks Burgers
Best Eating Experience: Wimbledon Town Centre – The Alexandra
Best Newcomer – UMAME, Hampton Wick
Best Family-Friendly Restaurant: San Lorenzo, Wimbledon
Local Restaurant of the Year – NYEAT Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, Wimbledon
Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year – Chez Bruce, Wandsworth
Family Attraction of the Year – Hampton Court Palace
Most Innovative Arts Project – Wimbledon Art Studios Open Day
Performing Arts Venue of the Year – Rose Theatre, Kingston
The Toby Kane Cultural Experience of the Year – Kew the Music, Kew Gardens
You can check out all the Highly Commended, Commended and Finalist businesses on the Food & Culture Awards Winners page.
So many great businesses made the shortlist, so huge congrats to all those who nabbed the top spots!
Throughout the event there was an eclectic mix of entertainment including a flamenco dancer and live musicians under the building’s stunning glass dome.
We were lucky with the weather so we enjoyed a few drinks in the Hurlingham Club’s lovely grounds, soaking up the autumn sunshine.