37,000 nominations and 124,000 votes in five categories – once again, London, you’ve outdone yourselves, showing your city so much love that it’s a wonder Big Ben hasn’t started blushing. And now it’s time to reveal the winners – the local venues who do it for you. Below are the five overall category winners – the restaurant, café, bar, shop and cultural venue that scooped the most votes in the whole city. To see who came out on top in your specific neighbourhood, go ahead and see the winners. Until next year, thanks for spreading the love!
Oh, and if you’re the travelling type, you’ll be pleased to hear that, as of this year, the Love Awards have gone global, meaning you were also able to big up your favourite places in Paris, Lisbon, New York, Chicago and LA.
Love does make the world go round, after all.
Meet this year's winners
Dan Spinney is marketing director at Yard Sale Pizza
What makes your pizza the best?
'Attention to detail. Slow-cooked tomato sauce, 48-hour double-fermented dough. Fior di Latte mozzarella. And we’re really great value.’
You clearly inspire loyalty...
'A bunch of local customers order from us multiple times a week, including one celeb from a well-known ’70s band. He always orders using his pizza alias, “Michelangelo”.’
‘Like, totally! Yard Sale Pizza also have a branch in Finsbury Park, and will open in Walthamstow early 2017.
Nes Goksu is pastry chef and co-owner at Highness Café and Tea Room
How did you get into baking?
‘I was hooked from childhood. I love it. Even now, I judge a restaurant purely on its dessert menu.’
What do you do differently at Highness?
‘Lots, but especially our gluten-free and vegan cakes. Even people who eat gluten choose them. It took lots of effort to get them right.’
Why do customers love you so much?
‘Our warm welcome and smile. My staff are mostly family, and we treat customers that way too. If customers are going away we often get left house keys to look after. That’s rare in London.’
So… next stop ‘Bake Off’?
‘Customers keep threatening to nominate me, but it’s too much stress. I’d rather feed people. Ego trips aren’t my thing.’
Morgan McGlynn owns and runs Cheeses of Muswell Hill
When did you discover that being a cheesemonger was your calling in life?
'I started here as a Saturday girl when I was a teenager. I loved it so much that when I finished my degree I took over.’
What makes your shop the best?
‘Each of the 220 cheeses we stock is bought direct, so I know the person who made it. We converted a disused bomb shelter into a maturing room, so I can personally vouch for the end product.’
You must know some cracking cheese puns. ‘Customers joke they “camembert the smell in here”. I still laugh every time.'
Wesley Deaton is general manager of The Alma
You won in your area last year, now you’ve won in London overall. How?
‘We’ve got great, loyal regulars who come for a pint, stick around for the food, stay for the quiz and love live music. We work hard to keep them happy.
The decor must be a big draw too…
‘We’ve gone for wall-to-wall movie posters and memorabilia. People love to grab a selfie with a stormtrooper. Lately we installed a Donald Trump mannequin, which was quite the talking point.’
How do you get on with the locals?
‘We always try to source from local businesses, like real ales from Hammerton Brewery up the road. Same with our meat and veg for the Sunday roast.’
Any proper characters round your neck of the woods?
‘Our very own pub dog, a little king charles named Buster, is a massive local celeb. Punters take him out for a walk and come back amazed by all the attention he gets.’
Sam Neophytou is managing director and co-founder of Arthouse
Well done! What’s your secret?
‘We don’t just screen whatever happens to be out that week. We pick films carefully, as part of an inclusive, socially conscious programme.’
Sounds ace. For instance…?
‘We just screened “I, Daniel Blake”, a moving flick about the welfare system. Director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty stopped by for a Q&A, and our local MP, Catherine West, was in attendance. You don’t get that at the multiplex.’
What’s cool about Crouch End?
‘People here want to stay local. They want to be able to walk to the cinema and have a drink. And they appreciate that we’re a London Living Wage employer.’
So it’s not just fancy cinephiles who go to see indie films?
‘No, that’s a myth. Everybody wants to be inspired by great stories. Plus we showcase live music, dance and comedy. And our popcorn starts at 75p!’
Like many of the venues around the Japanese Embassy, Ikeda is old school. No self-respecting businessman would have any qualms about bringing clients here, and a meal with the in-laws wouldn’t go amiss either – but a raucous party is probably out. The decor is inoffensive but just a little bland; the staff are affable, turning out the same mix of efficient but unintrusive service since 1978. The highlight is a ringside seat by the tiny open kitchen, where sparklingly fresh sashimi, light, crisp tempura and numerous other classic dishes are produced. A lunchtime set of well-shaped nigiri was served traditionally on a wooden block. Leaner-than-average slow-simmered pork belly with Japanese mustard and boiled, rolled spinach (buta kakuni) yielded easily at the prod of a chopstick. More unusual was a prawn tempura dish, where the shellfish was rolled with cha soba noodles in nori before getting a second dipping in the batter and oil. Like the ambience, the lofty prices also fit the Mayfair location. But consistency is the order of the day here, so come in the sure knowledge that you’ll get a decent meal.
Venue says: “Located in the heart of Mayfair, Ikeda is a traditional Japanese restaurant, serving up cuisine in an exclusive, fine-dining setting.”