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!’
Ippudo Central Saint Giles
Ippudo, a super-slick international ramen chain, has around 120 restaurants with branches in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and across Japan. This is the Japanese company’s first foray into Europe. The interior is dark, polished and brooding, with lots of glass and metal, and the staff, Japanese and other nationalities, make liberal use of a handful of Japanese phrases. This can cause a cacophony at times, but overall service is accommodating. The speciality here is tonkotsu with pork loin slices, crunchy kikurage (cloud ear mushroom) and thin, own-made noodles (in the dish called Shiromaru Hakata Classic). As ramen goes, this bowl’s not exactly a looker. But what it lacks in beige appearance it makes up for in flavour. For added oomph, order it with a dollop of spicy miso paste and a dash of black garlic oil (in the variant called Akamaru Modern). Vegetarians are not left out at Ippudo: there’s a seaweed and mushroom broth-based version that’s topped with fried tofu. Some ramen joints make it a noodles-or-nothing proposition. Here you’re spoilt for non-ramen choice, with dishes such as black cod with miso, seared Wagyu beef or deep-fried chicken. One of our favourites is Yamitsuki Goma Kyuri (sliced cucumber with salt, chilli, sesame oil and seeds). God knows how they got so much flavour into such a simple dish. And the cocktails are fun too. Sadly, this is another no-bookings restaurant, and despite running to 80 covers, queues have been enormous so far. O
Venue says: “Come and try our new special ramen, the miso akamaru!”