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!’
Is London over the burger craze yet? Seemingly not, as there are still new burger bars opening all the time. With such a range of fresh meat-flippers to choose from, a newcomer really has to do something different to stand out. In the case of Stax, that something is adding a few lesser-seen dishes from the southern US. Chicken breast is buttermilk-marinated then fried in the Southern way; shrimp is deep-fried; even a whole onion is deep-fried. If you like your food fried, then you’ve come to the right place. There are some nice details in the dishes: the sweet brioche buns (bought in from the Balthazar bakery) are excellent quality, though we found ours fell apart too easily when wrapped around a moist burger. The triple-cooked chips were also paragons of their kind– skin-on, firm and fresh, tasting properly of tuber and well-seasoned. Our red cabbage slaw came with poppyseed stirred in to vary the texture and add interest. While it gets the basics of the dishes mostly right, Stax misses a few tricks otherwise. The name suggests Southern or Memphis Soul, but the soundtrack was the usual bland MOR you can find at the turn of an FM dial. Desserts consist mainly of ice-cream based dishes (made in-house), which makes a very rich meal after that fried main course; but then you’re not likely to be coming here anyway if you’re concerned about healthy eating. The service, although jolly and obliging, was haphazard on both of our visits; orders were mixed up, the bill took a long ti
Venue says: “We don't take table bookings but fear not, our sister restaurant Boondocks (Old Street) does! Same food, big menu and an even bigger space!”