The shortlist for this year’s VisitEngland Awards for Excellence was revealed this morning (Wednesday, July 29), ahead of an online ceremony to announce the winners on Monday, August 17.
Among the 53 finalists in 15 core categories are St Cuthbert’s House in Seahouses, which is in the running for B&B/Guest House of the Year, while Restaurant Hjem, in Wall, to the north of Hexham, is one of three nominees for the Taste of England prize.
Cllr Cath Homer, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for tourism, said: "A huge congratulations to St Cuthbert's and Hjem for being named finalists, but also a massive well done to all of those Northumberland businesses who were put forward as nominees.
"These are challenging times for the industry so it has never been more important to showcase the quality of the businesses that we have here in Northumberland. We wish them both good luck on the night."
Hjem, based at the Hadrian Hotel pub, is described as the ‘dream project’ of Swedish chef Alex Nietosvuori and his partner, Northumberland-born Ally Thompson, and it has been gathering acclaim and popularity since it opened just last year.
The 'delighted and honoured' pair said: "Having only opened in May 2019, it feels like a real achievement to be named as finalists alongside these established and Michelin-starred restaurants and as ever, we're incredibly proud to be flying the flag for Northumberland and the fantastic farmers, producers and growers we're lucky to have on our doorstep.
"We always wanted Hjem to be a destination restaurant, offering a food experience people were willing to travel for. Since reopening in July, we have been enjoying welcoming guests back to Restaurant Hjem and this news has given us all a lovely extra boost."
On the other hand, St Cuthbert’s House, run by Jeff and Jill Sutheran, is a veteran, having won the national B&B of the Year title in both 2017 and 2014, alongside prizes at the North East England Tourism Awards going back more than a decade.
"Such an accolade will certainly provide a valuable boost to our business in these very difficult times," Jeff said. "But as important, for us, is the opportunity that these awards provide to raise the profile of the North East and Northumberland in particular.
"We're pleased to be able to highlight the fact that staycationers experience standards of service which are rigorously and independently judged as being the best in the whole country."
The businesses are two of just three representatives from the North East in the running for national awards, with the other being Seaham Hall in County Durham, up for the Small Hotel of the Year gong. In addition, Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and Visit County Durham are up for the International Distribution Award.
VisitEngland’s chief executive, Sally Balcombe, said: "Millions of jobs and local economies depend on tourism and this year’s awards are also a timely opportunity to acknowledge the determination and dedication of tourism businesses across the country who have worked extremely hard to reopen and welcome visitors back safely."
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