Where are our best bars and eateries?

Mystery diners will soon be sampling the wares at Palmerston North eateries after the announcement of the Manawatu Hospitality Awards finalists.

Nominations for the awards ceremony, in its fifth year, featured online voting for the first time.

The nominees will be judged by members of the hospitality industry, with 70 per cent of the vote coming from mystery diners and 30 per cent from online voting. There is no public voting.

Five establishments, Aberdeen Steakhouse, Bethany’s Restaurant, Bella’s Cafe, Nero Café and Rendezvous Restaurant, will be judged on their food, service and ambience for the coveted Restaurant of the Year prize.

Past winner Reuben Leung Wai, from Bethany’s, will go up against The Elm Cafe’s Anna Morris, El Gusto Mexican Cantina’s Jose Gacitua, Cafe Jacko’s Craig Gruber and Aberdeen’s Ryan Marshall for the Chef of the Year prize.

The work ethic, attitude and passion of Bella’s Lance Nepia, The Herb Cafe’s Aidan van Weert, Café Soskeys’ Shane Hendry, Bubbles Champagne and Wine Bar’s Stu Mortenson and Nero’s Jelena Mills will be reviewed in the Best Emerging Chef category.

Award newcomers The Tomato and Cafe Jacko will face stiff opposition from perennial nominees Cafe Cuba, Moxies and The Elm in the Cafe of the Year category, where each business will have its service, staff, food and coffee put to the test.

The city’s Best Barista will be drawn from a field including Tomato Café’s Andrew Feldon, Cafe Cuba’s Gemma Crilley, Cafe Jacko’s Sarah Dickson,  Scholars’ Ann-Maree Dudley and Moxies’ Mike Waghorn.

The pace, grace and unflappable nature of Nero’s Yvette Kennedy, China Inn’s Danny Yeung, Bella’s Alastair Pearson, Aberdeen’s Sarah Aston and Rendezvous’ Mel Antonio will determine the Best Maitre d’/Host award.

A wide range of skills, including knowledge of the menu, initiative, personality, grooming , teamwork and sales ability, will be needed by Bellas’ Hayden Temperley, Cafe Jacko’s Sarah Dickson, The Tomato Cafe’s Rico Torres, Bethany’s Kristina Whitton and Mao Bar’s Krystal Simpson to win the Best Waiter award.

Style, knowledge, memory and humour  will be needed by Bubbles Champagne and Wine Bar’s Joshua Roberts, Rose and Crown’s Karl Allen, Kingsgate Hotel’s Andrew Williams, The Beer Barrel’s Nathan ‘‘Rat’’ Hiscox and The Fish’s Api Cox to win the Bartender of the Year award.

The Manawatu Hospitality Personality of the Year, an award for a well-known individual who has shown outstanding commitment to Manawatu’s hospitality industry, will be competed for by Bidvest’s Daniel Wong, Bethany’s Reuben Leung-Wai, Davis Trading’s Fay McSweeney, Wharerata Function Centre’s Sean Kereama and the China Inn’s Danny Yeung.

Annie’s Takeaways, Burger Fuel, Cook Street Takeaways, Liverpool Street Takeaways and Fishtown will compete for the Best Takeaway, while Caterer of the Year will be selected from Not Now James Catering, Hester Guy Catering, Café Express, Wharerata Function Centre and Creative Catering.

Good food, drink and service, as well as friendly, comfortable surroundings, will be the barometer for the Pub of the Year contestants - Celtic Inn, The Empire Hotel, Rose and Crown Olde English Pub, Murray’s Irish Bar, Murphy’s Law Irish Bar.

The crown for the Trendiest Nightspot will go to either Highflyers, The Fish, The Beer Barrel, The Brewers Apprentice or The Office.

Supplier of the Year nominees – Bidvest Food Service, Davis Trading, Breadworks, Toops, Riverlea Hydroponics – will be judged on product delivery, product quality and customer loyalty.

The winners will be announced during a ceremony at the Regent Theatre at 6.30pm on November 4.

The Master of Ceremonies will be Greg Ward. The after function will be held at the Beer Barrel.

Manawatu Standard