A restaurant located in a Liverpool basement has won big at the 2023 British Restaurant Awards, taking home the “Best Vegan-Friendly Eatery” award back to Merseyside.
Down the Hatch, located near Liverpool Waterfront and the Beatles Statue, fought off competition from other award-winning restaurants like Bournemouth’s Twelve Eatery and Stem + Glory in Cambridge.
Liverpool has a strong veggie scene, with 19 restaurants identifying as vegan or vegetarian. But the nomination went to Down The Hatch, attracting gastronomic attention despite calling itself a “junk food bunker”. Offering a seasonal menu, highlights include tofu curry, loaded fries, homemade soy patty and seitan burgers, and crispy mushroom and cauliflower wings.
‘Up against giants’
Rikki Baker, who owns Down the Hatch with brother Jay and brother-in-law Conrad Sharp, said she was shocked by her restaurant’s success at the awards night.
“This was an award that I really, genuinely thought wasn’t for us,” she told the Liverpool Echo. “We were up against some amazing contenders from up and down the country, one being a restaurant in London that had blown me away, so I thought we were going up against giants.
She added that it was a “fantastic opportunity” to let the world see what the restaurant had achieved.
“This is the first real award that we have won,” she continued. “Years and years of hard work has gone into it. It really has been hard. Everyone is going through tough times, we’re not the only ones. We see big businesses not as busy as they used to be, so when it comes to small guys like us it’s even harder because we’ve never been as big anyway. So to get that recognition and be seen is just a massive win.”
Rising demand for plant-based food
Its basement location, located on Duke Street, was the former home of nightclub Le Bateau, until Baker and the restaurant team took over the premises. While the menu is mostly populated by junk food items like vegan burgers and loaded fries, the “Home Cooked” section of the menu offers wholesome options like Mushroom Risotto, Shepherd’s Pie, and Moussaka. Desserts include the Cakehole Famous Biscoff Cake and Hot Apple Crumble.
Regarding the ever-increasing demand for vegan food in Liverpool and beyond, Baker said “We all have our spot on the map and it’s all very respectful. There’s a place to go for everything. There’s definitely a greater want for plant-based food these days. We take a very laid-back approach to vegan food. One thing I love to say is we’re normalising the vegan dining experience. The only difference between us and those next door is that our food is vegan. That’s something we’ve really stuck by. Anyone can come in, not just vegans.”
Down The Hatch’s first award win could be the first of several, as the restaurant is nominated for two more: “Best Restaurant” at the England Business Awards and the “Good Food Award” from Blue Ribbon.
This article was updated on Wednesday, December 6, to remove mention that Down the Hatch is a vegan restaurant. While the menu is entirely vegan, the restaurant does offer the option of dairy cheese to those who ask for it.
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