Northumberland Hjem has been named one of the UK’s top five newcomers at the Catey Awards 2020.

The prestigious awards, which have a long-held reputation for celebrating and signposting the very best of the UK’s hospitality sector, were taking place virtually for the first time in their history, thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Shortlisted in the category of Best Newcomer, Restaurant Hjem, in Wall, near Hexham had been selected as a finalist following a series of online judging sessions involving hundreds of the industry’s finest operators.

And although the ceremony had to be enjoyed from the comfort of the finalists’ own dining rooms rather than the usual splendor of the Grosvenor Hotel in London’s Park Lane, the organisers of the Awards were kind enough to make sure all shortlisted candidates had a bottle of Tattinger Champagne to enjoy while they watched proceedings.

Hosted by comedian and TV presenter, Tom Allen, The Cateys 2020 kicked off at 4pm with an impassioned speech from Clive Jacobs, entrepreneur, investor and CEO of the Jacobs Media Group, which publishes The Caterer magazine.

During a year which has seen unprecedented challenges for the UK’s hospitality sector – indeed the majority of the nominees are currently closed due to the national lockdown – Mr Jacobs lambasted the Government’s handling of the pandemic while paying tribute to the ongoing creativity and resilience being shown by so many food and drink operators across the country.

While Restaurant Hjem – which delights and excites the pallets of fine food lovers in the Tyne Valley – were pipped to the Best Newcomer post by London’s Cornerstone, The Cateys offered a welcome reminder of all that has been achieved since its May 2019 opening.

Restaurant manager, Ally Thompson, who runs the restaurant and adjoining pub, The Hadrian with her partner and Hjem head chef Alex Nietosvuori, said: “We were thrilled to be named as a Best Newcomer finalist at The Cateys 2020.

“The Awards are a widely viewed as a real benchmark of excellence throughout the hospitality industry, so we feel like it was a real achievement to line up alongside our fellow nominees.

“Of course it would have been lovely to win, but any disappointment was very much offset by the sense of community everyone shared as we came together – albeit online – to celebrate our industry, our achievements and our resilience in the face of challenges none of use could have imagined this time last year.

“And the champagne was a lovely treat too!”

First held in 1984, The Catey Awards are held in the highest regard, with previous winners including Raymond Blanc, Gordon Ramsey, Heston Blumenthal, Tom Kerridge and Brian Turner.

Editor of The Caterer magazine, James Stagg said: “The 2020 Cateys recognise the most talented individuals, the biggest brands and strongest performers in the hospitality industry.”

Ally added: “As we wait to hear whether we will be able to reopen when the current national restrictions come to an end on December 2nd, it was lovely to take a moment to be proud of everything we’ve achieved so far and – as always – toast the amazing producers and suppliers we’re so lucky to have on our doorstep, and in our kitchen.”

Restaurant Hjem delayed its online bookings for January to March 2021 following the announcement of the current lockdown at the end of October. The reopening of bookings will depend on the timeline for the reopening of the restaurant.

Ally said:  “Obviously we’re very much hoping to be able to welcome guests back into our dining room throughout December, but if we go into Tier 3 and are not allowed to open up again next week, we will have to reschedule all our December bookings before we’re able to open up for new reservations.”