The proprietors and staff of The Cheese and Wine Shop in South Street are celebrating a very special success after being judged ‘The Best Deli in Somerset’ at the Global Cheese Awards, part of the Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show, last weekend. This is a step up to the highest level for the shop which was runner-up to Queen Street Deli in North Petherton for the same award last year.
Clare de Ruyter, one of the proprietors of the shop, explained that the award is particularly prestigious because it comes as a result of a series of undercover ‘secret’ visits by the show’s Committee members. “This is not a competition that we entered. The judges come to the shop unannounced and then assess us on a number of different criteria.” Delicatessens across Somerset are judged on their passion and flair for customer service, the quality and thought that has gone into selecting and displaying their product range, as well as product knowledge and community initiatives. According to the Committee’s guidelines “elements that set the winning deli apart from its rivals are creativity, originality and clever development of their retail offer.”
Alongside the shop’s thriving retail business, there’s also a large online outlet sending speciality produce – including hampers, gifts, cheeses and chocolates – around the country and abroad to customers as far away as Thailand.
Clare paid particular tribute to her two assistants, Emma Broom and Lorraine Sturney, for their customer service skills, a significant factor in the shop winning the award which is sponsored by Cricketer Farm.
One of the town’s numerous independent food outlets, The Cheese and Wine Shop was referred to as “the foodie equivalent of Aladdin’s Cave” by Orlando Murrin in Somerset Life last November. He added, “Think Fortnum and Mason in miniature. The town is lucky to have such a gem in its midst.”
The Best Deli of the Year Award was introduced at the Show last year. Nigel Pooley, chairman of the Global Cheese Awards committee, said that the new class would open the doors to a talented pool of independent retailers and added: “Delicatessens have an enormous amount to offer both town and rural communities. We all love to shop in our local deli and source unusual artisan products that we can’t always find in our standard weekly shopping baskets. Plus, they are a vital source of bringing products to market for local and national producers that, as a country, we are proud to manufacture. This competition is designed to recognise the importance that delis have in our communities and also reward an often over-looked industry.”
Report & photos: Gill Paltridge