It's official - the Armidale Ex-Services Club serves the best meals in the New England North West - and some of the best in the state.
On Wednesday, the 2021 Clubs NSW Perfect Plate Awards winners were revealed via a virtual ceremony, and the hospitality team at Armidale Servies were watching live in one of the function rooms.
CEO Scott Sullivan said he was ecstatic and it was good news for Armidale as well.
"Our head chef Sim Singh and his team have done a great job," Mr Sullivan said.
"It is a very prestigious award - even outside the club industry - it is a noted chefs award."
More than 160 clubs across New South Wales took part, and of those, more than 30 competed in the New England North West regional category.
The competition has been run for the last three years in different formats, and the Armidale Ex-Services Club has entered and been finalists, but this was the first time it has won.
This year competitors created a special competition dish for their menu, with members and patrons invited to score the meals and cast their votes between April and June.
More than 50,000 'Perfect Plate' dishes were purchased by diners across NSW, with the competition's ambassadors - celebrity chefs Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge - revealing that they were blown away by the quality of club cuisine.
"I'll admit, before travelling around the state to sample Perfect Plate dishes, I hadn't spent very much time in clubs, but the calibre of food is incredible," said Manu. "It just goes to show that you don't need to go to a fine dining restaurant to experience fantastic food - it's right there at your local club."
The Servies win is all thanks to the diners and voters according to its proud CEO.
"We also came third of all medium-sized clubs in the state, which is about 80 competitors, so we are very proud to do so well in that category as well," Mr Sullivan said. "But obviously the meal had to be good for our diners to vote for it."
Unfortunately, the winning dish is no longer on the menu, but there is always a signature dish of similiar quality Mr Sullivan stressed.
"Our food is good at the Servies, and that is what we are proud of," he said.
"The entire team, especially the chefs at the club, are extremely grateful to be recognised with this award."
The club is now open for business again after lockdown, and Mr Sullivan said the local suppliers rallied as best they could to ensure that happened.
"We have good onsite facilities for food, but there was wonderful local support to get everyone back," he said.
"The mood has been cautious but optimistic, and trade has been strong. Everyone is just so glad to be out and it is nice to see smiling faces. People are just so happy to see people - it doesn't really matter what they are doing as long as they are not sitting staring at the same four walls."
While the three state-wide and 13 regional Perfect Plate winners were originally set to be announced at an awards night in July, COVID-19 restrictions saw the event moved online, with the winners revealed by Manu via Zoom this week.
The Servies team felt privileged to be able to celebrate together.
"You felt for the Sydney winners because their team of chefs wasn't even together," Mr Sullivan said. "It's hard to think some other clubs would be getting such great news alone and doing it a bit tough.
"Thank you to all our members and guests for their support throughout what has been a difficult period for the club and the industry as a whole.
"As life returns to normal, I hope to see more of the Armidale community visiting the club and trying our award-winning bistro."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: