The Smeltery, on Centre Square, an independent restaurant created by Luke Harding and partner Emma Trotter has just been awarded Best Restaurant in The North East at The Food Awards England.

The down-to-earth restauranteurs were invited to bring some heart and soul as well as their creativity to the Middlesbrough Art gallery in 2016, and quickly made an impact.

The popular community cafe and slow food restaurant beat some tough competition from around the region to be judged Best Restaurant, for its delicious freshly made homely food – and wonderful ambiance.

Emma and Luke, who attended the grand award ceremony in Manchester said “This is a fantastic achievement and a fitting tribute to the incredible hard work and dedication that has been invested in the cafe by our amazing talented team, who have worked with such care and passion, to bring beautiful fresh food and an incredible warm welcome to the centre of Middlesbrough.”

Luke added, “Emma and her team have brought a real warmth to the art gallery, by being so attentive to our customers and creating such a friendly welcome. Everybody at The Smeltery really cares about everything we do. The cafe creates a constant social buzz, with a hive of activity in our open theatre kitchen, which hopefully spreads out to the rest of the building.”

“I’d like to pay special tribute to Emma for accomplishing this award, as she’s does a fantastic job, working incredibly long hours and organising every day, whilst making sure that everybody else – all of our customers and our team are happy and enjoying being in the restaurant. We’ve been really lucky with our team, several of who have previously worked at The Waiting Room, in that they have an incredible passion and commitment for what they do, with special thanks to Sophie C, Sophie P, Ricky, Amy, Leah, Angus, Issy, Oscar and Sarah.

The Smeltery specialises in freshly prepared dishes – made in their open theatre kitchen, with lots of beautifully cooked vegetables and wholefoods as well as local fish and free range and organic meat from farms such as Piercebridge and Loosebirds in Harome. “We sought out the finest ingredients including an amazing sourdough from Rise Bakehouse, organic milk and butter from Acorn Dairy, as well as featuring fantastic Waiting Room casseroles, with fresh baking every morning.”

Luke, who owns The celebrated Waiting Room vegetarian restaurant in Eaglescliffe, – itself a previous winner of the Vegetarian Society’s “Best Restaurant in The UK” Award explains; “We were approached by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art in 2015 to see if we might create an independent restaurant at the gallery, to attract visitors whilst responding to the gallery’s new direction as a centre for Useful Art. The Smeltery was actually conceived as an art project, where art and life meet… but ultimately it is about serving up exceptionally tasty, really good, social food.”

Luke, who is also an artist, designed the restaurant and theatre kitchen – whilst organising a run of community maker workshops where people could get involved in making the restaurant’s furniture – and even The Smeltery neon sign that lights up Centre Square.

The Smeltery serves up wonderful breakfasts from 8.30am – from a delicious baked eggs shakshuka to free range bacon, incredible fresh salads and small bistro plates at lunch time, and an amazing Organic Sunday Lunch; attracting rave reviews.

The invitation to create a high quality restaurant was also intended to bring life to that part of the town at night, as Centre Square develops into an important new hub, with the newly revamped Town Hall, and Holiday Inn opposite and 5 office blocks being built around the square, leading to a revitalised evening economy.