There’s enough gloom and doom around at the moment. So for my End of Year Review-cum-Sneaky Peek at 2019, I’m looking on the bright side of food and drink in Coventry. Here are eight reasons for foodies to stay cheerful.

1. Coventry has a thriving home brew scene. The inspirational Twisted Barrel Brewery and Tap House runs a very popular home-brew club and to date, two micro-breweries, Raw Talent and Mashionistas Brewing Company, have emerged from it. A third new brewery, Triumph (which describes itself as a ‘nano-brewery’), is due to launch in early 2019. Add to that the Earlsdon treasure that is Beer Gonzo, selling some of the world’s best beers right here in Cov, and Dhillon’s, which is set to open a new city centre venue – and maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing the beginnings of a proper craft beer destination.

2. Social enterprise has huge potential. 2018 saw the launch of a number of new food and drink social enterprises in the city – and with the right products, they’ve grown fast. Arabian Bites Café and Proof Bakery for example, are harnessing the skills and knowledge of Coventry’s refugee and migrant population to bring new food experiences to the city. Proof has also secured funding to roll out its bakery model to other cities – so we could eventually be looking at a national food success story that has its roots right here!

3. Environmentalism is a selling-point. When plastic-free pioneers Zero launched in the autumn, huge excitement was created on the website. Later in the year, Green Unicorn Vegan Store also announced plans to introduce plastic-free shopping. They’re on the right track. Just before Christmas Julie Palmer, a partner at insolvency firm Begbies Traynor, told the Guardian newspaper that “in 2019, we will see more openly environmentally friendly, ethically and socially conscious brands thriving in retail”. Other local favourites poised to benefit from this trend are the ever-wonderful Coventry Market and Earlsdon’s Down to Earth Organic, plus The Pod and Not Just Jams – both of which source much of their raw material from zero food-miles Coventry allotments.

4. Vegans are going mainstream…and Coventry is well-placed to take advantage, with a wealth of wholly vegan and very-vegan-friendly businesses already clustered around the Far-Gosford-Street-Fargo-Village corridor in particular, but also springing up in other parts of the city. New faces in 2018 included Arabian Bites and the re-located Pod – both 100% vegan and both going from strength to strength; it would be great to see their success inspire more new openings.

6. …but the Coventry pork batch remains a much-loved local delicacy. In collaboration with Coventry Culture Show, our quest to find Coventry’s best pork batch resulted in literally hundreds of recommendations. Creating the perfect pork batch is quite a skill. As eventual winner Mat of Baguette Bakery suggested, maybe Coventry should now market itself as ‘home of the proper pork batch’.

5. Diversity is strength. Coventry’s richly diverse population offers boundless potential for all kinds of foodie endeavour. But one of the most striking comments made to me by any trader this year came from pork batch supremo Mat. He revealed that “30-40% of the pork batches we sell are bought by Chinese students”. The lesson for other businesses? Don’t pigeon-hole yourselves. The local market is enormous and varied: embrace it! All of it!

7. Coventry boasts award-winning restaurants. Selmina’s (Mexican), The Royal Bengal (Indian), Basement Browns (pizza) and The Golden Cross (free from) all won industry awards in their respective sectors this year; The Pod was included in a Guardian list of readers’ top ten vegan eateries.

8. Michelin-starred dining is coming to Coventry…for one night only. But it IS a start. Chef Adam Bennett from the Michelin-starred Cross at Kenilworth has partnered with Beer Gonzo to bring to Coventry a foodie night to remember on January 13th. The fact that this event sold out in less than twenty-four hours is significant: it indicates there is a market for better food in Coventry.

PS. I’m truly sorry not to have mentioned every fabulous foodie business in Coventry that I have worked with in 2018. I just don’t have room. But you are all STARS!