STAFF at a family-run delicatessen in Accrington are celebrating after being named one of the best in the country.

The Black Horse Food Emporium, in Abbey Street, was commended in the Farm Shop and Deli Awards, beating off competition from almost 300 others across the country.

The awards celebrate the unsung heroes of the high street and speciality retail scene, with categories ranging from butchers, bakers, farm shops and delis, through to garden centres, food halls and online businesses.

The 12 category winners, and 25 commended, were chosen following a day of intensive judging by leading speciality retailers and key industry figures, along with mystery visits conducted throughout December by chairman of judges, food and drink critic Nigel Barden.

Black Horse co-owner and manager, Natalie Paintin, said: “We were nominated by one of our customers.

“The judges took the best four, and sent out secret inspectors to come and look at us. In the Local Shop category there was one winner, and two were commended, so we came in the top three.”

Mr Barden said: “The awards are a brilliant opportunity for the UK’s small independent businesses to get recognition nationally, and enable them to become a destination.

“It’s gratifying to know that there are so many excellent purveyors of food and drink in Britain.

“And during the mystery visits I have been delighted, moved, and inspied by the people I’ve met.”

The deli is now in its third year of trading, and is managed by Natalie, whose family have worked in the catering industry for years.

The 35-year-old said: “I was the fundraising manager for a cystic fibrosis charity when my family saw the opportunity to buy the Black Horse, which was a derelict pub.”

The emporium serves as both a delicatessen and a coffee shop.

The emporium sells, among other things, gourmet meat, artisan breads, cheeses, olives, anti pasti and cakes.

Natalie added: “Anything you can buy to eat in here, you can buy in the shop.”