VILLAGE Green Hotel head chef Nerida Cotten was stunned when she heard her treasured bbq ribs called out as the Best Cheap Eat Meal Under $15 at the AHA NSW Awards for Excellence.
Suspended in a moment of disbelief, the focused chef could barely speak.
While new owners North Coast Hotel Group and retail manager Mark Knott were jumping for joy, Ms Cotten was just trying to figure out whether or not she was in a dream.
"It was a bit of a shock to us all," she said. "We weren't going to the awards expecting to win, but it was a nice surprise to the owners and ourselves.
"It was just a bit wow. We were all a bit overwhelmed."
While the Monday special ribs have earned the admiration of the Australian Hotels Association, Ms Cotten said they had long ago won the hearts of the local community.
"We have been told to never take them off the menu, of course," she said. "I have had a lot of people ask me for the recipe, but it is one of my own and will never come out.
"It's a secret a bit like the Colonel, but mine only has about nine (secret herbs and spices)."
The Village Green sources their ribs from North Coast supplier Britt's Meats and goes through about 100kg of ribs each week.
Ms Cotten has been working at the hotel for almost 16 years now, spending the past nine leading the kitchen as head chef.
She praised the dedication of the staff around her and the influence of new owners North Coast Hotel Group - who took over the pub in October last year - with helping her to the award.
"I do have a good team in the kitchen and the front of house staff do a great job. If everyone works as a team the place works well," she said.
Of course I could not just take the AHA's word for it, so The Daily Examiner set up our very own taste test of the award winning ribs to see just what all the fuss was about.
Village Green ribs survive The Moose's Taste Test
Sitting down to the $10 meal, the first thought is surely 'this is a big plate for only $10'. And sure enough it is one big meal.
When $10 does not seem to ever get as far as it used to, the value for money in sheer amount of food in the rib special is undeniable - even before taking a bite.
The rack of pork smothered in a thick barbecue glaze is the obvious centrepiece of the dish and in true bistro fashion it makes no bones about that fact.
The food specially made for napkin bibs and people with a lack of shame gets you hooked from the first bite. The meat slides off the bone and the sweet tones of the sauce make you crave for more.
There's something primal about sinking back in your chair - exhausted from eating - and staring down at a plate of whistle clean bones.
The Village Green does not try to avoid the 'pub grub' label, but rather revelling in its ease of appeal to a wide variety of clientele with a simple side of salad and chips.
It is value for money summed up on a plate and that is a smart tool of marketing for the local pub.
The Moose's rating: Four napkin bibs out of five.