THERE’S little that cheers the soul better after a lingering recession than a roomful of entrepreneurs, and last night’s Quoted Company Awards were no exception, as banks and brokerages gathered to cheer on their new and growing clients.

Companies in attendance ranged from a bevy of smart media startups, including nine-month-old Digital Theatre and acquisition-hungry Progressive Digital Media, to household staples such as Domino’s Pizza and ASOS.

BBC anchor Mishal Husain, who compèred for the packed tables seated among the Natural History Museum’s massive dinosaurs, warmed up the night with reminiscences of the bad old days of the recession.

“It feels great to be liberated from the BBC newsroom,” she said, a far cry from the credit crunch workload of 2009 which left her spending “more time with Robert Peston than with my own husband.”

It was a reminder of the remarkable feat the nine winning execs and their companies had pulled off by achieving stellar growth in daunting economic conditions.

John Rennocks of Nestor Healthcare received the headline Chairman of the Year Award for his work driving the firm to 83 per cent profit growth last year and overseeing its £124m takeover by Saga.

Peter Slabbert took home the Chief Executive of the Year Award for his leadership of Avon Rubber, while stock market veteran Brian Winterflood, the pioneer of the Aim marketplace, scooped the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Other winners included Domino’s, in the Aim to Main category, and Chi-Med chief Christian Hogg, who was named Emerging Markets CEO of the Year.

Among the table talk was grumbles about tax: “For the amount of tax I pay, I deserve to have my name put on something. Like a hospital ward,” one Leeds business owner said.

Others advised on the tricky world of non-executive directorships. “Back your own judgement,” said Peter Hewitt, director of Provident and Regional Estates. “And make sure you have excellent insurance,” added Chris Spencer-Phillips, chief executive of First Flight Placements.