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The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

It’s shaping up to be a great year for Irish hospitality and with accommodation bookings well up everywhere and eating out for breakfast and brunch now hugely popular - especially in cities - the quality of The Irish Breakfast is playing a new part in showcasing the stellar standards of our food and hospitality industries.

Acknowledging the role of this modest meal in creating some of Ireland’s most memorable food and hospitality experiences, some of the nation’s leading businesses and personalities have again received due recognition for their unstinting efforts at the second annual Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in Association with Fáilte Ireland, which took place at the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin, on 22nd March 2018 and are also supported by RTE lyric fm.

The coveted Irish Breakfast Awards were presented in each of the Fáilte Ireland accommodation categories and others, including Visitor Attraction and Brunch - and, very importantly - in Breakfast Foods categories, ranging from Breakfast Meats and Dairy, to Cereals, Preserves and Irish Bread.

In addition, the results of the first in a series of important annual Irish Breakfast Surveys conducted by Georgina Campbell in association with Fáilte Ireland were announced on the day. As part of an effort to increase the overall quality of breakfast on offer to visitors nationally, a baseline survey was conducted with accommodation providers to determine quality baseline and increasing practises with which to measure improvements over time.

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

Topline findings include:

• Ireland’s two big tourism brands account for 71.9% of responses (Wild Atlantic Way, 45.9%; Ireland’s Ancient East, 26.0%), suggesting strongly that the Fáilte Ireland food tourism strategy is growing industry awareness of the value of offering a quality locally-focused breakfast. A high proportion of breakfast menus reflect their tourist region - 62.3% have at least three options and, of those, about half have five or more options that tell their local food story.

• A good breakfast is either ‘a key selling point’ (34.2%) and/or ‘a point of pride’(over 65%)

• Sample menu descriptions provided include a lot of producer name checking and descriptions like ‘free range’, ‘organic’, ‘local’, ‘homegrown’ and ‘homemade.’ Over two thirds of respondents (62.3%) said the traditional Irish Breakfast is highly rated (imparts ‘the holiday feeling’, ‘visitors enjoy the novelty’), with almost all (88.4%) conveying the traditional and/or local Irish food story through items on their breakfast menu – and over a third (33.6%) saying that over 75% of their breakfast ingredients are sourced locally (within 25km), and a similar number use produce from their own farm or garden.

“While there is plenty of work to be done over the coming three years to ensure a consistently high standard of breakfast across the board in Ireland, this survey indicates an infectious enthusiasm for engagement which will no doubt inspire others to up their game – and perhaps be among the award winners next year” Georgina commented

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

Darina Allen - who offers Breakfast and Brunch courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School - was the keynote speaker; Darina shared some of her invaluable insights into The Irish Breakfast, and how to make it a special experience, while Tara Kerry, Hospitality Manager at Fáilte Ireland explained their vision for the Irish Breakfast experience to become a highlight of a visit anywhere in Ireland.

Speaking about the Awards, Paul Keeley, Director of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland said:

“They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s certainly becoming a very important part of the visitor experience. We are delighted to partner with Georgina Campbell’s Irish Breakfast Awards to promote the authentic taste of Ireland that a quality Irish breakfast can provide to visitors. As part of Fáilte Ireland’s recently launched Food & Drink Strategy 2018-2023, we have highlighted the importance that food experiences play in determining overall visitor satisfaction. Quality experiences are now a major contributor to increasing holiday satisfaction, creating positive memories and driving positive word of mouth. Amongst those deciding on a holiday location, the expectation of good food is nearly as important as hospitality and today’s Awards are another important step forward in promoting the very best of Irish cuisine.”

So what’s different about these Awards? A lot, according to Georgina Campbell: “Aside from shining a spotlight on the meal that can only be described as the Cinderella of the Irish culinary scene, these are the only Awards [with the exception of the Euro-Toques Food Awards, which are nominated by member chefs] where the main aim is to link the best Irish food producers with those who prepare and serve food to the public. How often have you had a wonderful dinner in a hotel, only to be disappointed by breakfast? Our winners can inspire others to up their game and ultimately, we hope, lead to everyone being able to enjoy an authentic breakfast experience that reflects the locality.” Explaining the key role of the Irish Breakfast Foods categories, Georgina added, “Whether it’s a nine-course Tasting Menu in a top restaurant or a homely breakfast in a B&B, quality ingredients are the foundation of any good meal. These Awards recognise the quality Irish Breakfast Foods that can lift this simple meal into an expression of the local land - and seascape - and we want to see more of them on Irish breakfast menus.”

Georgina also paid tribute to the Galway - West of Ireland European Region of Gastronomy 2018 designation, saying, “This recognition is very well deserved - and, as shown by our Awards today, standards of food and hospitality are exceptionally high in this stunningly beautiful region.”

Regarding the selection process, Ms Campbell said “Georgina Campbell’s Ireland’s rigorous programme of anonymous assessment visits continues all year and the resulting reports are then fed through to the respected independent website, Ireland-guide.com. Award winners are nominated solely by the assessment team - and the wealth of information gathered is also the foundation of our printed guides, of which the latest is the recently published Georgina Campbell’s Ireland, The Best of the Best.”

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

"Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018" - In Association with Fáilte Ireland - WINNERS

5* HOTEL
Winner: Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo

Highly Commended: Hayfield Manor, Cork
Highly Commended: The Marker Hotel, Dublin

4* HOTEL
Winner: Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare

Highly Commended: Harvey’s Point, Lough Eske, Co Donegal
Highly Commended: Beech Hill Country House Hotel, Derry, Co Londonderry

3* HOTEL
Winner: Greenhills Hotel Conference & Leisure Centre, Limerick

Highly Commended: Schull Harbour Hotel, Schull, Co Cork
Highly Commended: Nox Hotel Galway, Galway

COUNTRY HOUSE
Winner: Longueville House, Mallow, Co Cork

Highly Commended: Carrig Country House & Restaurant, Killorglin, Co Kerry
Highly Commended: Whitepark House, Ballycastle, Co Antrim

GUESTHOUSE
Winner: Hanora’s Cottage Country Guesthouse & Restaurant, Ballymacarbry, Co Waterford

Highly Commended: Butler House, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Highly Commended: The Olde Post Inn, Cloverhill, Co Cavan

B&B
Winner: Archways B&B, Rosslare, Co Wexford

Highly Commended: Coill Dara House B&B, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Highly Commended: Castle Murray House, Dunkineely, Co Donegal

WELCOME STANDARD (includes Historic Houses)
Winner: Currarevagh House Oughterard, Co Galway

Highly Commended: Rowan Tree Café Bar, Ennis, Co Clare
Highly Commended: Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth

VISITOR ATTRACTION
Winner: The Crawford Gallery Café, Cork

Highly Commended: The Garden Café @ Avoca, Ashford, Co Wicklow
Highly Commended: Glenarm Castle Walled Garden Tea Room, Glenarm, Co Antrim

BRUNCH
Winner: Firehouse Bakery& Café, Delgany, Co Wicklow

Highly Commended: Ely Bar & Brasserie, IFSC, Dublin 1
Highly Commended: Gather Restaurant, Tuam, Co Galway

IRISH BREAKFAST FOOD AWARDS
Meats: Kelly’s of Newport Artisan Butchers, Newport, Co Mayo

Fish: Connemara Smokehouse, Ballyconneely, Co Galway
Cereals: The Foods of Athenry, Athenry, Co Galway
Dairy: Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Country Butter & Natural Buttermilk, Ballina, Co Mayo
Preserves: G’s Gourmet Jams, Abbeyleix, Co Laois

IRISH BREAD AWARD
Aherne's Seafood Restaurant & Accommodation, Youghal, Co Cork

 

The Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018 in association with Failte Ireland

"Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2018" - In Association with Fáilte Ireland - CITATIONS

FIVE STAR HOTEL CATEGORY

Winner: Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo

Breakfast at Ireland’s grandest castle hotel is served in the elegant George V Dining Room and, reflecting the overall experience at this extraordinary place, it is a high point in the day, offering a unique combination of tradition, a sense of place and the warmly professional service from outstanding staff that offsets any possible tendency to over formality Executive Head Chef Philippe Farineau is known for his support for Irish artisan producers and suppliers and the buffet offers as fine a range of fare as the pickiest guest could desire (and will especially please those with a hankering for a continental-style start to the day). The hot table service menu showcases local produce such as black and white puddings and sausages from the county's most famous butchers, Kelly's of Newport, in a classic Full Irish. Along with traditional grilled kippers and many other favourites, there's even a 'free-from' organic porridge (no egg, gluten or dairy) offered with a range of tempting extras including Irish Whiskey. And, while guests lay a delicious foundation for the day ahead, the charming captain of one of the two lake cruisers - the MV Isle of Inisfree and the MV Corrib Queen 2 - tours the tables taking bookings for what is sure to be a memorable outing on beautiful Lough Corrib, with its 365 islands and magnificent Connemara mountain backdrop. Just one of the many activities offered here, but an opportunity that should be snapped up - and that excellent breakfast will set the right mood to enjoy it to the full.

Highly Commended: Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork

Set in gardens near University College Cork, Hayfield Manor is the city’s premier hotel and has the feel of a large period house. Breakfast is well-established as a particular highlight of any stay here and non-residents are welcome by reservation too, making it an appealing destination for informal morning business meetings. It is served in the fine dining restaurant, Orchids, which is attractively situated overlooking a courtyard garden and transformed for the morning service. The whole of the adjoining room is set up with a series of buffet tables offering a wide range of juices (orange and grapefruit, both freshly squeezed), fruits, cereals (including their own granola), baked goods, smoked fish, meats and cheeses - and, an eye-catching item, a full size honeycomb frame. A good hot menu is offered too - the Full Irish, with the Allshires’ splendid bacon and black pudding from Rosscarbery, is outstanding - and there's also a separate children's menu, which is very unusual at breakfast. With its excellent food and service, and soothing garden outlook this is a very pleasant place to start the day.

Highly Commended: The Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2

Overlooking the Grand Canal Basin, Dublin city’s most striking modern hotel has magnificent views from the upper floors and predictably impressive public spaces, which include a ground floor cocktail bar and brasserie. The Brasserie makes a great space for an outstanding breakfast, especially on a sunny day and the offering is vast. Baking is of an especially high standard, from the toast – served in a silver rack with pats of creamy Glenilen butter (deleted served) on little wooden boards – to sesame rolls, crusty slice-yourself loaves and choice of flaky croissants, Danish pastries and pains au chocolat. A quality hot breakfast is matched by a good selection of cold meats, cheeses and salad items. *Among many treats on the buffet, smoked Gubbeen manchego and salami lend an appealing Irish tone to the continental breakfast (you can even dress your salad with Llewellyn’s cider vinegar). You’ll also find Burren Smokehouse organic smoked salmon, Flahavan’s Porridge, Tommy Doherty’s sausages and even John Stone sirloin on the hot menu too. From the health-conscious to the treat-seeker there is something for everyone here and table service is wonderful, with well trained, engaging staff delivering toast in silver racks and tea in elegant silver teapots.

FOUR STAR HOTEL CATEGORY

Winner: Gregans Castle, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare

Simon and Freddie Haden’s quietly luxurious and restorative country house hotel offers simple West of Ireland joys like warming turf fires and views across the Burren landscape - and it is one of Ireland’s top food destinations. Renowned for food that is ‘modern European but distinctively Irish and unpretentious’, the Gregans team takes enormous pride in showcasing the wonderful foods of the locality and many of the producers are members of The Burren Food Trail. The memorable dining experience continues at breakfast, where the very best of local and Irish ingredients are treated with the greatest respect. The cold buffet is especially impressive for its informative labelling as much as for the careful selection of the foods on display, which showcase special local products - including cheeses made nearby at Aillwee Cave, and Burren Smokehouse fish from Lisdoonvarna - alongside excellent produce from other areas, including Gubbeen charcuterie. Hot dishes are simple and perfectly executed, allowing the sheer quality of the food to star. All this, plus warmly efficient service from long serving local staff make breakfast at Gregans an experience to treasure.

Highly Commended: Harvey’s Point, Lough Eske, Donegal, Co Donegal

The Gysling family opened this stunningly located hotel on the shores of Lough Eske in 1989, and it’s now run by Marc Gysling and his wife Deirdre McGlone. Aside from the setting, it has many claims to fame including the increasingly luxurious accommodation, the special activity breaks offered throughout the year - and, its greatest USP, the engaging friendliness and helpfulness of the owners and staff. Good food has always been a key feature too - and that includes a very good breakfast, served in The Restaurant with its lovely lake view. Highlights include an outstanding buffet (featuring, of course, Granny Gysling's bircher muesli among many temptations); a fine rendition of The Irish Breakfast, including famed McGettigan's sausages from Donegal Town; a chef's station where a splendid ham is freshly carved and pancakes and eggs are cooked to your liking; and fish dishes (fresh and smoked) cooked to order from the table service menu. Service, as always at Harvey's Point, is impeccable and good humoured - a great start to the day.

Highly Commended: Beech Hill Country House Hotel, Derry, Co Londonderry

Beautifully set in peaceful woodland and gardens, this charming hotel dates back to 1729 and proprietor Patsy O’Kane (very deserving recipient of an MBE in 2014, in recognition of her service to the tourism and hospitality industry) is a caring hostess who loves her hotel to bits. History matters here - US Marines had their headquarters here in World War II (a small museum of the US Marine Friendship Association still attracts interest) and the comfortable rooms give a home to Patsy’s ever-growing collection of antiques. Good food is also central to Patsy’s ethos and a very good breakfast is served in the Ardmore Restaurant, which has a conservatory area running along the garden side, overlooking water features and makes a lovely bright place to start the day. Quality comes first here and there are no gimmicks, just a menu offering many all-time favourites, excellent food (including seasonal produce from the restored walled gardens) cooked simply and well - and solicitous service from caring staff. Just what discerning guests want, in fact.

THREE STAR HOTEL CATEGORY

Winner: Greenhills Hotel, Conference & Leisure Centre, Limerick

It would be all too easy to miss this pleasant family-run hotel when speeding by on the Limerick - Shannon road, but it’s well worth a stop. Daphne Greene is the third generation of the family to head up front of house, while her brother Hugh is the Executive Head Chef with responsibility for all (deleted of) the hotel’s food, including a very good breakfast that’s available until late morning and popular with local people as well as residents. The Greenhills Hotel is renowned for homely touches like freshly baked cookies, and its well-earned reputation for good food is based on quality local produce. Reflecting its popularity, the breakfast menu is quite extensive with ‘Irish’ and ‘free range’ the dominant themes. A well-cooked Irish Breakfast is available in several variations, including a Mini Breakfast at just €6. Welcoming is the byword at this comfortable hotel, and that is just what’s needed to start the day - and to transform a straightforward breakfast into a meal that will be remembered, and for all the right reasons.

Highly Commended: Nox, Galway, Co Galway

With quirkily decorated public areas in vibrant tones of turquoise, orange and metallic, this youthful budget hotel just off the Headford Road is a lively spot and has filled a niche, becoming a popular meeting place for a casual bite to eat or a drink in the busy open-plan bar, where craft beers and cocktails are the thing. There’s an emphasis on leisure travel, including families, at weekends, but weekday guests appreciate the in-room business amenities, free parking - and good food. A quick look at the video on their website shows visitors that they’re serious about the breakfast served in Fork Restaurant, which is cleverly pitched as a meeting place for non-residents as well as hotel guests - and the tempting buffet display, in particular, never fails to impress.

Highly Commended: Schull Harbour Hotel, Schull, Co Cork

Stylish and comfortable, with excellent facilities, prices that are very reasonable for the standard offered - and good food - this privately owned hotel overlooking the harbour is cheerfully painted in true West Cork style, with colourful window boxes on the upper window ledges. It may not look very big from the outside, but that’s deceptive - and the extent of the amenities could come as a pleasant surprise, especially to families. The hotel's reputation for good food is growing - and, as well as wide ranging bar meals, evening dining and Sunday lunch in the restaurant at weekends, the tasty fare on offer includes a very good breakfast with plate service from the kitchen for the hot dishes. With friendly, welcoming staff always on hand, this hotel is a real asset to the area.

COUNTRY HOUSE CATEGORY

Winner: Longueville House, Mallow, Co Cork

There are a few special places where the breakfast offering is so outstanding that it’s a reason in itself for visiting. The O’Callaghan family’s beautiful yet relaxed 18th century house near Mallow is one of them, although there are plenty of other persuasive reasons too. It’s a luxurious and interesting place to stay, well located for exploring an exceptionally rewarding area including Cork city - and it’s remarkably self-sufficient. The river, farm and garden supply virtually all the fresh produce for farmer-chef-proprietor William O’Callaghan’s kitchen, and their artisan products - including Longueville House Cider and Irish Apple Brandy - and a goodly portion of that produce ends up on the breakfast menu or the splendid buffet. The ham and bacon, in particular, are exceptional and a visit to the pigs in their woodland idyll is a must. Smoked Blackwater salmon too, of course, free range eggs, delicious fruits in season, cloudy apple juice, honey, freshly baked breads and homemade preserves… it really is a one-off, a genuine taste of north Cork.

Highly Commended: Carrig Country House Caragh Lake Killorglin Co Kerry

Set in fine gardens with lake and mountain views, Frank and Mary Slattery’s Victorian country house was originally a hunting lodge and it’s a very attractive property with a relaxed atmosphere, charming sitting rooms where you can enjoy a drink beside the fire, and spacious bedrooms furnished with antiques. A ‘proper country house’, Carrig is a quietly luxurious and serene place to stay - a perfect escape from the modern world, and with excellent food, including a delicious breakfast served in the lovely lakeside dining room. It’s a house of little hideaways and surprises and this is reflected in the breakfast, where there is no grand display but modest arrangements of good things - especially fruits and freshly made bread and baked goods - on the buffet. A thoughtfully composed menu includes a well-sourced Irish Breakfast - Loughnane’s sausages, Kennelly’s bacon, Athea black and white puddings, Iveragh smoked salmon and, a real treat in season, grilled Caragh Lake trout with lemon butter. More than the sum of its parts, a relaxing Carrig House breakfast starts the day on a high.

Highly Commended: Whitepark House, Ballycastle, Antrim

On the A2 coastal road between the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Bob and Siobhán Isles’s pretty old house is tucked away in a sylvan setting, well back from the road. It enjoys stunning views of Whitepark Bay, and a path just across the road leads down to the beautiful beach. Famous first and foremost for the warm welcome extended by the chatty and well-informed hosts, it’s an exceptional place to stay - stylish, cosy and luxuriously comfortable, and with Bob’s lovely gardens to enjoy as well. Gorgeous food too, including an immaculately presented fireside afternoon tea on arrival - and delicious breakfasts. Set up stylishly in a lovely conservatory overlooking Bob’s beloved gardens, there’s a real sense of occasion to breakfast at Whitepark. Vegetarian and vegan options are offered, the cooking and presentation is immaculate and Bob, apparently effortlessly, cooks, serves and chats to guests - while simultaneously giving all the low-down on unmissable places and the best local dining spots. A one off.

GUESTHOUSE CATEGORY

Winner: Hanora’s Cottage Country Guesthouse & Restaurant, Ballymacarbry, Nire Vally, Co Waterford

Mary Wall and her late husband Seamus took the Ireland’s Best Breakfast title at our 2002 Awards, and the extraordinary thing is that their award citation could be repeated today, almost to the word. Mary now runs the wonderful Hanora’s Cottage with her son Eoin and his wife Judith, both Euro-Toques chefs who use local foods from small suppliers whenever possible and credit them on their menus, and their enthusiasm is a tonic. Fans travel from far and wide to dine in the restaurant and many will choose to stay overnight especially to begin the day with Hanora’s legendary breakfast buffet. Set up over a series of tables and laid out artfully in baskets and Stephen Pearce bowls, it offers an amazing array of freshly made breads and baked treats (the legacy of Seamus, who was a baker), fruits both local and exotic, juices, cereals, porridge, cheeses… and that’s before you even think about excellent hot dishes which are carefully cooked to order. As we said in 2002: “This is truly a gargantuan feast, designed to see you many miles along the hills before you stop for a little packed lunch (prepared that morning) and ultimately return for dinner.”

Highly Commended: Butler House, Kilkenny

This handsome Georgian townhouse - the original Dower House of Kilkenny Castle - was restored (by Kilkenny Design) in the 1970s, in a style combining contemporary design and period architecture. Always a unique and conveniently central place to stay, it has recently undergone major improvements in all areas, including food. Breakfast was previously served in the Kilkenny Design Centre across the gardens, which was no hardship, but daytime food, including a wonderful breakfast, is now available here at the elegantly appointed Butler House Tea Room & Pantry. Chef Gerard Dunne delights in showcasing local produce including, for breakfast, oatmeal from the Little Mill, butchers sausages made with Butlers Farm free range pork, eggs from Fanningstown House (baked with Goatsbridge smoked trout, cream and chives, perhaps) and Highbank Orchard syrup (delicious with Buttermilk Pancakes and crispy bacon…), all served with delicious homemade breads and preserves. Enjoyed in such lovely surroundings, it adds up to a lovely sense of place - and a memorable experience.

Highly Commended: Olde Post Inn, Cloverhill, Co Cavan

A cut stone building set in neatly landscaped gardens, Gearoid and Tara Lynch’s atmospheric restaurant with rooms served as a post office until the 1970s. Gearoid, a former Commissioner General of Euro-Toques Ireland, is a chef who is committed to supporting local producers and showing respect for regional and seasonal foods, so any meal here, including breakfast, promises to be a true taste of Ireland. Tara manages front of house with quiet efficiency and, after dinner, residents’ rooms are only yards from the fire in the cosy bar…Like everything at the Olde Post Inn, breakfast is a thoughtfully considered meal, based on meticulously sourced ingredients (carefully prepared and cooked - and served with professionalism and good humour. But an unusual aspect of the Olde Post Inn is that Gearoid is coeliac and the author of a successful cookery book, 'My Gluten-Free Kitchen', so coeliac guests will feel especially well looked after here. Gluten-free alternatives to all of the baked treats are available, including breakfast, and staff are well informed. You certainly don’t have to be coeliac to relish a visit here, but it is an exceptionally relaxing experience for anyone restricted to a gluten-free diet, as they are in such good hands.

B&B CATEGORY

Winner: Archways B&B Rosslare Co Wexford

Eileen and Chris Hadlington’s smart modern B&B just outside Tagoat is an exceptional place to stay, offering superb food and genuine hospitality. They constantly find new ways to ensure a memorable stay for their guests, notably through outstanding food. A former restaurateur, Chris is an inspired chef - residents’ dinner is a real treat and so is breakfast, which has previously received our B&B Breakfast of the Year Award and it just goes on getting better. Seasonal, local and home-produced is the ethos and his own rare breed pork sausages will be on the menu, alongside esteemed Wexford producer Pat O’Neill’s dry-cured bacon (recipient of one of our Irish Breakfast Food Awards last year) and other local treats. The Slaney Breakfast, for example, showcases Meyler’s locally smoked Irish salmon, and The Kilmore Breakfast features poached smoked fish (haddock, hake or cod) with poached eggs and Eileen’s homemade brown bread. And there is much more, including special orders like devilled kidneys (aaah…) and kedgeree. Early breakfast (and late night snacks) available for the ferry too. This is a place to plan your holiday around.

Highly Commended: Coill Dara House B&B, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

Patricia and Roger McCarrick’s beautiful Georgian-style family home, Coill Dara (Wood of Oak), is set in an acre of landscaped gardens on a small sheep farm on the edge of Tubbercurry. Yet, despite its wonderfully away-from-it- all rural ambience, the walk to town takes just five minutes and Ireland West Airport (Knock) is only 15 minutes’ drive. Luxurious, family-friendly and pet friendly, this delightful place also offers excellent food, including a very good breakfast: a sideboard full of all kinds of fresh fruit, cereals and health grains as well as hot dishes prepared to order - including a perfectly cooked Irish breakfast, which is also available in a mini version. Everything is delicious and beautifully presented - and packed lunches can be provided too. No ordinary B&B - and, like so many places in the west, what guests love most is the genuine welcome and natural friendliness of their hosts.

Highly Commended: Castle Murray House, St. John’s Point, Dunkineely, Co Donegal

Most of the stylish bedrooms at Marguerite Howley and Peter Lawler’s beautifully located clifftop property have wonderful sea and coastal views. It has a well-deserved reputation as a relaxing hideaway, and, although the once-famous restaurant no longer operates, a delicious breakfast - and dinner for residents on some evenings - is served there, on the seaward corner of the hotel, overlooking the sea and the ruined castle after which the house is named. Set up with polished wooden tables and comfortable chairs, the dining area is welcoming and a cheerful Good Morning blackboard heralds an excellent breakfast, offering a short but engaging choice - for traditionalists there’s creamy whiskey porridge (either Jameson or Bushmills) and then The Full Irish “Farm to Fork” . Then there’s also Pete’s in-house smoked mackerel with free range scrambled eggs and lemon and garden herb Donegal rapeseed oil, or pancakes with organic maple syrup. Traditional homemade brown bread, fruit scones and banana bread and homemade preserves are also delicious and the whole experience is a treat. A very special place - and pet friendly too.

WELCOME STANDARD (INCLUDES HISTORIC HOUSES)

Winner: Currarevagh House, Oughterard, Co Galway

Tranquillity, trout and tea in the drawing room - these are the things that have always drawn guests back to Henry and Lucy Hodgson’s gracious, but not conventionally luxurious, early Victorian manor overlooking Lough Corrib. Offering old-fashioned service and hospitality, it’s more like a private house party than an hotel and country pursuits, especially fishing, are the ruling passion. Lucy, a Prue Leith trained cook, showcases fresh local produce in season, maintaining the Currarevagh motto ‘keep it simple, unfussy and ultimately delicious’. They don’t have a breakfast menu, but there’s always something interesting on offer - homemade kombucha, sourdough breads and natural yogurt are current favourites in the Currarevagh kitchen and there’s kedgeree most mornings too - and a particular treat would be fresh trout from the Corrib which is offered “quite often when available”. Not something that can be promised, of course, but what a special experience if you’re there at the right time. A real country house, doing things in season, Currarevagh is special.

Highly Commended Rowan Tree Café Bar, Ennis, Co Clare

Beside Harmony Bridge in the centre of Ennis, Brian O'Neill and Marianne Maurer’s delightful Rowan Tree is a boutique hostel as well as a café and bar and has some outside tables overlooking the river in this attractive market town. The menu declares its ethics – local food where possible, properly sourced food, the best ingredients and something for vegetarians and vegans, too - and, while the weekday breakfast for residents is a complimentary light snack, the food philosophy extends to the extensive Sunday Brunch that has become a favourite destination in the town. Smaller dishes range from the Rowan Tree vegan granola to the more indulgent Doolin crab and salmon paté, while more substantial dishes include classic brunch favourites, often with a twist (O’Connor spelt breakfast bap, Rowan Tree breakfast pizza), more lunch-style dishes like poached salmon wrapped in Parma ham - and delicious homemade cakes for afters. Great Illy coffee too - everything they do at the Rowan Tree feels just right, and Sunday Brunch is up there with the best.

Highly Commended: Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth

Conveniently located just an hour from Dublin or Belfast airports, the Carroll family's 18th century house is attractively situated in its own walled grounds on the edge of Carlingford village, with views across the lough to the Mountains of Mourne. It is currently operated by Paul Carroll whose mother, Joyce, established one of Ireland's first cookery schools here. She is still responsible for all the jams (about six) and marmalades served at Ghan House, and her recipes are behind many of the treats that appear on the breakfast menu, including 'Joyce's Homemade Muesli' (a particularly interesting mixture, with grated fruits and honey added to the basic mix each day), the house wheaten bread and the dried fruit compotes. The hot choices include classic poached kipper with butter, free range egg dishes and The Ghan House Fry, featuring local Cooley sausage and free range eggs, alongside Kelly's black and white pudding, tomato and mushroom. ‘Free from’ dishes are also available for coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans. Breakfast is open to non-residents and well worth considering for business or before heading up for a day in the hills.

VISITOR ATTRACTION

Winner: Crawford Gallery Café, Cork

One of Cork city’s favourite informal eating places since it was opened by the legendary Myrtle Allen in 1986, this atmospheric outpost of Ballymaloe features artwork from the Crawford Collection and is currently run with style by Sineád Doran. Her seasonal menus continue to reflect the Ballymaloe philosophy that food is precious and should be handled carefully, and everything sings with flavour. The Crawford Gallery Café breakfast has become an institution in itself, especially on Saturday. The number one item is the Crawford Full Irish - featuring McCarthy's of Kanturk bacon, Rosscarbery sausages and puddings, O'Brien's free-range eggs, it is served with freshly squeezed orange juice and toasted Pana Bread - but there are healthy vegetarian options too. An indulgent bowl of creamy porridge, for example, and a whole range of simply delicious egg dishes - Eggs Benedict (‘best ever’), Eggs Royale, Eggs Florentine, all feature or you can just have a couple of eggs poached, fried or scrambled on sourdough toast, perhaps with a base of magnificent Ballyhoura mushrooms. The cooking and service are terrific and impeccably sourced local ingredients listed on the menu include Frank Hederman's smoked salmon, which is always a treat. Tea is by Barry’s, of course, coffees by Golden Bean roastery at Ballymaloe and there's a good choice of other drinks too, including homemade lemonade and elderflower cordial, and Crinnaghtaun apple juice. Definitely not your average ‘visitor attraction’ experience.

Highly Commended: The Garden Café @ Avoca, Mount Usher, Ashford Co Wicklow

At the entrance to Mount Usher, the Garden Café @ Avoca is the key (main) feature of a low key shopping courtyard - and a charming destination for visitors to this scenic area. Local and seasonal is the mantra for the fresh and delicious daytime meals that are the foundation of the Avoca reputation, notably irresistible home baking and a mix of traditional and eclectic influences. Offered with delicious homemade preserves, the morning’s freshly baked breads, scones and pastries would themselves be reason enough to drop in for a light bite and a cuppa from the tea and coffee menu, but there’s also organic granola or power seed porridge and plenty of more substantial fare. This includes The Mount Usher Breakfast (with meats from Higgins butchers) and variations - all carefully cooked and presented with typical Avoca verve, often garnished with fruit or organic leaves. Unusually, there’s a pick’n’mix range of breakfast favourites - tasty grilled back bacon, scrambled Bushfarm free-range eggs, Higgins black pudding, Millbank oaked smoked salmon from Co Cork - offered as sides, so you can build your own breakfast plate. All of this, plus well trained staff and stylish surroundings, make breakfast here a good decision before visiting the beautiful Robinsonian Mount Usher Gardens. All round, the Garden Café @ Avoca is a wonderful asset to Mount Usher and the area - and always well worth a detour.

Highly Commended: Glenarm Castle Walled Garden Tea Room, Glenarm, Co Antrim

Glenarm Castle, ancestral home of the McDonnell family, Earls of Antrim, offers much of interest including The Walled Garden, and the Castle itself is also open several times a year. The Tea Room is open to the general public all year and it makes a lovely stopping off place when touring this scenic coast. It’s a charming setup in the old Mushroom House beside the kitchen garden and, following a recent revamp, it now has several very pleasant rooms to choose from - and there’s a choice of outside seating too, one being in the inner gardens for customers with tickets. Glenarm Castle is known for its Organic Farm, which produces superb organic lamb and pedigree Shorthorn Beef, so it is natural that organic and local ingredients should take centre stage. There are organic teas and good coffees and Head Chef Sean Moran and his team provide excellent all day food, including a breakfast /brunch menu that sets garden visitors up for the day and offers plenty of well-made favourites - Eggs Benedict, for example, with sourdough toast and baked ham, or a classic Castle Breakfast - and the Glenarm Organic Smoked Salmon sandwich is always popular. There is also a new gift shop near the Tea Room, selling quality items including Glenarm Castle merchandise and gardening gifts. A great place to know about when visiting Northern Ireland’s most famous tourist area.

BRUNCH

Winner: Firehouse Bakery & Café Delgany, Co Wicklow

One of a clutch of businesses housed in The Delgany (the stylishly renovated former Delgany Inn), Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore’s superb Firehouse Bakery - a sister of their Bread School on Heir Island, West Cork - produces outstanding artisan breads, pastries and pizza and you can be sure of a seriously tasty casual bite at the Firehouse Café, including a terrific breakfast / brunch every day. The quality is superb and, at the lighter end of the spectrum, there are variations on healthy homemade granola, yogurt and various fruits, or Big Ger’s power porridge. Those with a hankering for traditional bacon flavours will be very happy with something like the Firehouse Bacon Butty, featuring Hick’s bacon in the starring role. It’s all very atmospheric with the pizza oven taking centre stage- a great place to know about if you’re visiting beautiful Co Wicklow, or as a destination in its own right.

Highly Commended: Ely Bar & Brasserie, IFSC, Dublin 1

While most famous for their amazing the wine list - which runs to more than 500 bottles and offers almost 100 wines by the glass - the top-notch organic food (much of it from the Robson family’s organic farm in Co Clare), along with great coffee and relaxed service makes Erik and Michelle Robson’s contemporary venue a winner by day or night. A dashing younger sister to the original Ely wine bar on Ely Place, the stylish waterside atrium sits above spectacularly renovated 200-year-old wine vaults and includes a spacious heated outdoor terrace overlooking the Liffey - just the spot to enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch including classic treats like Dungarvan Bay oysters and the Ely organic Burren beef burger with Hegartys traditional cheddar and Burren bacon.

Highly Commended: Gather, Tuam, Co Galway

Thanks to their years of experience in the industry, the Flaherty siblings Siobhan (chef), Daragh (host) and Aoife (business manager) quickly built up a loyal clientele at their well-named Tuam restaurant after opening in December 2016. People gather here in great numbers to enjoy the great ingredients which Siobhan has gathered from local producers - and their breakfasts and weekend brunches, especially, are extremely popular. Regulars happily travel for dishes like baked free-range eggs with kale and wooded pig chorizo and in-house sourdough or their Full Irish (Castlemine Farm bacon and sausage, local eggs and mushrooms); vegetarian choices are excellent as well - pancakes with Velvet Cloud yogurt and berries, for example - and super coffee from Bell Lane too.

IRISH BREAKFAST FOODS - all in this category are Winners

MEATS: Kelly’s of Newport, Newport, Co Mayo

Quality meat products are the essential foundation of a good traditional Irish Breakfast - and it’s always a good sign to see Kelly’s of Newport on the menu. An excellent traditional butchers with a licensed abattoir where they slaughter all their own locally sourced lamb and beef, Kelly’s has been in the family since the 1930s and the larger-than-life Sean Kelly – the Mayo Person of the Year 2017 - is one of Ireland’s most innovative butchers and the founder of Mayo's first Économusée (working museum), which opened last autumn. Proud to ‘make up to a standard, not down to a price’, their range includes speciality sausages; a Wild Atlantic Way pudding (the magic ingredient is seaweed from the nearby shoreline); gluten free pudding - and even a vegetarian pudding. Many of their products are now widely distributed and available online, but people travel great distances to buy from the shop and have a bit of banter – and, perhaps, stay and eat some of their meats at Kelly’s Kitchen next door, run by Sean’s daughter Shauna.

FISH: Connemara Smokehouse, Ballyconneely, Co Galway

Smoked fish plays an important role in the Irish Breakfast - on the buffet and as a key ingredient in hot dishes such as smoked salmon with scrambled egg - but quality is paramount to avoid disappointment. Run by second generation smoker Graham Roberts and his wife Saoirse, the reputation for excellence of the beautifully located Connemara Smokehouse near Clifden is based on “following a simple recipe: fresh fish, natural ingredients, and traditional smoking methods that have stood the test of time.” Although most famous for smoked salmon, they produce a diverse range of excellent products, including traditional breakfast kippers. Connemara Smokehouse was Ireland’s first food Économusée (a sort of working museum, introducing visitors to traditional artisan production), and the whole process is demonstrated, with tastings, at smokehouse tours.

CEREALS: The Foods of Athenry, Athenry Co Galway

The hotel cereal buffet can be a dismal sight, especially for anyone looking for gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan options. But the excellent products made by former dairy farmers Paul and Siobhan Lawless’s ‘free-from’ farmhouse bakery - started in a converted bicycle shed in 2000 - are a boon. Specialising in healthily delicious home bakes with no additives (including salt and yeast), they have earned a national reputation, notably for their gluten-free range, which is made in a dedicated facility and registered with the Coeliac Society. The range includes granolas, muesli and porridge and its reputation is well deserved.

DAIRY: Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Country Butter and Natural Buttermilk Castlebar Co Mayo

Thanks to the Butler family (deleted comma) who farm near Castlebar, Mayo is home to some once-familiar dairy products, which had all but disappeared but are now beginning to be produced again – Irish farmhouse country butter and natural buttermilk. These are fuller-flavoured products than the commercial norm and the butter, especially, has deservedly caught the public imagination, because country butter was once made routinely on most small-scale Irish dairy farms - and seeing Cuinneog Irish Farmhouse Country Butter featured on menus is always a sign of a chef who cares.

PRESERVES: G’s Gourmet Jams, Abbeyleix, Co Laois

Serving homemade preserves is a great USP for many hospitality businesses, and Helen Gee’s traditional handmade jams, marmalades and relishes are a match for them. Famous for successfully capturing that homemade flavour, the secret of this good old-fashioned product with natural flavour is simple: fresh fruits, including home grown rhubarb and raspberries, are used, with no additives - and they’re genuinely handmade, which means a lot of people busy stirring steaming jam pans. The G’s range includes four excellent marmalades (Breakfast; Seville, Three Fruit; Irish Whiskey) and all the family are involved with the business, growing it carefully to protect the real homemade flavours that are their pride and joy.

IRISH BREAD AWARD: Aherne's Townhouse & Seafood Bar, Youghal, Co Cork

The superb, moist, malty Aherne’s Brown Bread from the FitzGibbon family’s Aherne's Townhouse & Seafood Bar in Youghal is a highlight of the excellent breakfast they serve to overnight guests and the perfect complement to seafood. It is made with fresh yeast but, although the yeast and treacle give it excellent flavour, it contains no 'strong' flour or fat and involves no kneading, so it is close to the Irish soda bread tradition in terms of method and final texture. It is also cooked at a lower temperature than most breads, hence its exceptional moistness. David FitzGibbon uses Kells wholemeal flour from the Mosse family’s Little Mill in Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny and he gets yeast from a local baker.

 

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