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The Taste of the Waterways Award was introduced last year and it brings a new element to the selection, highlighting lovely and less-known watery parts of Ireland that are a joy to explore – and many pubs and restaurants of great character.
One of the great classic pubs of Ireland, Blakes has been in the same family since 1887 and is a natural first port of call for many visitors to Enniskillen.
The original Victorian front bar still remains untouched after over 120 years, but relatively recent changes elsewhere in this historic establishment have made it a popular food destination, thanks to the talents of two personalities well known in the hospitality of the area, head chef Gerry Russell and front-of-house manager/wine man Johnny Donnelly.
Right at the top of the house, there is an elegantly-appointed fine dining restaurant, Number 6, which is open for Wine & Food evenings (always a sell out) and weekends, if there is demand, but it is the atmospheric vaulted Café Merlot downstairs which is so popular, not least at lunchtime and for their pre-theatre menu, which is especially good value.
As a team, Gerry Russell and Johnny Donnelly present creative modern cooking, a relaxed dining atmosphere, a great wine list and knowledgeable service; they also operate the newer café/deli/wine shop Russell & Donnelley, just along the street.
All round, a great place to know about – congratulations are in order.