2015 Award Winners NATURAL FOOD AWARD 2015

Firehouse Bakery & Bread School, Delgany, Co Wicklow and Heir Island, Co Cork

Firehouse Bakery & Bread School, Delgany, Co Wicklow and Heir Island, Co Cork

The Guide has always championed the best of Irish produce. It’s the philosophy behind our food recommendations and the Natural Food Award has emphasised this for many years, by celebrating particular establishments that create a meeting point between the best and freshest local produce and the consumer. The original aim was to recognise specifically “an individual or team, driven by a total commitment to using the very best of fresh, seasonal and mainly local foods – and preparing them simply and with style, to showcase their natural goodness and the quality produce of the locality”. It now also includes food products, producers and retailers as well, along the lines of our entries in Ireland for Food Lovers, which is Ireland’s only regional food tourism guide.

After languishing for a generation or more, the timeless skills of baking are enjoying a renaissance. Long overdue perhaps, and in Ireland it’s now baking with a difference. Until Declan Ryan started Arbutus Breads fifteen years ago, continental style baking was a rarity in Ireland; while home bread making was still more common here than in the UK, it was very much in the soda tradition.

Baking with yeast was seen as ‘difficult’ and sourdough didn’t get a look in at all. Now all that has changed and it’s largely down to people like Patrick Ryan, a talented lawyer-turned-chef-and-baker who was already well known to viewers of BBC2’s Big Bread Experiment series when he burst onto the scene in West Cork in 2012 and set up the Firehouse Bread School on Heir Island, with his partner Laura Moore.

The wood fired clay oven and unrushed handmade baking is the central focus, using local ingredients and no fast action yeast or any other additives - producing, as they say, ‘real bread, the healthier tastier alternative’.

Crusty sourdough is the wild salmon of the baking world and very much with the zeitgeist, so many students travel to Heir Island just to learn its secrets - but there’s plenty more too, with a wide ranging repertoire on offer, covering everything from traditional soda breads to classic baguettes and crispy pizza.

And then, last winter, they opened a ‘mainland branch’ at the former Delgany Inn, in Co Wicklow, a stylishly renovated complex housing complementary businesses, The Delgany.

As on Heir Island, the wood-fired oven is at the heart of the open plan operation, where you can watch the bakers at work producing their superb sourdough breads and other treats while enjoying the fruits of their labour at the bakery café. It’s a wonderful place to visit and Patrick and Laura deserve great credit for their achievements in both locations.

Education is the secret of good eating habits and Firehouse Bakery is making a delicious contribution.

4 votes

The Firehouse Bakery & Bread School

Skibbereen, Co. Cork
Bakery / Baking/Bakery
Previous Georgina Campbell Guides Award Winner The "Best of the Best" - Only the very best establishments across various categories have been chosen for this accolade
Well known to viewers of BBC2’s Big Bread Experiment series, Patrick Ryan is a thoughtful high achiever and this talented lawyer-turned-chef-and-baker was just the man to bring an imaginative and highly appropriate business venture to the quiet l ...

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