Newforge House Fry

The promise of a good breakfast is often the clinching factor when deciding where to book for a short break - and quite right too, as going the extra mile with breakfast tells you a great deal about a place and the way it is run. It’s something that we at the Guide feel strongly enough about to make it the focus of a new standalone awards initiative, and the ‘Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2017- In Association with Failte Ireland’ were hosted recently by Dublin’s InterContinental Hotel - a Five Star that’s no slouch itself when it comes to providing a good breakfast.

They put up a lovely Irish Breakfast Plate on the day, including delicious ingredients supplied by some of the winners: Pat O’Neill’s dry cure bacon from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford; Ballinwillin House Wild Boar sausages, from Mitchelstown, Co Cork; and black pudding from Inch House, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Here’s an introduction to some of the winners to give you a taste of what it’s all about.

The Merrion, Dublin

The Merrion Breakfast Award

Comprising four meticulously renovated Georgian townhouses, The Merrion Hotel is a luxurious retreat in the heart of historic Dublin. A warm Irish welcome, historic décor, plush bedrooms and classy service make it five-star all the way and, with Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud (next door) and the elegant vaulted Cellar Restaurant among the dining options, it is a leading destination for food lovers. Breakfast is especially noteworthy: outstanding for its range, consistency and seamless service, The Merrion Breakfast is served in the Cellar Restaurant, and is one of the best breakfast experiences in any top Irish hotel. Highlights include superb baked goods (freshly baked breakfast rolls and traditional Irish brown bread, as well as treats such as fresh fruit Danish, croissants, pain au chocolat and muffins); an impressive charcuterie board showcasing both Irish and international meats and artisan cheeses; a fine rendition of ‘The Full Irish’ including ‘The Merrion Breakfast Sausage’ and eggs cooked to your liking – and a comprehensive beverage list that includes the hotel’s own house coffee, The Merrion Blend. In a world of indentikit hotels with bland service, The Merrion feels incredibly special.


Ballymaloe House Shanagarry Co Cork

Ballymaloe Breakfast

A gem of Ireland’s Ancient East, Ballymaloe has been home to the Allen family since the 1940s, and can be traced back to an Anglo-Norman castle built around 1450. (Today, Ireland’s most ancient hotel room is to be found here, in the Gate House - a tiny one up and one down in the original medieval wall of the old house, it is delightful and highly romantic.) And, as the standard bearer for the best of Irish food, quality prevails at every service in this lovely house, including breakfast. Each morning the Yeats Rooms restaurant is transformed for breakfast, with cheery blue and white checked tablecloths setting the scene for a feast that will start the greyest day on a high. Like every meal at Ballymaloe, ‘fresh, local and seasonal’ is the philosophy. The buffet offers porridge, made with Macroom stone-ground oatmeal, Bircher muesli made with their own apples, seasonal fruit compotes and home-made yoghurt from the cookery school. Fresh breads – Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, traditional Irish soda breads, spotted dogs and scones – are accompanied by homemade butter and preserves, and the hot cooked to order options include the traditional cooked breakfast made with Ballymaloe farm eggs, bacon and sausages. Honey is from their own hives - and even the coffee is hand-roasted on site by The Golden Bean, which operates in a farm building near the Ballymaloe shop and café.


Ballynahinch Castle Hotel Recess, Co Galway

Ballynahinch Castle Breakfast

A wonderful place on the Wild Atlantic Way that is much loved for its beautiful setting, high standards and relaxed atmosphere, Ballynahinch enjoys a romantic riverside location in 450 acres of ancient woodland and gardens (including walled kitchen gardens, under restoration). Despite the impressive scale, hands-on General Manager Patrick O’Flaherty and an outstanding staff make sure the atmosphere is relaxed - comfort and friendliness combine well with huge open fires, and excellent local food cooked with finesse by Head Chef Pete Durkan and his team. All this, plus a little quirkiness (and an invigorating mixture of residents and locals in the bar at night), keeps bringing people back. Breakfast is a high point of the Ballynahinch experience; an interesting menu, excellent breads, the homemade granola and, especially, their own rare breed pork products attract praise. These include a baked ham that takes pride of place on the buffet each morning and the delicious bacon that features in the full Irish Breakfast and other dishes on the day’s menu. The pigs are kept near the walled garden and guests are welcome to go and see them. A great start to a day’s fishing, wilderness walks and other activities on the estate, or simply touring this beautiful area.


Hastings Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast

Hastings Culloden Estate & Spa Breakfast

Formerly the official palace for the Bishops of Down, Northern Ireland’s premier hotel – and flagship of the Hastings Group – is romantically set in beautifully maintained grounds overlooking Belfast Lough and the Antrim coastline. It is a lovely place to stay, and The Culloden has always taken particular pride in the food served and its provenance. Fine dining in the Mitre Restaurant, overlooking the lough, can be memorable, and the excellent Irish Breakfast that is also served here is keenly anticipated by guests who have spotted that the information supplied in guest rooms includes the Hastings Hotels booklet ‘Food Heritage, Our Little Book of Local Cuisine’. Featuring the characterful Lady Dufferin, of Clandeboye Estate (famous for her pedigree dairy herd) on the cover, it catalogues many of the food and drink producers that the Hastings Group support and makes an interesting read – leading on nicely to the exceptionally informative breakfast menus and labelled displays of local produce, that await in the Mitre Restaurant. A great experience all round.


The Mustard Seed Ballingarry, Co Limerick

The Mustard Seed

Opened by the legendary hotelier Dan Mullane in the mid ‘90s, ownership of this very special and hospitable Victorian country residence has now transferred safely to the experienced hands of the former manager, John Edward Joyce. The house is set on seven acres of lovely gardens, including an organic kitchen garden and orchard, and breakfast - which is served in the restaurant - is a memorable experience. The highlight of a small but carefully selected buffet display is the choice of luscious home grown fruits – and everything offered is delicious, including the fresh eggs produced by the hens housed just outside the kitchen. Hot dishes, including a house variation on the traditional Irish breakfast, are perfectly cooked and beautifully presented and the menu includes some less usual dishes, such as omelettes made with the renowned Ummera smoked chicken from West Cork. Beautiful garden flowers on every table too – a lovely experience.


Gougane Barra Hotel, Macroom, Co Cork

Gougane Barra Hotel

In one of the most peaceful and beautiful locations in Ireland, this delightfully old-fashioned family-run 3* hotel is set in a Forest Park overlooking Gougane Barra Lake (famous for its monastic settlements). Neil Lucey and his wife Katy took over management of the hotel from Neil’s parents in 2005 and, while the spirit of the place thankfully remains unchanged, their energy has brought a fresh approach, including a stronger emphasis on food. Breakfast is served overlooking the lake, a very pleasant setting for an enjoyable experience. Like the rest of the food at this delightful place, quality is the by-word here – Flahavan’s porridge, breakfast meats from Twomey’s craft butchers and free range eggs all get a mention on an appealing breakfast menu that also offers a Veggie Brekky and teas and coffee from Cork. Katy’s lovely rich walnut and treacle bread deserves special mention too, as it’s one of the recipes that she brought from her late father’s kitchen in Lahinch, where her parents ran Mr Eamon’s famous restaurant for many years - and there’s already a keen baker in the next generation too. Visitors are encouraged to drop in to the hotel for informal meals – an invitation well worth heeding.


Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena, Co Antrim

Galgorm Resort & Spa

Set amidst beautiful scenery, with the River Maine running through the grounds, this former gentleman’s residence is one of Northern Ireland’s best known country house hotels and, following major redevelopment, it emerged much larger and more contemporary – and ready to take its place among Ireland’s leading hospitality players. Particular pride is taken in the breakfast offering (‘the renowned Galgorm breakfast’). Depending on the category of your guest room, breakfast service is split between Gillies and the River Room, but both feature an extensive choice of buffet offerings (including organic and ‘healthy’ options) and cooked to order hot dishes. Daily specials are offered as well as the full traditional cooked plate, and (notably in the River Room) the presentation is unusually creative. A real pleasure.


Burren Glamping, Kilfenora Co Clare

Burren Glamping

Already well known for their wonderful free-range pork, Eva and Stephen Hegarty started Burren Glamping in 2015, offering cosy accommodation in an imaginatively converted vintage horse truck on their small farm. It’s quirky – and it’s gorgeous. It’s hard to imagine that a horse truck – even a 4-horse truck – would have space for all the amenities and comforts that they have somehow fitted in, but it’s very cleverly arranged. And, better still, it’s not necessarily just self catering as Eva and Stephen offer a package including breakfast and other meals (lunch/dinner/picnics) made with produce from their farm – and also guided tours of the area, as Stephen is an experienced Burren Guide. So, as well as staying in what must be Ireland’s cutest accommodation, guests can breakfast on tasty rashers supplied by the Hegartys’ happy Burren Saddleback and Saddleback/Tamworth cross pigs. Burren Glamping is a total one-off and Failte Ireland’s new Welcome Standard could have been invented for it.


MacNean House, Blacklion, Co Cavan

MacNean House

Neven Maguire’s position as one of Ireland’s leading chefs is well earned, and the prospect of a meal at the restaurant that he and his wife Amelda run in this little town in Ireland’s Ancient East has long attracted devotees from all over Ireland, and beyond. Once a modest restaurant with rooms, they have made it a spacious place of sumptuous comfort, providing the setting that is deserved by Neven’s exceptional cooking of the local foods that he has always championed with such passion. As would be expected of an establishment where so much TLC has gone into every detail, breakfast for guests who have been lucky enough to stay overnight is also an experience to be relished. Tables are beautifully set up with crisp white linen, white china and salt and pepper mills, and served by warmly efficient local staff, the traditional breakfast offering – with fresh juices, fruit with yoghurt and granola, and a perfectly cooked Irish breakfast plate among the choices – is immaculately presented. Simple perfection, in fact.


Newforge House Magheralin, Co Armagh

Newforge House Fry

Louise and John Mathers are the sixth generation of John’s family to live in this beautifully located Georgian country house, just half an hour’s drive from Belfast. Following major restoration work they opened it as a guesthouse in 2005 and it soon became one of Ireland’s most desirable destinations – especially for food lovers, who relish John’s cooking. Local and seasonal produce is king in his excellent dinners, and the same philosophy applies to carefully prepared breakfasts featuring freshly baked breads and pastries, a lovely selection of fruits and juices (including local apple juice), organic yoghurt and delicious hot dishes in which Moyallon dry cured bacon and award winning sausages and puddings from Madden’s butchers in Lurgan are the stars of the traditional Uster Fry – along with the Newforge freshly-laid eggs, collected each morning from the rare breed chickens that peck around the orchard, juicy tomatoes and that Ulster classic potato bread. Other tempting choices include scrambled egg with the famous Walter Ewing smoked salmon, and a vegetarian breakfast is also offered. Great coffee too, and delicious homemade preserves with you toast – a breakfast to relish.


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