Best breakfasts in Ireland 2017
Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards recognise the Irish breakfast, a ‘gem beyond price’
The breakfast buffet at Ballynahinch Castle in Co Galway – winner of the 4-star hotel category – where ‘breakfast is a high point of the experience’, according to the judging panel
“How often do you see a breakfast review in the weekend restaurant columns?” Georgina Campbell, president of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, asked the question when launching the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2017, in association with Fáilte Ireland, in Dublin on Wednesday.
Breakfast may be the unsung hero of the Irish food scene, but the popularity of brunch continues to grow, and the American import was added to the awards categories for the first time this year.
This new award was won by Aran and Colleen McMahon’s Rua, in Castlebar, Co Mayo, which was singled out for the quality of produce used and for being “a benchmark for the way things should be done to promote local food”.
But the main focus of the awards was on the traditional Irish breakfast, and “ a flavoursome rendition of the traditional plate, together with wholesome accompaniments including traditional Irish soda bread and good Irish butter”, was what the panel of independent assessors were looking for.
“There is much more to a great Irish breakfast than the full Irish, of course, but the Irish breakfast plate is recognised internationally. We need to stop taking the Irish breakfast for granted and let this simple meal be cause for celebration itself,” said Campbell, who publishes an annual hospitality guide to Ireland.
In a speech made by Erik Wolf, founder of the World Food Travel Association at a Fáilte Ireland tourism event last autumn, he said that Ireland was “ignoring the obvious” and that the Irish breakfast was a “gem beyond price”.
Providers of excellent interpretations of the first, and some say most important meal of the day, were honoured in categories across country houses, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, and three-, four- and five-star hotels.
At the highest end of the scale, The Merrion hotel in Dublin triumphed for its “range, consistency and seamless service”, with its baked goods, charcuterie board “showcasing both Irish and international meats and artisan cheeses”, and house-blend coffee, singled out for mention.
The best four-star hotel breakfast was served at Ballynahinch Castle in Co Galway, where “breakfast is a high point of the experience”, according to the judging panel, who noted the full baked ham on the buffet table , and other breakfast foods made from the hotel’s own rare breed pork.
Gougane Barra hotel in Co Cork took the three-star honours, with mention being made of “the breakfast meats from Twomey’s craft butchers” and the proprietor’s “rich walnut and treacle bread”.
Ballymaloe Country House in Co Cork triumphed in its category and earned praise for its “fresh, local and seasonal” ethos, as well as Bircher muesli made with their own apples, and cooked breakfast made with “Ballymaloe farm eggs, bacon and sausages”.
The guest house honours went north, to Newforge House in Co Armagh, where the Ulster fry was the attraction, supported by local apple juice and “Newforge freshly-laid eggs, collected each morning from the rare breed chickens that peck around the orchard”.
The best B&B breakfast in Ireland can be found at Corrib House Tea Rooms & Guest Accommodation in Galway, according to the judges, who noted the offering of Kilbeggan porridge with banana and cinnamon, and buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, in addition to the full Irish.
Bakers were also honoured, with awards given to the King Sitric in Howth, for its brown bread, to Barrons Bakery in Cappoquin for its crusty bread and Waterford blaas, and to Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Bread in Cork “for an inspiring combination of tradition and innovation”.
Good breakfasts offered at visitor attractions were also recognised, with Overends Restaurant at Airfield in Dundrum winning this category. Burren Glamping in Co Clare was singled out for serving home-reared bacon in the breakfast offering in its converted vintage horse truck accommodation.
Five-star hotel: The Merrion, Dublin
Highly commended: Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast and The Europe Hotel & Resort, Killarney
Four-star hotel: Ballynahinch Castle, Recess, Co Galway
Highly commended: The Mustard Seed, Ballingarry and Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena
Three-star hotel: Gougane Barra Hotel, Macroom, Co Cork
Highly commended: Killeen House Hotel, Killarney and Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel
Country House: Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co Cork
Highly commended: Roundwood House, Mountrath and Rathmullan House, Co Donegal
Guest House: Newforge House, Magheralin, Co Down
Highly commended: MacNean House, Blacklion and Inch House, Thurles
B&B: Corrib House, Galway
Highly commended: Ballinwillin House, Mitchelstown and The Mill Restaurant & Accommodation, Dunfanaghy
Welcome Standard: Burren Glamping, Kilfenora, Co Clare
Highly commended: Bervie, Achill Island and The Tannery, Dungarvan
Visitor Attraction: Overends at Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin
Highly commended: Native by Yellow Door at the MAC, Belfast and Courtyard Café, Birr Castle, Co Offaly
Brunch: Rua, Castlebar, Co Mayo
Highly commended: Knox, Sligo and Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, Dublin
Irish breakfast foods
Meats: O’Neill’s dry cure bacon
Fish: Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon
Cereals: Flahavan’s Oats
Dairy: Clandeboye Estate yoghurt