Good restaurants not just surviving but 'thriving'
RESTAURANTS OFFERING good quality and value are thriving despite the recession but most of the mainstream pubs are doomed unless they change their approach, food writer John McKenna said yesterday as he launched the latest edition of the Bridgestone Guides.
He said Irish people wanted to spend their money on Irish things in Ireland. “The restaurants here are not just surviving; they are thriving. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who have told me, when I was doing the research for the books, that they actually had their best ever year in business.”
People were spending less money on wine in restaurants and more on food, he said, and were avoiding pubs unless they had something special to offer. “The pubs are doomed. The pubs are dinosaurs. They don’t seem to recognise that their biggest problem is that all the pubs are individual yet they all sell exactly the same drinks.” Places like L Mulligan’s in Dublin’s Stoneybatter were bucking the trend by selling craft beers and providing good food.
“I think if they reinvent themselves as gastro-pubs with nice wines and Irish beers, with music and with the character of the bars, then there’s a future.”
This is the 21st year that McKenna and his wife, Sally, have co-authored the Bridgestone 100 Best Restaurantsin Ireland and Bridgestone 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland.
Some 17 restaurants have been dropped to make way for 17 new entries.
Those dropped include Dublin’s 101 Talbot Street which McKenna described as “a great restaurant but the bar has been raised by the competition”.
Ireland’s only restaurant with two Michelin stars – Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud – continues to be excluded. McKenna said he admired Patrick Guilbaud for the business he had developed but the restaurant did not have a place in the guide because it was overpriced and not about contemporary Irish food.
McKenna described chef Dylan McGrath as a “genius” but said his Rustic Stone restaurant had not made it into the guide because he was still finding his way with the venture.
For the first time this year, the guides are also available on apps costing €6.99. The Bridgestone Places to Stayapp will be available from Friday. The guide books cost €12 each.
AA Awards: Cliff House takes three rosettes
THE HOUSE Restaurant, at The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford, was the only new recipient of three AA Rosettes in the AA Ireland hospitality awards announced yesterday.
The judges said The House, led by chef Martijn Kajuiter, was “a celebrated gourmet destination” where “ingredients were sourced with evangelical pride”.
According to the judging process, three rosettes are awarded to restaurants that produce cuisine at a standard that demands recognition throughout the industry.
The Cellar Restaurant at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, was the only new recipient of two AA Rosettes, which rewards additional technical skill in the cookery of food and attention to the selection of ingredients.
Some 15 restaurants were new recipients of one AA Rosette. This award recognises good quality ingredients, cooked with care and understanding.
The awarding of 17 new Rosettes was a 50 per cent increase on the 2010 season. Some 109 properties now hold AA Rosettes.
Conor Faughnan, director of policy at AA Ireland, said inspectors were looking for kitchens that surpassed expectation and stood out from others within their field .
During the judging process, AA hotel inspectors noted that early bird menus had become “old hat” in many places with a large number of restaurateurs developing value options right throughout weekday evenings and up to 7pm on weekends.
NEW WINNERS OF ONE AA ROSETTE
Lime Tree Restaurant, Springfort Hall Hotel, Mallow, Co Cork; Rolf’s Country House and Restaurant, Baltimore, Co Cork; Gorman’s Clifftop House and Restaurant, Ballydavid, Dingle, Co Kerry; Inch House Country House and Restaurant, Thurles, Co Tipperary; McLaughlin’s Restaurant, Carlton Castletroy Hotel, Limerick; O’Connell Restaurant, Ballyseede Castle, Tralee, Co Kerry; Islands Restaurant, Hotel Westport, Westport, Co Mayo; West Restaurant, the Twelve, Barna, Co Galway; Classiebawn Restaurant, Radisson Blu Hotel, Sligo; Rock Pool, Carlton Hotel, Kinsale, Co Cork; Touzai Restaurant, Crowne Plaza Northwood, Santry, Dublin; Brabazon Restaurant, Tankardstown House, Slane, Co Meath; Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth; Wilde, Westbury Hotel, Dublin; The Dining Room, Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan.