A former Bank of Ireland branch in Kilkenny city has cashed in at the Sky Bar of the Year awards, taking the overall best bar in Ireland title as well as being the best designed bar.
The winning pub, Left Bank, occupies a prominent corner site on The Parade in the city centre. It opened as a bar and restaurant in 2008, and last year it took the best gastro-pub title. It is one of three licensed premises in the city in the same ownership, the others being Rive Gauche and The Blue Bar.
Michael Stewart, a member of the judging panel, said the winning bar was "a one-stop shop with great customer service and a fantastic atmosphere, both day and night". He also commended the design of the bar and said: "Left Bank is a venue of nooks and crannies there to be explored; the longer you stay, the more you see."
Luke O'Meara, who works at The Liquor Rooms in Dublin, won the Bushmills cocktail bartender of the year title. There were nine finalists in contention for this award, and more than double the number of entries from previous years. The best cocktail bar award went to Cask in Cork, which has been open only five months.
Cocktail mystery box
The best cocktail bartender entrants had to submit their recipes for two cocktails using Black Bush as the base spirit. Nine finalists were then selected to take part in a live judging session at Zozimus in Dublin, where they had to mix both drinks for judging by a technical panel and a blind tasting panel. The final element of the competition was a mystery box challenge, with 15 minutes to create a cocktail which was judged by all six judges.
Tracey Carney, Sky Bar event director, said Luke O'Meara's cocktails "not only tasted great but were visually impressive, with strong presentation. He scored highly across both technical and taste challenges and his mystery box challenge showed imagination and flair".
More than 100 finalists were in consideration for awards in 25 categories – from design to staff performance – and were assessed by a panel of judges. The judges’ choice winner was Caribou in Galway, and the Southern Comfort people’s choice winner was An Púcán, Galway.
The people's choice awards were one of four new categories added in this the 12th year of the competition and the regional winners were Molloy's Bar & Grill (Dublin); Langton's House Hotel, Kilkenny (Leinster); JJ Coppingers, Midleton (Munster); An Púcán, Galway (Connacht/Ulster).
Other new additions were the best whiskey bar (won by Revolution Craft Bar, Waterford); restaurant bar (Candelight Bar at Siam Thai, Dublin), and live entertainment venue (The Quays, Galway).
More than 400 industry figures attended the black tie prizegiving ceremony and dinner, hosted by Newstalk's Tom Dunne, in Dublin on Monday evening.
The full list of winners is:
Weavers Bar & Venue, Drogheda, Co Louth.
Best bar to watch the match
Wookshed Bar & Grill, Cork
Best designed inside space
Left Bank Kilkenny
P. Mac’s, Dublin
Craft beer bar
P. Mac’s, Dublin
Gastro bar food
The Chophouse, Dublin
Panorama Bistro & Terrace, Montenotte Hotel, Cork
Five-star hotel bar
The Sidecar, The Westbury Hotel, Dublin
Highline at Sophie’s, Dublin
Live entertainment venue
The Quays, Galway
The Penny Hill, Dublin
Warehouse Bar & Kitchen, Letterkenny
Filthy McNasty’s, Belfast
The Oarsman, Carrick-on-Shannon
Candlelight Bar, Siam, Dublin
Fitzpatrick’s Bar & Restaurant, Dundalk
Revolution Craft Bar, Waterford
Tony Newell, Clayton Hotel, Galway
Elizabeth Brown, The Draft House Pub, Strandhill
Bushmills cocktail bartender
Luke O’Meara, The Liquor Rooms, Dublin