The scrambled, poached, fried and smashed avo-steeped gongs honoring the best breakfasts, brunches, bacons and breads to be had in Ireland have been handed out at a glitzy and entirely breakfast-fare free lunch in a Dublin hotel this afternoon.
The third annual Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards, held in association with Fáilte Ireland, have honoured what the organisers declared to be the best five, four and three-star hotels, the best B&Bs, cafes, country houses, as well as the finest rashers, breads and brunches.
The Park Hotel in Kenmare won the top award in the five-star hotel category while the best brunch was awarded to The Fumbally cafe, Dublin with Hook Lighthouse cafe in Wexford winning the best Irish breakfast at a visitor attraction.
Bringing home the bacon in the finest rasher in ireland category was Roscommon's Castlemine Farm.
Now in their third year, the Irish Breakfast Awards celebrate Ireland’s leading hospitality establishments and those in them who work to make the first meal of the day a particularly special experience for visitors and regulars alike.
According to food writer Georgina Campbell, the significance of the humble breakfast cannot be underestimated and it is key to Ireland’s reputation in food and tourism as a world-class hotel or a fine dining restaurant.
She dismissed a recent Australian survey which, she said “tried to debunk the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and suggested that “our bodies - and our visitors - know better”.
She said it was a “critical component for [the hospitality sector] and success or failure in achieving the highest possible standards can truly make or break a business.”
“A great Irish breakfast starts with the raw materials and as part of these awards, we identify exceptional Irish breakfast food producers who help chefs turn a good breakfast into an outstanding one,” she said.
“Using high quality, Irish produce is the foundation on which chefs and business owners need to build to create great and memorable breakfast experiences. However, sourcing local, seasonal and quality produce is often overlooked when it comes to the first meal of the day, and that has to change if we want to support our indigenous food industry and fly the flag for Irish producers, and the Irish breakfast, both at home and abroad.
Campbell suggested that with the produce available to the Irish hospitality sector, Ireland had “a unique opportunity to elevate the Irish breakfast scene into something quite special that we can be proud of.”
The awards run in association with Fáilte Ireland took place at the InterContinental Dublin, with special guest and previous Irish Breakfast award-winner, Neven Maguire of MacNean House and Restaurant.
“Get the basics right; is so important,” he said. “The option of preparing a great breakfast using 100 per cent Irish produce is available to us all, and we don’t have to look too far to find these terrific products,” he continued.
“At MacNean House and Restaurant we put as much emphasis on giving our guests as memorable a food experience for breakfast as the dinner the night before. It is the last meal our guests have before they leave, so we want to make it special.”
Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland echoed Nevin’s comments and said it was essential “to highlight the important role that breakfast plays in providing visitors with a taste of Ireland. In recent years, the reputation of our breakfast offering has advanced in terms of quality and perception. Great strides have been made and the importance of a quality food experience cannot be underestimated especially for overseas visitors.
“We can raise our offering to the next level and ensure that our reputation as a producer of great quality food is maintained and indeed enhanced over the coming year”
The push to rethink early menus in cafés and restaurants across Ireland has been helped by the rise in popularity of brunch and this year Campbell invited members of the public to nominate their favourite establishment for a Best Brunch Award.
Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the NDC said Ireland was proud of “our excellent dairy produce with its unique taste and the versatility which lends itself so well to breakfast and brunch dishes. Ireland has become a real destination in recent years for quality brunch venues creating innovative dishes as part of this popular meal occasion. We are excited to celebrate the cream of Ireland’s brunch venues shortlisted for these awards and hopefully, it will help raise the bar for brunch venues around the country.’
Findings from the second in a series of annual Irish Breakfast Surveys, conducted by Campbell were also announced at the event.
As part of an effort to increase the overall quality of breakfasts nationally, a survey was conducted with accommodation providers last year, to determine a quality baseline.
Campbell said the “news is good, as this year’s follow-on survey indicates an increased awareness for the importance of the breakfast experience and a greater commitment to quality across a wide range of areas.”
She said that telling the local story through name-checking producers and suppliers and staff engagement “is increasingly a part of the Irish breakfast experience. And these things are working. More than half of respondents say it’s ‘a key reason for choosing us. And, like last year, the majority of responses were from the big tourism brands (Wild Atlantic Way; Ireland’s Ancient East and the new Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands), suggesting that the Fáilte Ireland food tourism strategy is growing industry awareness of the value and benefits of offering a quality, locally-focused breakfast.”
Campbell said the range of breakfast options offered was widening, “but the traditional Irish Breakfast is certainly not in decline (respondents say it imparts ‘the holiday feeling’) and there is growing interest in sustainability, with many opting for the short food miles that come with Irish, locally produced and home grown breakfast ingredients.”
She hails “positive signs of improvement this year” but suggested that decision makers across the board still needed to be convinced that ‘buying local’ was “a win-win situation that will support the local economy, please visitors and be good for business.”
The 2019 Irish breakfast food award winners
Meats: Castlemine Farm, Co Roscommon
Fish: Woodcock Smokery, Co Cork
Eggs: Clonarn Clover, Co Meath
Dairy: Glenisk Organic Dairy, Co Offaly
Cereal: Paddy O's Granola, Co Laois
Fruit: Keeling's Juices, Co Dublin
Irish Bread: Longueville House, Mallow, Co Coek
Full list of winners and highly commended winners
Winner: Park Hotel Kenmare, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford
Merchant Hotel, Belfast
Westbury Hotel, Dublin
Heritage Killenard, Killenard, Co Laois
Winner: Marlfield House Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford
Dunraven Arms, Adare, Co Limerick
Granville Hotel, Waterford
Bushmills Inn, Bushmills, Co Antrim
Sheedy’s Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
Winner: Dingle Benners Hotel, Dingle, Co Kerry
The Huntsman Inn, Galway, Co Galway
Aran Islands Hotel, Inis Mór, Co Galway
Carrygerry Country House, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare
Zuni Restaurant & Boutique Hotel, Kilkenny
Winner: Virginia Park Lodge, Virginia, Cavan
Rathsallagh House, Dunlavin, Co Wicklow
Rosleague Manor, Letterfrack, Co Galway
Dunnanelly Country House, Co Down
Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
Winner: Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Athlone, Co Westmeath
Castlewood House, Dingle, Co Kerry
Killarney Lodge, Killarney, Co Kerry
Gleesons Townhouse, Roscommon, Co Roscommon
Blackwell House, Scarva, Co Armagh
Winner: Bantry House and Garden, Bantry, Co Cork
Shelburne Lodge, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Aldridge Lodge, Duncannon, Co Wexford
Ardawn House, Galway, Co Galway
Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth
Winner: Hook Lighthouse - Visitor Centre Café, Hook Head, Co Wexford
The Castle Café, Blackrock Castle, Cork
Lennons@VISUAL, Carlow, Co Carlow
The Kitchen, Galway City Museum, Galway
Avoca Café, Malahide Castle, Malahide, Co Dublin
Irish breakfast menu - new for 2019
Winner: Breac.House, Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal
Ravenhill Guest House, Belfast
King Sitric Restaurant& Accommodation, Howth, Co Dublin
Coolanowle Country House & Organic Farm, Co Carlow
Viewmount House, Longford, Co Longford
Brunch sponsored by Irish Dairy the complete natural
Winner: The Fumbally, Fumbally Lane, Dublin City, Co Dublin
Nook Café & Restaurant, Collooney, Co Sligo
The Green Barn, Burtown House, Co Kildare
House of Plates, Castlebar, Co Mayo
Brunel’s Restaurant Newcastle Co Down
The selection process
Georgina Campbell’s Ireland’s programme of anonymous assessment visits is a year-round process and, with the exception of this year’s Brunch Award, which was open to public nominations, award winners are nominated solely by an independent assessment team. Reports are fed through to the hospitality website Ireland-guide.com.