Following on from the Michelin awards on Monday, the great and good of Ireland's food and drink world gathered in Dublin on Tuesday morning for Georgina Campbell's annual hospitality awards. Longford's adopted son, Gary O'Hanlon, and the owners of his Viewmount House kitchen, James and Beryl Kearney were hailed as this year's hospitality heroes.
From five-star hotels to street food vendors, the Irish hospitality sector was in Bord Bia's new Thinking House for the annual shindig, organised by hospitality sector guide book author Campbell.
“Through our programme of anonymous assessment we’re always keeping a sharp eye out for those exceptional establishments which are right on top of their game and going the extra mile for customers,” she said.
“What we seek is not perfection but real food and hospitality with real heart, and we’re continuing to find it in clusters of excellence all over the country.
She said that over the course of the judging season her team had come across “far too many disappointments in all areas and all kinds of establishment”, adding that while the “Irish food experience is certainly improving” - thanks to dedication at grass roots level and “the ever-increasing availability of diverse small production foods” it was still “hard to avoid the conclusion that there are too many underperforming four and five star properties.”
When it comes to competitiveness, Campbell expressed the view that Ireland’s top restaurants “offer exceptional value in comparison with equivalent experiences in other countries” but added that “rising hotel prices are of concern, especially in cities and particularly when prices are hiked for events.”
The Kearneys and O’Hanlon won the ‘Hospitality Hero’ Award, in recognition of their special contribution to Irish food and hospitality.
“Almost single-handedly, it seems, the Kearneys and Gary O’Hanlon have transformed the popular perception of Longford – and indeed of Ireland’s midlands. A remarkable feat, and one that has a hugely beneficial ripple effect throughout the region,” Campbell said.
The hotel of the year award was won by Fergus O'Halloran's Twelve Hotel in Barna, Co Galway. The "unique" hotel "has earned fame for its fresh youthful style, and an exceptionally focused food and wine offering," the judges said, adding that the "highly unusual" hotel "sings of quality and innovation at every level".
Dax Restaurant on Dublin's Pembroke St and was hailed for its ability "to feel delightfully exclusive, like a well-kept secret amongst foodie friends". In 2017 the dream team of chef Graham Neville and restaurateur Olivier Meisonnave reunited 12 years after first working together in Thornton's and they have given Dax "a whole new energy", judges said.
Executive head chef at Dromoland Castle in Co Clare David McCann was the chef of the year for "carrying the torch for fine dining at the highest level for several decades, and, since 1995, at one of Ireland's best-loved castle hotels." The judges concluded by saying he was a "benchmarking chef, if ever there was one".
A second Bord Bia Just Ask restaurant of the year award went to The Bay Tree Bistro, in Waterford. Just Ask is a public awareness campaign that aims to encourage consumers when eating out to look for information on where the food on their plate comes from, and encourages chefs to provide this information on their menus.
The winning Bay Tree was described as “a prime example of the way in which classical techniques can work successfully with contemporary style and its popularity is not surprising”,
The pub of the year was Bar One in Castlebar, Co Mayo a "smart gastropub is the busiest bar food venue in the area". Described as "modern and well designed the welcome is warm and friendly – an early sign of the high standards that epitomise this fine pub, where hospitality is king."
GEORGINA CAMPBELL AWARDS 2018
'Hospitality Hero' Award for services to Irish food and hospitality - James & Beryl Kearney and Gary O'Hanlon, Viewmount House, Longford, Co Longford
Hotel of the Year - The Twelve Hotel, Barna, Co Galway
Restaurant of the Year - Dax Restaurant, Dublin 2
Chef of the Year - David McCann, Executive Head Chef, Dromoland Castle, Co Clare
"Just Ask" Restaurant of the Year - The Bay Tree Bistro, Waterford, Co Waterford
A Taste of the Waterways Award - St George's Terrace Restaurant, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
Seafood Restaurant Of The Year - Hooked, Galway, Co Galway
Outstanding Guest Experience - Quinlan & Cooke Boutique Townhouse and Seafood Restaurant, Caherciveen, Co Kerry
Host Of The Year - Tony Frisby, Earl of Thomond Restaurant, Dromoland Castle, Co Clare
Business Destination Of The Year - Tankardstown House, Slane, Co Meath
Wine Award Of The Year - Green Man Wines, Dublin 6
Pub Of The Year Bar - One, Castlebar, Co Mayo
Newcomer Of The Year - - Bullitt Hotel, Belfast
Family Friendly Destination - Amber Springs Hotel & Health Spa, Gorey, Co Wexford
Pet Friendly Destination Of The Year - Pupp, Dublin 8
Hideaway Of The Year - Castle Murray House Boutique Accommodation, Dunkineely, Co Donegal
Atmospheric Restaurant Of The Year - The Boathouse Bistro, Dromquinna Manor, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Ethnic Restaurant Of The Year Nightmarket, Dublin 6
Casual Dining Restaurant Of The Year - Noble, Holywood, Co Down
Café Of The Year - Cakeface Patisserie, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Street Food Award - Food Depot - Gourmet Street Kitchen, Clonakilty & Courtmacsherry Co Cork
Natural Food Award - Vasco, Fanore, Co Clare
Country House Of The Year - Virginia Park Lodge, Virginia, Co Cavan
Guesthouse Of The Year - The Old Bank House, Kinsale, Co Cork
B&B Of The Year - Muldowney's B&B, Arranmore Island, Co Donegal
Farmhouse Of The Year - Hillcrest Farm, Ahakista, Co Cork