Winners of top awards say no drop in people eating out


IRELAND'S TOP chef and top restaurant owner yesterday agreed that neither of them was experiencing any impact from the downturn in the Irish economy.

Dylan McGrath of Mint restaurant and Nevin Maguire of MacNean House and Bistro in Blacklion, Co Cavan, who won the top awards in the industry, said people were still eating out at the same levels as previously.

Mr McGrath, who set up the Mint restaurant in Ranelagh, Dublin, two years ago, said that while New York and London had huge populations, Dublin did not.

"During the summer all restaurants experience a drop in their turnover, but I have not seen it yet even though its been predicted," he said.

Nevin Maguire, whose restaurant picked up top prize in the Food and Wine/Edward Dillon Restaurant of the Year Award, said his restaurant was booked out on every Friday and Saturday to the end of the year.

"Next February and March are also booked because people book so far in advance now for the special occasion. I never dreamt it would be like that," he said. "Repeat business is a huge thing and I honestly think there is enough of that to bring us through."

"People still want to go out for a good and a nice experience, and they book so far ahead they do not want to be let down," he said.

Mr Maguire said he was also aware his charges were not particularly high and that was because he wanted to keep his operation small and intimate.

He said he was particularly happy for not only his staff but his suppliers, because he used only local suppliers and even mentions their names on the menu.

McGrath, winner of the Chef of the Year award, said he was delighted at the award which follows an award of a Michelin star earlier this year.

"When I was 26, I was running the seventh-best restaurant in the world, Tom Aikens in Chelsea, and this is the first restaurant I have run here in Ireland," he said.

Business was difficult in Ireland because of staff and food resources and because of the size of the city compared to New York or London, with 17.5 million people.

On the other hand running a small high street restaurant in Ranelagh meant he had lower rents than operators elsewhere.

Richard Corrigan and the Sheridan brothers were named as Food and Wine Hall of Fame award winners for the year.

These were presented for their outstanding contribution to Ireland's gastronomic development.

A special citation said that Ireland's food revolution would not have been possible without the pioneering contribution of Richard Corrigan, chef and proprietor of Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill.

Newcomer Jo Burger took the X Factor Award; Tobergal Lane won the Good Cooking Award; Pearl Brassiere won the Best Service Award; while Harvey Nics First Floor restaurant scooped the Style award.

Over 500 top chefs and restaurateurs from all over Ireland attended the awards lunch in the Mansion House, Dublin.