“How often do you see a breakfast review in the weekend restaurant columns?” Georgina Campbell, president of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, asked when launching the Irish Breakfast Awards 2017 in Dublin. This awards scheme, organised in association with Fáilte Ireland, was designed to highlight the importance of the Irish breakfast to international visitors to Ireland and domestic travellers, and aims to support the use of Irish foods and quality produce as part of the Irish breakfast on offer.
The awards celebrate the Irish breakfast — the unsung hero of Irish food and hospitality — and highlight the importance of the overall breakfast experience and authentic Irish breakfast ingredients. Awards were given to some of Ireland’s best places to eat the most important meal of the day, in a range of categories, including places to stay and new daytime dining categories, such as visitor attractions, and best places for brunch. Other categories include the best of Irish breads and some of the genuinely Irish food products that are key to the success of the authentic Irish breakfast experience.
The main focus of the awards was on the traditional Irish breakfast, and “a flavoursome rendition of the traditional plate, together with wholesome accompaniments including traditional Irish soda bread and good Irish butter,” was what the panel of independent assessors were looking for. “There is much more to a great Irish breakfast than the full Irish, of course, but the Irish breakfast plate is recognised internationally. We need to stop taking the Irish breakfast for granted and let this simple meal be cause for celebration itself,” said Campbell, who publishes an annual hospitality guide to Ireland.
Providers of excellent interpretations of the first meal of the day were honoured in categories across country houses, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, and three, four, and five-star hotels. The best four-star hotel breakfast was found to be served at Ballynahinch Castle in Co Galway, where “breakfast is a high point of the experience”, according to the judging panel, who noted the full baked ham on the buffet table, an interesting menu, excellent breads, the homemade granola and, especially, the pork products made from the hotel’s own rare breed pigs.
According to the judges, the best B&B breakfast in Ireland can also be found in Galway, at Corrib House Tea Rooms & Guest Accommodation to be exact. Victoria and David Bohan's handsome waterside Georgian house in the heart of the city was said to be "one of Galway’s most special daytime dining destinations". They noted the offering of Kilbeggan porridge with banana and cinnamon, buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, free-range scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough, and the traditional ‘full Irish’.
Breakfast may be the unsung hero of the Irish food scene, but the popularity of brunch continues to grow, and the American import was added to the awards categories for the first time this year. Taking brunch to be typified by "those flexible menus that straddle the borders of conventional daytime meals", this new award came west and was won by brother and sister team Aran and Colleen McMahon for Rua, in Castlebar, Co Mayo. They were singled out for the quality of produce used and for being “a benchmark for the way things should be done to promote local food”. At Rua, all morning choices range from classics like the Cafe Rua fry (Kelly’s sausages and black and white pudding, Andarl Farm bacon, fried eggs, grilled tomato, and mushrooms with toast or brown soda ) to a range of gourmet sandwiches and blaas — later merging into a more grown up lunch menu that includes options that also say brunch (Kelly's sausage blaa with melted Maryland cheddar, perhaps ).
Speaking at the event, John Mulcahy, head of food tourism with Fáilte Ireland, said: “Well done to all those involved today. As the national tourism development authority, Fáilte Ireland is delighted to partner with Georgina Campbell’s Irish Breakfast Awards and recognises the important role of the Irish breakfast in our tourism offering. A quality Irish breakfast is a key part of the visitor experience to Ireland and allows the opportunity to showcase the tastes of the Wild Atlantic Way.”