It is shaping up to be a great year for Irish hospitality, and with accommodation bookings well up everywhere and eating out for breakfast and brunch now hugely popular — especially in cities — the quality of the Irish breakfast is playing a new part in showcasing the stellar standards of our food and hospitality industries.
Acknowledging the role of this modest meal in creating some of Ireland’s most memorable food and hospitality experiences, some of the nation’s leading businesses and personalities have again received due recognition for their unstinting efforts at the annual Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in association with Fáilte Ireland, which took place at the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin, last week. The awards are also supported by RTE Lyric FM.
The coveted Irish Breakfast Awards were presented in each of the Fáilte Ireland accommodation categories and others, including Visitor Attraction and Brunch — and, very importantly — in Breakfast Foods categories, ranging from Breakfast Meats and Dairy, to Cereals, to Preserves, where the west cleaned up taking home four out of the five awards.
The Foods of Athenry and Connemara Smokehouse were winners from Galway, while Cuinneog Butter and Sean Kelly Artisan Butchers won praise for County Mayo. Georgina Campbell also paid tribute to the Galway-West of Ireland European Region of Gastronomy 2018 designation, saying: “This recognition is very well deserved and, as shown by our awards today, standards of food and hospitality are exceptionally high in this stunningly beautiful region.”
Other winners from the west included Ashford Castle as the best five star hotel breakfast experience, Nox Hotel came highly commended in the three star hotel division, and relative newcomer Gather Restaurant brought glory to Tuam in the fiercely contested Brunch category.
Darina Allen, who offers breakfast and brunch courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School, was the keynote speaker. She shared some of her invaluable insights into The Irish Breakfast, and how to make it a special experience, while Tara Kerry, hospitality manager at Fáilte Ireland, explained the organisation’s vision for the Irish breakfast experience to become a highlight of a visit anywhere in Ireland.
“While there is plenty of work to be done to ensure a consistently high standard of breakfast across the board in Ireland, this indicates an infectious enthusiasm for engagement which will no doubt inspire others to up their game — and perhaps be among the award winners next year,” Georgina Campell commented.
Paul Keeley, director of commercial development at Fáilte Ireland, said: “They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s certainly becoming a very important part of the visitor experience.
“As part of Fáilte Ireland’s recently launched Food & Drink Strategy 2018-2023, we have highlighted the importance that food experiences play in determining overall visitor satisfaction. Quality experiences are now a major contributor to increasing holiday satisfaction, creating positive memories and driving positive word of mouth.”
So what is different about these awards? A lot, according to Georgina Campbell: “Aside from shining a spotlight on the meal that can only be described as the Cinderella of the Irish culinary scene, these are the only awards [with the exception of the Euro-Toques Food Awards, which are nominated by member chefs] where the main aim is to link the best Irish food producers with those who prepare and serve food to the public.
“How often have you had a wonderful dinner in a hotel, only to be disappointed by breakfast? Our winners can inspire others to up their game and ultimately, we hope, lead to everyone being able to enjoy an authentic breakfast experience that reflects the locality.”
Ms Campbell added: “Georgina Campbell Ireland’s rigorous programme of anonymous assessment visits continues all year, and the resulting reports are then fed through to the respected independent website, Ireland-guide.com Award winners are nominated solely by the assessment team — and the wealth of information gathered is also the foundation of our printed guides, of which the latest is the recently published Georgina Campbell’s Ireland, The Best of the Best.”