The Restaurants Association of Ireland held its Connacht awards ceremony in The Ardilaun on March 23. The awards were open to all establishments and not just associated members, thus the result is very important for all the finalists and winners. The winners were decided by a combined result of a panel of judges and direct voting by customers. The winners below will go forward for the national awards in June.
Best chef: Regis Herviaux, The g Hotel, Dublin Road, Galway.
Best hotel restaurant: The Twelve hotel, Barna.
Best restaurant: O’Grady’s, The Pier, Barna.
Best customer service: The Twelve hotel, Barna.
Best gastro pub: The Huntsman Inn, College Road, Galway.
Best casual dining: Ard Bia Restaurant, Spanish Arch, Galway.
If you would like to see the award winners for the other counties, eg, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, and Leitrim, visit the website www.irishrestaurantawards.com
The awards ceremony was attended by 250 restaurateurs and their staff and it was this large number of people who made me realise just how important this section is to employment in the area. For this reason, can I encourage you to think about eating out, particularly mid week, as most restaurants are full at the weekends and they need that earlier part of the week business urgently at the moment. Mid week is where you will get the good deals and most probably the best of the service as it will not be as hectic as a weekend night. If you do choose to eat out at the weekend, can I ask you to consider the following?
• Always reserve a table, and if you really have to cancel, do so as early in the day as possible.
• Be flexible. It seems the whole country wants to eat out on a Saturday night and only between 7pm and 8pm; this is not possible for everyone. My personal favourite is 6.30pm and it always work out well.
While talking to some members at the Restaurants Association dinner, I heard of a ‘Dine Around Galway’ event that is being planned for early May. Some great meals are planned at some great venues and a single price of €30 will cover a starter, main course, dessert, and coffee in each restaurant. I will keep you updated when I hear more.
On a different topic completely, many of you fish eaters will remember Flemings Fish Shop in Dominick Street. The shop closed over 10 years ago, but still carries on in Rossaveal with a premium frozen fish delivery business. Over the years I have seen their 0.5kg bags of frozen Irish prawns in some of our fish shops and they are always excellent. What I did not know is that they have about 500 regular customers who buy their supply of fish from them by the month, three months, or even six months’ order. Customers from as far as Dublin regularly order from a very comprehensive list. Details of what is available can be seen on www.flemingseafood.com I have tried some home delivery frozen fish before and was very disappointed. I asked Gay Fleming why he should be different. He said that he buys most of his fish just beside the processing plant and because he is buying to freeze, he is not under pressure to buy any fish at any particular auction. This gives him the freedom to only buy the best quality of each species.
He trims, skins, removes the membrane in the case of monkfish, and removes all pin bones by hand. The fish is then vacuum packed before being frozen, so from boat to frozen takes less than 24 hours. I tried some of the fish and shellfish and have to say it is clearly of a higher quality than anything I have tried before. There is absolutely no frozen water on the fish to increase weight or impair the taste. The fish itself was immaculately prepared and ready to be cooked once thawed. Would it convince me to buy it? In a word, yes. It certainly makes the job of buying your fish easy, particularly if you do not live close to a fishmonger. Contact details are (091 ) 572088, email [email protected]
Finally I came across an unusual Riesling in O’Brien’s off licence. It is German and from Graf v Schonborn, and while quite dry has a most unusual and almost smoky taste. It is easy to spot as it is in a Franken shaped bottle, cost €11.95.
Thank you all for your emails in response to the article, The Irish Oyster Cuisine book by Máirín Uí Chomáin, in particular the reader in Louisiana who is an avid oyster lover and wanted to know where he could buy her book. As always I look forward to your comments, [email protected]