The west of the country has been on something of a winning streak of late when it comes to food and hospitality. Kai Café and Restaurant was the big winner at the start of the year scooping the top prize, Restaurant of the Year for 2015, in Georgina Campbell’s Awards, the country’s longest-running hospitality awards. Run by New Zealander Jess Murphy and her Irish husband David, Kai had been converted from a tearoom to a rustic restaurant, and was praised for having seriously good food with a sense of fun. Best Asian Restaurant went to The Asian Tea House, with Mitchell’s in Clifden and Frankie Mallon of An Port Mór, Westport, awarded best seafood restaurant and best seafood chef respectively.
Just last week at the annual Irish Food Writers’ Guild Awards, a firm favourite on the Irish culinary calendar and now in its 21st year, the winning streak continued. Food provenance and authenticity were top of the agenda, as seven food producers were awarded and honoured for the high standard and impeccable quality of their products, as well as for their unwavering dedication, devotion, and commitment to Irish food.
“The origin of food and drink products is becoming an increasingly important and influential factor for consumers; more and more we are seeing ‘local’ and ‘homemade’ as key factors in their decision-making process,” said Lizzie Gore-Grimes, chairperson of the IFWG. “What’s more, as the consumers’ knowledge and interest in food provenance grows, so too does the need for complete transparency on the part of the producer. The stronger the story behind the brand and the more that is known about its origin, the greater the connection between the consumer and the product.”
The IFWG Food Awards are considered the most prestigious of their type in Ireland and are unique in that the members of the guild are the sole nominating and decision-making body. The guild presented seven awards at an event which was attended by some of the biggest names in Irish food and, ahem… me. Numbering among the winners was Birgitta Curtin of Burren Smokehouse, honoured for her notable contribution to Irish food, and our own Foods of Athenry claiming the guild’s Environmental Award, presented to Siobhan and Paul Lawless for the philosophy underpinning their bakery business, and the integrity of the production methods in their ‘Free From’ product range.
The latest of the good news stories for the west is its increasing presents in the McKennas’ Guides. This week sees the release of three new food and travel apps in Ireland, The 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2015, The 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland 2015, and Where To Eat & Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way. There are 29 new entries in the 100 Best Restaurants for 2015.
John and Sally McKenna’s annual 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland is the most radical guide to the cutting-edge of Irish cooking. So where is hot in Ireland this year? With the 2015 smartguide edition, the McKenna’s rewrite the book, crowning Galway as the finest city to eat in Ireland and, for the first time, including food carts and a food shack amongst the 100 hottest places to eat throughout the country.
“Galway’s ascent exists in comparison to its history: go back a decade and it was a poor city to eat in, maybe two to three entries. Today, it’s the fact that the standards are so high: for many people Kai is their favourite restaurant, others will go for Aniar. Cava Bodega is one of the best rooms. We think Loam is sensational. McCambridge’s shows what a shop and restaurant can achieve. Ard Bia is unique, and then in the county places like Inis Meain and Upstairs@West at the Twelve Hotel are knockout,” said John McKenna, adding: “What also underpins food in Galway is good middle-level eating – Chi, Wa Café, Kappa-ya, Brasserie on the Corner, Sheridan’s wine bar, etc, etc, which feature in the new Where To Eat and Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way app, and which give the city strength in depth.”
County Galway entries in the new 100 Best app include Aniar, Cava Bodega, and Kai Cafe + Restaurant. These are joined by three new entries — Loam, Upstairs at McCambridge’s, and West at The Twelve in Barna. Meanwhile, in the 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland there are 12 new places overall, including B&Bs, guesthouses, grand hotels, and country houses. County Galway accounts for two of these, The Huntsman Inn and The Stop B&B, joining a now total of 15 favourite rest stops like The Heron’s Rest, The House Hotel, and The Angler’s Return in Roundstone.
The apps are highly optimised, so they run faster and take up less space on your devices, while still giving you the same quality information and convenient links to social media and web for the establishments listed. The apps are available from both iTunes and Google Play. Each app costs €2.99.