Life Food & Drink

Friday 29 August 2014

Serving up the best and the worst

Lucinda O'Sullivan looks back over her year as a reviewer and dishes out the gastro gongs for 2013

Lucinda O'Suulivan

Published 29/12/2013 | 02:30

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Trish Conroy owner of the Conyngham Arms in Slane, Co Meath. Photo: David Conachy

THIS year it has been wonderful to see a huge number of new restaurant openings -- both big and small. Also worth noting, as I looked back over this year, the standard and pride in food overall in restaurants and hotels has improved more this year than any other year of my long reviewing experience.

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RECIPE FOR DISASTER AWARD

Mix together 1 beautiful female chef, 1 billionaire husband, and 2 Italian nannies. Add a whiff of coke, and leave to set. Result: one unfortunate Nigella Lawson.

PR DISASTER OF THE YEAR AWARD

PR Supremo Charles Saatchi. 'Team Nigella' won outright.

MASTERCHUMP OF THE YEAR AWARD

BBC MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace left a distinctly bad taste in the mouths of fellow diners when he treated one guest, whom he alleged had made advances to his girlfriend, to a knuckle sandwich at a culinary dinner in the luxury Wood Norton Hotel in the Cotswolds, UK.

OLD FRIENDS ARE BEST AWARD

Marog O'Brien's fabulous Farmgate Restaurant & Country Store in Midleton, east Cork, which celebrated 30 years in business in November.

RED HOT AWARD

Rasam Restaurant in Glasthule, Co Dublin. Chris de Burgh tweeted to me that he and his family "just love Rasam. Go there for birthdays, celebrations ... and just to have a great meal". Music to my ears.

BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD

Ross Lewis's Chapter One. so good you could eat it.

THE PHOENIX AWARD

Le Bon Crubeen in Talbot Street, Dublin, which managed to rise from the ashes of its recent catastrophic fire in jig time just before Christmas.

FINED DINING AWARD

John Farrell has been opening restaurants apace -- including 777, Butcher's Grill and the upcoming Super Miss Sue -- but his recently renovated Dillinger's in Ranelagh was successfully prosecuted in Dublin District Court for breach of food hygiene regulations. Not so hot. Not so fine.

YOUNG BLOOD AWARD

Peppers Brasserie & Grill in the Bram Stoker Hotel in Clontarf where hot young blood Peter Clifford is cooking up a storm.

THE OLDER THE FIDDLE AWARD

Davy Byrne's in Dublin's Duke Street was a great gastropub before the word was invented. It has seen more genuine celebrities cross its doorstep than Hello! magazine could ever dream of. Still in tune with the people's tastes.

THE BIG BLOW-IN AWARD

Oligarch Yelena Baturina, Russia's richest woman, who bought The Morrison Hotel & Grill on the banks of the River Liffey, where I was nearly blown out by the draught and the high prices on the menu. Happily, both have now been sorted.

REACHING THE HEIGHTS AWARD

Kathmandu Kitchen on the capital's Dame Street is right up there when it comes to Nepalese dining -- which is so tasty I can understand why Joanna Lumley took up the Gurkhas' cause to keep them in Britain.

THE ROLLING STONE AWARD

Romany Stone in Delgany, Co Wicklow, where on my visit for Sunday breakfast the service was so laid back it was almost non-existent. As far as I'm concerned this Romany can keep rolling.

FIVE-STAR INDIA AWARD

Asheesh Dewan's Jaipur Restaurant Group which delivers exciting contemporary Indian food and, in particular, one of my 'homes away from home', Jaipur Dalkey, which manager Jayraj Poojary runs with exemplary hospitality and excellence extended to all who cross its doorstep. Outstanding.

THE RESUSCITATION AWARD

Trish and Brian Conroy of the plush Tankardstown House took on the Conyngham Arms Hotel and breathed new life into the village of Slane.

FRESH FRUIT AWARD

Vivienne Johnston and Janine Breslin's colourful Mellow Fig on George's Avenue, Blackrock, with their really cute decor, friendly service and delicious food, has proved a wow over the past couple of years from breakfast to dusk.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS AWARD

Brasserie 7, the former Rhodes D7, on Dublin's Capel Street, which I described as feeling "like someone had just dusted down and opened the doors of Miss Havisham's." Great expectations -- disappointing.

THE ONESIE AWARD

Fallon & Byrne in Exchequer Street, Dublin, where you can wine, dine and deli to your heart's content all in one space, over three floors. In fact a friend told me recently he spent from 12.30pm to 10pm enjoying its goodies!

MASTERCHEF AWARD

The inspiring Pat O'Sullivan of the Limerick-based company Masterchefs Hospitality which won the 2013 Best Large Indigenous Company Award at the Limerick Chamber Regional Business Awards.

WHAT'S IN A NAME AWARD

Tropica Chinese Restaurant in Dalkey, Co Dublin, whose food on our visit was -- despite the name -- not so hot.

EAST GOES WEST AWARD

Beijing and Shanghai hoteliers, the Kang family, have bought Fota Island Resort Hotel in Cork from Nama. Could this be a case of the twain meeting despite Rudyard Kipling's mantra 'East is East and West is West'? We must wait and see.

REAR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Market Canteen -- tucked away at the back of Blackrock Market, Co Dublin -- where chefs James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert have been wowing those lucky enough to get a table in their simple 20-seater eatery for their end-of-week table d'hote dinners.

THE RUBBER TYRE AWARD

Gareth Byrne and Brid Hannon's cool Campagne, and the Lady Helen Room in Mount Juliet, which brought culinary glory to Kilkenny by being awarded Michelin stars.

THE FLAT TYRE AWARD

The Michelin rep whose car seems to break down within driving distance of Dublin, and who misses out on so many cracking eateries deserving if not of stars at least bibs.

THE STOCK CUBE AWARD

The original 'angry young man' Marco Pierre White, who knows what people like to eat and has proved it in Dublin with the opening of a second restaurant along with the Fitzer family in Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook. Class shows.

TWITTER HERO OF THE YEAR AWARD

Foodie Paul O'Connor, who generously used the medium to great effect promoting chefs, restaurants, hotels and food producers throughout the year. Positive Ireland.

TWITTER TWIT OF THE YEAR AWARD

Oliver Dunne, who achieved worldwide publicity -- for all the wrong reasons! And no, he still hasn't apologised.

Happy New Year!

Irish Independent

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