Life

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Recovery on menu as hospitality heroes step up to the plate

Barry Egan

Published 15/06/2014 | 00:00

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An invitation to dine for: Neven Maguire, winner of the Best Chef Award, with his wife Amelda at the Irish Restaurant Awards at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Dublin.
Kay Harte,Brendan O'Connor, Marog O'Brien
Helen Molloy and Gerald Kean at the awards

In the absence of any adequate government policy, your diarist thinks the citizens of Ireland “eating and drinking” themselves out of recession is as good an economic solution as any in this bleakest of times.

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So it seemed last Monday night at The DoubleTree by Hilton in Dublin for the 2014 Irish Restaurant Awards in association with the Sunday Independent LIFE Magazine.

Nine hundred otherwise hard-working bon viveurs from the restaurant industry pitched up in all their finery to party hard. They enjoyed five absolutely delish — and waistline-altering — courses prepared by five of Ireland’s top chefs (Sunil Ghai of Ananda in Dundrum Town Centre, Gary O’Hanlon of VM Restaurant in Longford and Tom Flavin of the Strand Hotel in Limerick, among them).

As perhaps the sore heads the next day proved, the attendees enjoyed the lovely wines too.

“As you can imagine,” Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris told me, “no one parties as hard as the Irish hospitality sector, and they deserve their night out because they are leading the recovery.” Throw in George Bernard Shaw’s maxim that there is no love sincerer than the love of food, and we had the makings of a great night in the hotel that used to be known as the Burlo.

“This year’s awards have been the biggest, brightest,and the best,” said Padraic Og Gallagher, President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, not inaccurately, in his speech.

Though last year’s awards did have the host for the evening Brendan O’Connor performing an impromptu version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky with guest Linda Martin. (It was impromptu because I lifted her up and literally carried her to the stage after the star expressed initial reluctance to get up and sing for her supper, as it were.) LIFE Magazine editor O’Connor, who was at the Irish Restaurant Awards as a mere guest this year, gave a special Lifetime Achievement Award to Marog O’Brien and Kay Harte of Farm Gate restaurants in Midleton and Cork.

They were, he said, the original hipster restaurateurs, operating in reclaimed spaces, providing hubs for local artists and for their local communities. “They recognised the value of the food we had under our noses before it became a big thing, and before restaurants became ironic, they offered soldiers and boiled eggs for breakfast.”

Eggs being eggs, there is always plenty of glam at these events. And the likes of Sile Seoige, model Ruth Griffin and TV star Caroline Morahan (just in from her base in Los Angeles ) were on hand to provide it on this culinary night of nights. The beautiful MC for the proceedings, Ms Seoige told me later that she was “chatting to the wonderful Caroline Morahan afterwards. We both agreed that a foodie tour of Ireland is on our to do’ lists.”

Ever stylish Sile “borrowed a guna from Gra” for the night. “One of the perks of having a very generous sis!”, Sile smiled, referring to the recently engaged and equally gorgeous, Grainne. “It was by the brilliant Kerry-born designer, Don O’Neill, I felt so comfy and glamorous all evening.”

“I had such a great view from the stage,” the RTE star told me. “It was brilliant to be able to see the excitement brewing as the nominees were announced. And the burst of elation when the winner was called out.” In particular, Sile continued, when the winner for new award, The Best Foodie Town in Ireland, was announced, and Daingean Uí Chuis were crowned champions. As they made their way to the stage, I saw one of the women on her phone excitedly telling the person at the other end: We won!’ Priceless.”

No stranger to the concept himself, Gerald Kean told me he was delighted his local Dax (it is just opposite his office on Pembroke Street Upper and is his second kitchen) scooped “the best restaurant in Dublin. I love the place.”

He also was happy with “the emphasis put on the importance of ensuring no increase on vat on wine etc in the budget in some of the speeches.” He’ll be running for Fine Gael next.

Ruth Griffin, in white suit trousers from Zara and blazer and shoes from LK Bennett, said that her highlight of the evening was Neven Maguire winning Best Chef in Ireland for MacNean House & Restaurant in Cavan: “It is well deserved. He is a lovely man.”

“I loved Neven’s acceptance speech, especially his genuine and heartfelt tribute to his mum,” added fashion TV guru Marietta Doran, who was wearing a rigout from Harvey Nichols (and “partied until the early hours”).

”It was a great night and great to catch up with my good pals Caroline Morahan and hostess with the mostess, Sile Seoige,“ she said.

“I was also delighted to see a restaurant from outside Dublin winning best restaurant in Ireland,” Ruth Griffin said, referring to Campagne in Kilkenny.

As The Lady Helen @ Mount Juliet in Kilkenny was announced Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland (and then ETTO in Merrion Row in Dublin won Best Casual Dining in Ireland), my new VBFs Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins were telling me about their cooking arrangements at home in Sandymount.

Apparently, Gay treats the place like a hotel restaurant. Kathleen told me she cooks everything. “The problem is, that whenever I make strides towards the kitchen to start doing anything, she is so
impatient with me that I give up. My case rests!” Gay told me, saucily. “She is a terrific cook but she won’t let me near the kitchen, that’s how good she is.She has stunted my growth as a cook and as a chef.”

I’m sure there were quite a few restaurateurs, hipster and otherwise, on Monday who’d give Galloping Gourmet Gaybo a new career if he wanted it.

Best Restaurant in Ireland Sponsored by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits and Wakefield Wines      

Campagne

Best Chef in Ireland 
Sponsored by La Rousse Foods
 Neven Maguire of MacNean House & Restaurant

Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland Sponsored by Pallas Foods
 The Lady Helen @ Mount Juliet

Best Casual Dining in Ireland
 Sponsored by Bunzl McLaughlin
 ETTO

Best Gastro Pub in Ireland
 Sponsored by Total Produce
 The Chop House

Best Wine Experience in Ireland
 Sponsored by Classic Drinks & Champagne Pannier
 Fallon & Byrne

Best Customer Service in
 Ireland 
 Sponsored by The DiningRoom.ie
 Renvyle House Hotel

Best Restaurant Manager in Ireland 
Supported by The Restaurants Association of Ireland
 Alain Kerloc’h of Ox

Best Kids Size Me in Ireland
 Sponsored by Heinz
ely gastro bar

Best Foodie Town’ in Ireland Sponsored by Admailer.ie
 Dingle / Daingean Uí Chuis

Best Cafe in Ireland
 Sponsored by Bewley’s
 Kelly’s Cafe

Best Cocktail Experience in
Ireland
 Sponsored by Ketel One, Diageo Reserve
Saba

Best Cookery School in Ireland 
Sponsored by Avonmore
 Ballymaloe Cookery School

Best Digital Marketing in Ireland Sponsored by Nomos Productions
 Canteen

Best Emerging Irish Cuisine
 in Ireland 
Sponsored by Odaios Foods
 The Global Village Restaurant

Best Newcomer in Ireland
 Sponsored by Dalcassian and Cielo
 Forest Avenue

Best practice in Energy
 Management in Ireland
 Sponsored by Calor
 The Ocean Restaurant at The Maritime Hotel

Best Private Dining & Club
 Restaurant in Ireland
 Sponsored by San Pellegrino
 Restaurant Forty One at Residence

Best Restaurant Design in Ireland
 Supported by The Restaurants Association of Ireland
 Kay’s Kitchen, Jervis Shopping Centre

Best Seafood Experience in Ireland
 Sponsored by Burren Smokehouse
 O’Grady’s on the Pier

Sustainable Restaurant of the Year in Ireland 
Sponsored by Unilever
 West @ The Twelve

Best World Cuisine in Ireland Sponsored by Elavon
 China Sichaun

Best Value Dining in Ireland
 Sponsored by Tourism Ireland
 Fenton’s of Dingle

For more winners, visit www.irishrestaurantawards.com

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