Friday 22 February 2019

'It tastes like food should' - Ireland's Favourite Foodie Experience for 2019 revealed

Winner: Ballymaloe, Co Cork

Ballymaloe cheeseboard
Ballymaloe cheeseboard
Ballymaloe House

Reader Travel Awards 2019

Why Ballymaloe? "The food is so good," you told us.

"It tastes like food should, and you just know that the staff are part of a big organisation that is continually striving to maintain standards... and is led by such wonderful women."

That comment is testament not just to Myrtle Allen, who sadly died in 2018, but women like Darina, Rachel, Fern, Yasmin and Hazel Allen, who have brought Ballymaloe from one of Ireland's great country house experiences to one of its most influential food and cookery school brands.

"Ballymaloe is Irish Country House hospitality at its very best," you told us. "Great people, stunning place and grounds, excellent food." You told us about its "excellent ingredients and very flavoursome cuisine", praising "the best produce" and "beautiful, homegrown food" - from that famous dessert trolley to "their own roasted coffee beans".

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Ballymaloe cheeseboard

Millennials may know Ballymaloe as a relish more than a country house or cookery school, but our judges felt that this was a worthy winner not just for being the gold standard for so long (Myrtle had a Michelin Star in the 1970s), but for its contribution to the culture of Irish food, and the pioneer of so many trends we now take for granted - from farm-to-fork dining to locavore eating.

Ballymaloe can be expensive, but it's also accessible, from its on-site shop to craft fairs and concerts at its Grainstore (dinner is open to non-guests, too).

"It was one of the best experiences of my life, learning from passionate experts," as one reader commented.

It's "a touch of class", you told us. Food "doesn't get more homegrown and fabulous" than this. "The distance between table and garden is so short as not to matter at all."

"It's like being welcomed home."

See ballymaloe.ie.

NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2019 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here.

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