Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the establishments serving our best have been named...
Can breakfast be as unforgettable as a fine dining experience?
Absolutely, says Georgina Campbell, who today revealed the winners of her annual Irish Breakfast Awards – an all-island menu of hotels, B&Bs and visitor attractions serving classic morning feasts and dishes with a twist.
“There’s nowhere else in the world that can compare” to Irish spreads of homemade brown bread, creamy butter, sizzling sausages and fresh apple juice, the acclaimed food and hospitality writer said at an awards event held in association with Fáilte Ireland at Dublin’s InterContinental Hotel.
Among the winners were Limerick Strand Hotel, where chef Tom Flavin has cooked up this year’s ‘Best Irish Breakfast Menu’, and Co. Fermanagh’s Lough Erne Resort, which serves the ‘Best Irish Breakfast’ at a five-star hotel.
Ireland’s best sausages and rashers? You’ll find those at McCarthy’s of Kanturk, Co Cork – named as the producer of Ireland’s top breakfast meats.
Of course, you couldn’t hold a breakfast awards in 2020 without mention of the meal that now dominates all-day weekend menus.
“Brunch is now part of the fabric of Ireland’s food culture,” Campbell said, announcing Arán Artisan Bakery & Bistro in Co. Kilkenny as the winner of a public vote for Ireland’s Best Brunch this year.
“These awards are unique in that they highlight a meal that is all too often overlooked by business owners as the least important of all their dining options,” said celeb chef Rachel Allen, a guest presenter at the awards.
Her tips for a cracking breakfast?
"Keep it simple," Allen told the audience. And despite her love of "a good guacamole", she advised menu-makers to keep things local and seasonal wherever possible.
“Forget the avocado!"
Best Irish Breakfast Menu
Best Irish Breakfast: Five-star Hotel
Best Irish Breakfast: Four-star Hotel
Best Irish Breakfast: Three-star Hotel
Best Irish Breakfast: Country House
Best Irish Breakfast: Guest House
Best Irish Breakfast: B&B
Best Irish Breakfast: Visitor Attraction
Now in their fourth year, Georgina Campbell’s Irish Breakfast Awards are chosen by a team of anonymous inspectors who conduct visits year-round.
Serving a quality breakfast is a unique opportunity for Irish businesses regardless of their size, and can make “a lasting impression” on customers, Campbell said.
Her team noticed “marked improvements" this year, most notably in three-star hotels and “particularly in the area of food sourcing and local provenance”, though she cautioned that “there is still a lot of work to be done”.
Serving great local produce is critical to a top Irish breakfast, Campbell added, not just in terms of taste and reputation ("we need a sense of place about our food"), but for sustainability.
“By investing in and supporting good quality local providers you are investing in and supporting a more sustainable Ireland.
“This has become a real priority for the hospitality industry and it’s something that has to be at the top of our collective agenda – permanently."
This year saw the introduction of a special sustainability award, won by Ashford Castle – in recognition of its food sourcing policy and commitment to sourcing the best seasonal ingredients from the west of Ireland.
In other citations, Rua Deli & Café in Castlebar, Co Mayo won the ‘Irish Bread Award’ (above), while a separate ‘Irish Producer Awards’ category honoured the local heroes Campbell said should feature more on Irish breakfast menus.
Irish Producer Awards 2020
Quality is the overarching principle, and investment in breakfast should be taken as seriously as dinner and fine dining in Irish hospitality, Campbell concluded.
"It has been the Cinderella of dining out for too long."