THE north and west of the country were the big winners scooping the top prizes in today’s Georgina Campbell Awards 2015, the country’s longest-running hospitality awards.
Hotel of the Year went to Beech Hill House Hotel just outside Derry.
The hotel is owned by Patsy O’Kane, and won praise for its dog-friendly approach and 6km of woodland trails set in 42 acres, as well as its quality food supplied by an historic walled garden.
Restaurant of the Year went to Kai Café & Restaurant in Galway.
Run by New Zealander Jess Murphy and her Irish husband David, Kai has been converted from a former tearoom to a rustic restaurant and was praised for having seriously good food and a sense of fun.
Full list of winners:
Chef of the Year went to Derek Creagh of Harry’s Restaurant in Bridgend, Co Donegal, who only arrived there this year, having previously worked with Hestor Blumenthal and other luminaries in Britain.
Mr Creagh is now overseeing both this restaurant and the newer Harry’s Shack at Portstewart in Co Derry.
Georgina Campbell said he was “the complete opposite of the stereotypical ambition-crazed chef and enjoys dropping in to his Mum for a cuppa on the way home from making a few hundred more customers very happy”.
The Long Dock in Carrigaholt Co Clare won Pub of the Year, while Bill and Isabelle Kelly of Kelly’s Hotel in Rosslare won the award for special contribution to Irish hospitality.
Ms Campbell said it had been exciting to find plenty of new hospitality outlets this year which were worthy of recommendation especially in urban areas, while western counties had worked hard to attract and keep visitors and were well represented.
“The new restaurants are most often in the dining pubs or bistro/brasserie categories and also tea room and café/bakeries, reflecting a general trend towards informal dining,” she said.
The accommodation sector was starting to improve tired furnishings, with free Wifi also emerging as a deal breaker for many customers.
However Ms Campbell warned there was an ever-growing number of premises de-registering from the Failte Ireland Approval Scheme to save money and she warned this could lead to a tragic event.
Other winners included No 5 Fenn’s Quay Restaurant in Cork which won the Bord Bia Just Ask Restaurant award for its careful sourcing of local ingredients, while Frankie Mallon of An Port Mor restaurant in Westport won Seafood Chef of the Year.