Wednesday 26 June 2019

Pól Ó Conghaile: Why are hotels missing a trick at breakfast?

“Breakfast is the last meal a guest enjoys before they leave, so why not try to make it better?”

Irish Breakfast served at Hatch & Sons in Dublin
Irish Breakfast served at Hatch & Sons in Dublin
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why are so many Irish hotels missing this golden opportunity?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read dinner menus citing butchers, growers and makers, or bar menus bursting with Irish craft beers and spirits, only to arrive down to breakfast to a line of  bland tureens crammed with generic sausages, bacon and eggs.

It’s not just affordable hotels. Staying at an Irish five-star recently - where a simple omelette cost €20 - I found the buffet full of brief descriptive labels like ‘honey’ and ‘charcuterie’.

The a la carte menu was slightly better, but dishes still leaned on generic phrases like ‘Irish farm bacon’. Under one fancy glass dome, a note signalled a ‘selection of cheeses’.

No names, or makers.

Why does food sourcing matter? Because it shows care and attention to detail. It distinguishes Irish goods from generic imports. Using local, seasonal produce supports Irish businesses and lowers food miles. It creates a human connection between a hotel and its community, culture and landscape.

A ‘selection of cheeses’ draws a blank. But names like Hegarty’s, Gubbeen or Durrus stoke my imagination and curiosity. It’s the same with locally-smoked salmon, homemade jams or puddings, or fresh eggs from a farmer down the road. They bring breakfast to life.

Erik Wolf, founder of the World Food Travel Association, has called the Irish breakfast “a gem beyond price”. We have amazing breads, butters, meats and cheeses on our doorsteps (“What joy,” Nigella Lawson recently tweeted after eating Inch House pudding).

And plenty are leading by example — think of Neven Maguire’s award-winning porridge, that trolley of Limerick Ham at the Dunraven Arms in Adare, freshly-baked goodies at Galway’s Heron’s Rest, or beehives on the roof of Dublin’s Buswells Hotel.

They say so much more than plain labels like ‘porridge’, ‘honey’ and ‘ham’.

Yes, serving a locally-sourced breakfast can be expensive, for a large hotel or a small B&B. But bear in mind that breakfast is the last meal guests enjoy before we leave. We are a captive audience, spending time browsing the buffet, engaging with staff, eating and drinking. It’s a tantalising opportunity to make a lasting impression — of a forgettable feed, or an unforgettable experience of place on a plate.

Any hotel can have it all. Stunning pools, fast Wi-Fi, slick bars and showy spas. But food and drink are where emotional connections are made, where guests stop not just to refuel, but to taste, absorb and connect.

Even a simple sausage can say so much!

Read more:

Ireland's best breakfasts revealed - hot hotels and 'hidden heroes' of Georgina Campbell Awards

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