James St South, Antrim wins Best Restaurant award

The ULSTER Regional Final of the Santa Rita/ LIFE Magazine Irish Restaurant Awards 2013 took place in The Merchant Hotel, Belfast, last night and the chosen top restaurants in the region were named.

The Ulster region covers the six counties in Northern Ireland: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone & three counties in the Republic: Cavan, Monaghan & Donegal.

Over 250 restaurant owners and staff celebrated their hard work and achievements at the Awards, which saw many well-known restaurateurs of Ulster turn out to see if they had won one of the prestigious awards.

In their fifth year now, the Irish Restaurant Awards continue to go from strength to strength. Each year, the awards cast a spotlight on the brightest and best players on the Irish restaurant scene. The Irish Restaurant Awards are the awards everyone wants to win.

This year the nominations went online for the first time and they got a spectacular response from the public, nominations doubled and they received over 10,000 votes for Ireland’s favorite restaurants, chefs, gastro-pubs, hotel restaurants and customer service experiences.

Food outlets were nominated under the categories of Best Customer Service, Best Gastro Pub, Best Casual Dining, Best Hotel Restaurant, Best Chef, Best Restaurant, Best Wine Experience, Best Kids Size Me, sponsored by Heinz, Engaging With The Gathering, sponsored by Tourism Ireland and Best Just Ask! Menu, sponsored by Bord Bia.

All County winners now compete for the Regional and All Ireland Title which will be announced at the Irish Restaurant Awards in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin on Wednesday 10th June, 2013.

There are 3 components to phase two of the process and each element is independently assessed by KPMG. They are:

1. Mystery Guest Visit (55%) This component of the awards is conducted by Prism Consulting headed by Hugo Arnold, independent food writer and consultant. All County Winners receive a mystery guest visit throughout the month of April and May.

2. National Awards Academy (35%) Our National Awards Academy is made up representatives from each of the regional judging panels and will meet in May to Judge the County Winners.

3. Menu Judging (10%) All County winners and the Dublin Shortlist in each category are asked to submit a copy of their food menu and wine list for judging.

Voting in the Industry categories commenced on April 4th. Voting in these categories is exclusive to Restaurants Association of Ireland members only, with members competing for: Best Club Restaurant, Best Seafood Experience, Best World Cuisine, Best Newcomer, Best Café, Most Innovative Restaurant, Best Restaurant Design, Best Cocktail Experience, Best Restaurant Manager, Best Cookery School, Best Supplier & Best Digital Marketing.

The winners of the Industry Categories will be announced at the All-Ireland event on 10th June, 2013. Tickets are priced at €130 for the All-Ireland Event and can be bought directly from Sinead at the Restaurants Association of Ireland on (01) 677 9901 or [email protected].

And the ULSTER Regional Awards went to:

Best Customer Service
Antrim - Berts Jazz Bar at The Merchant Hotel
Armagh - Pot Belly Restaurant
Cavan - The Olde Post Inn
Derry - The Lime Tree Restaurant
Donegal - The Beach House
Down - The Old School House Inn
Fermanagh - Cafe Merlot
Monaghan - Nuremore Hotel
Tyrone - Grange Lodge

Best Gastro Pub – Sponsored by Faustino
Antrim - The Harbour Bar
Armagh - O'Tooles Bar
Cavan - The Big Apple at The Black Horse Inn
Derry - Marys Bar
Donegal - The Village Tavern
Down - The Dirty Duck
Fermanagh - Blakes of the Hollow
Monaghan - Andys Bar
Tyrone - The Brewers House

Best Casual Dining – Sponsored by Joseph Drouhin
Antrim - Mournes Seafood Bar
Armagh - The Moody Bar
Cavan - The Oak Room
Derry - The Exchange
Donegal - Aroma Restaurant
Down - Coast Restaurant
Fermanagh - Dollakis
Monaghan - The Fiddlers Elbow
Tyrone - Deli on the Green

Best Hotel Restaurant – Sponsored by Pallas Foods
Antrim - The Great Room Restaurant at the Merchant Hotel
Armagh - Newforge House
Cavan - The Courtroom Restaurant Cabra Castle
Derry - The Ardmore Restaurant at Beech Hill Derry
Donegal - Castlemurray House Hotel
Down - The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn
Fermanagh - Catalina Restaurant in Lough Erne Resort
Monaghan - Snaffles Restaurant in Castle Leslie
Tyrone - The Kitchen Restaurant Tullylagan Hotel

Best Chef – Sponsored by Tipperary Water
Antrim - Stevie Toman of Ox, Belfast
Armagh - Dean Coppard of Uluru Armagh
Cavan - Neven Maguire of McNean's Restaurant
Derry - Ian Oar of Browns Restaurant
Donegal - Derek Alcorn of The Mill Restaurant
Down - Joery Castel of The Boathouse NI
Fermanagh - Noel McMeel of Lough Erne Resort
Monaghan - Andrew Bradley of Snaffles Restaurant Castle Leslie
Tyrone - Brian McConagle of The Brewers House

Best Restaurant – Sponsored by Santa Rita
Antrim - James St South
Armagh goes to Uluru Armagh
Cavan - MacNean House
Derry - Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge
Donegal - Harry's Restaurant
Down - The Boat House
Monaghan - Courthouse Restaurant
Tyrone - Oysters Restaurant

Best Wine Experience - Sponsored by Thomas Barton
Nicks Warehouse, Belfast

Best Kids Size Me - Sponsored by Heinz
The Lemon Tree, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

Engaging with The Gathering Award – Sponsored by Tourism Ireland
Harvey's Point, Donegal Town, Co Donegal

Just Ask! Award – Sponsored by Bord Bia
Sargasso , Letterkenny, Co Donegal

For More information see http://www.irishrestaurantawards.com and follow the #FoodOscars hashtag on Twitter.

For more Irish Food News from Zack see www.IrishFoodGuide.ie