Sizzling way to start the day!

Year of Food and Drink, which launched at the start of January, features breakfast as its theme for the month. Sam Butler enjoyed an award winning breakfast at Newforge House, Magheralin and met the Krazibaker bringing new life to griddle breads.

This is what an award winning breakfast looks like. It’s a traditional Ulster Fry that has earned Newforge Country House at Magheralin recognition from top Irish food writer Georgina Campbell as the ‘Best Country House Breakfast’.

The breakfast is the favourite of John Mathers, chef/owner of the stylish country house for the past decade, a successful business he runs with wife Lou. His approach to breakfast – and all meals served at the hotel – is underpinned by a commitment to the best ingredients that are all locally sourced and cooked simply and carefully to ensure outstanding taste.

“The Ulster Fry is seen by some people as being stodgy. It shouldn’t be. It can be a great way to start to the day. Our Ulster Fry is prepared without fat. We use a small amount of rapeseed oil from Harnett’s in Waringstown to cook the ingredients from suppliers all within a few miles of the hotel. This means the products are fresh and we know where they come from. Provenance is immensely important to us and so we depend on sourcing products that we can count on to be tasty and wholesome,” he adds.

“We source eggs, for example, from our own free-range hens. The yolks are a rich orange colour and full of flavour. Our bacon is dry-cured and comes from Hannan Meats in Moira. The thick pork sausages are from Martin Madden’s butchers in Lurgan and use natural rather than synthetic casings. We cook the sausages slowly to get a golden colour.

“The potato and soda breads are from a local bakery. We coat these lightly on one side with Abernethy handmade butter from Dromore. The spicy black pudding is from Gracehill, near Ballymena. The tomatoes are roasted. We never ever us baked beans in our Ulster Fry because they make the meal soggy and overcome the flavours of the other ingredients. Mushrooms, also a bit controversial among purists, are available. These are lightly cooked in rapeseed oil.

“Food is central to the Newforge House experience. As well as our small and select network of local suppliers, we source seasonal produce from our own gardens and orchard for our daily changing dinner menu. The orchard provides fruit for our homemade desserts, chutneys and preserves,” he adds.

Guests can also enjoy Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt from Bangor, Armagh apple juice and porridge from White’s in Tandragee.

This attention to detail and excellence in sourcing ingredients has earned the boutique hotel as string of culinary awards including ‘Irish Breakfast Awards National Winner 2014’ and Good Food Ireland’s ‘Culinary Haven of the Year 2014’. The influential Restaurant Association of Ireland said it had the ‘Best Hotel Restaurant in Ulster 2014’ and the local Licensed and Catering News said it was the ‘Best Guesthouse in Northern Ireland 2014’.

Newforge House is also listed in Ireland’s highly influential Blue Book of Irish Country Houses, Historic Hotels and Restaurants this year, with the likes of the famed Ballymaloe House and Castle Leslie, both based in the Republic of Ireland.

A five-star Georgian country house, Newforge was originally the family home of John Mathers. It took two years to transform the distinctive Georgian house into a luxury establishment that maintained its distinctive exterior. It opened in May 2005 and has fulfilled John and Lou’s aspiration to create a luxurious country house in tranquil and relaxing surroundings, a home from home based on superb hospitality and excellent food.