The Walled City Brewery in Derry-Londonderry has won the Atmospheric Restaurant of the Year prize at the Georgina Campbell Irish Hospitality Awards in Dublin.

The award was given at a ceremony at the Bord Bia offices on Tuesday 25th September.

Launched at the Culturetech Craft Beer Festival in 2014, owner and master brewer James Huey’s venture is an ambitious one and the first craft brewery in the city centre for over 100 years.

“Handsomely located in the old military pay office on Ebrington Square, which dates back to 1890, this is a craft brewery and restaurant in the same building – which is another first for Northern Ireland” said Georgina Campbell on presenting the award.

“With its original beer- themed decor and terrific ‘local tapas’ food to match the beers (all thanks to talented family members), the atmospheric bar-restaurant is a destination in itself. For a complete taste of Northern Ireland, Walled City Brewery is a must-visit.”

Also celebrating were Ronan & Jennie Sweeney from Balloo Inns in Killinchy, Co Down. They won the Hospitality Hero award.

This was a special award, given in recognition of the contribution made by exceptional individuals in Irish food and hospitality.

“The contribution that Ronan and Jennie Sweeney have made to standards in hospitality, and especially in the casual dining sector, is remarkable” said Georgina Campbell.

“ Their ambition, when they took over the famous 19th century coaching inn Balloo House at Killinchy, Co Down, in 2004, was to restore its reputation as one of the finest country dining pubs in Northern Ireland. This they achieved with spectacular success – and it was just the beginning.

“Together with head chef Danny Millar, who is one of the region’s culinary leaders and a champion of local seasonal produce, the couple had hardly established Upstairs at Balloo as the area’s premier dining destination when another old pub, Lisbarnett House in Lisbane, came onto the market in dire need of TLC and the team struck again. It soon became The Poacher’s Pocket, with its terrific Poacher’s Pantry selling top quality meat, fish and game in season as well as bakery, deli products and premium drinks.

“Next came the charming Marquis of Downshire in Hillsborough, which was renamed The Parson’s Nose and was recently given the Sweeney gold dust treatment, emerging as an even more impressive old-meets-new dining destination last year.

“The three Balloo Inns sum up all that is best about Northern Ireland food and hospitality for many regular visitors, and they have become the benchmark for quality pub dining. The Sweeneys make it all seem so easy and the core team has remained in place as their employee base gradually rose to well over 100. But this was real life and there were challenges along the way, not least with health issues, which inspired them to take action in a number of ways not only to benefit themselves and their staff, but also the wider population. To this end they started to raise awareness of – and funds for – Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) and instigated other programmes, such as an employee assistance scheme that includes counselling and a Chef Appreciation Week which, like customer feedback, must make the demanding work and long hours in a commercial kitchen much more rewarding.

All this is very typical of this caring couple, it’s just what they do. Ronan and Jennie Sweeney we salute you and commend the valued contribution of all of your team members.”