Three Taste of Ulster Members Triumph at Irish Breakfast Awards

From classic breakfast favourites to dishes with a twist, the winners of the 2020 Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards in association with Fáilte Ireland were announced today, Monday 17th February.

Eight businesses across the island were crowned Ireland’s top breakfast venues in categories including 5* Hotel, B&B and Guest House. This year saw the introduction of a special sustainability award; the public got to have their say on Ireland’s best brunch venue and five Irish producers were selected for the consistently excellent quality of their produce, which appears on many of the best breakfast menus across Ireland – and deserve to be seen on many more.

Hillsborough Castle Café, Co. Down won the Visitor Attraction category. Georgina Campbell describes it as

A splendid late Georgian ‘Big House’ with a fascinating history, Hillsborough Castle is now an official UK government residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and of the Queen. Following a major restoration, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens opened to the public in April 2019, and you can now do a tour of the castle’s elegant State Rooms (still used by the royal family), and explore the 100 acres of beautiful gardens – with sustenance provided by Simon Dougan’s famed Yellow Door Catering. The team includes another leading chef, Barry Smyth, who is the Managing Partner at Hillsborough Castle with responsibility for Hillsborough Café (at the Visitor Centre near the car park and open to all) and the Stableyard Tearooms (ticket holders only). This is a unique destination and, while the Café is large, to allow for tours and large numbers at busy times, it also has some comfy smaller areas that are appealing to individual visitors, and outdoor seating too, so it’s become a popular place for locals to pop into for a bite.

To the credit of all, this new jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland’s already impressive tourism offering is a committed ambassador for the region’s – and Ireland’s – food history and culture. A hearty breakfast of, for example, the ‘Full Ulster Fry’ (with both soda bread and potato bread) in the Café will set visitors up for a day’s exploring. The Yellow Door supplier list reads like a who’s who of quality Irish food, including names like Clandeboye and Glenilen yoghurt (North Down and West Cork respectively), Whites Oats of Armagh,Kennedy dry cure bacon, Quails sausages (Banbridge), Cavanagh free range eggs (Fermanagh) and the wonderful Abernethy butter (Down) among many others. All round, it’s a wonderful destination – one for the bucket list.

The Best five-star breakfast went to Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

In her citations, Georgina Campbell said of Lough Erne.

“Beautifully located in County Fermanagh’s rolling lakelands, this world-class resort had the distinction of being chosen as the venue for the G8 Summit in 2013 – an event which attracted worldwide attention and continues to attract visitors to this lovely area.  Under the eye of a watchful general manager, the hotel is notably well run: service is attentive, warm and courteous, and everything is extremely well kept with log fires blazing and brasses gleaming.

Executive Chef Noel McMeel has been very active in the recent development of Northern Ireland’s food culture and it’s an understandably popular dining destination, notably for the experience offered in the fine dining Catalina Restaurant, which is named after the famous flying boats that were based in Fermanagh in WW2 and enjoys lovely lough views. It also provides an uplifting setting for breakfast when an impressive array of in-house breads and pastries is offered alongside an outstanding rendition of the traditional Ulster fry, made with local Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, Pat Doherty’s bacon and other local produce, and many other irresistible dishes including the ever-popular Smoked Haddock and Eggs Benedict…. An experience to savour.

Ardtara Country House, Upperlands, Co Derry was Highly Commended in the Country House category.

Now in their fourth year, the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards celebrate the people and businesses that strive to make the first meal of the day as memorable as any fine dining experience, and with a real sense of place.

This year Georgina noticed some marked improvements, notably in the three-star hotel category, which has become more focused on its breakfast offering.  “We are considering more three-star hotels than ever before for an award, and this is really heartening, with huge efforts going into producing a fine breakfast from many business owners and their kitchen teams.

“There have been improvements across the board, particularly in the area of food sourcing and local provenance – as seen in the excellent breakfast menus that establishments submitted as part of our Irish Breakfast Survey, undertaken in partnership with Fáilte Ireland. But there is still a lot of work to be done and I am hopeful we will see even greater improvements next year.”