Ireland’s best pubs, restaurants take star turns

Ed Forry

The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) is a philanthropic organization on Merrion Road, located just a few blocks from the American Embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Established in 1731 as “the Dublin Society” with a mission to support cultural and economic affairs in the country, the society is housed on 40 acres, with a 7,000 seat arena, meeting rooms, bars and restaurants and an exhibition hall that is a major venue for concerts and other events.

The RDS has seen Bruce Springsteen perform 11 concerts and it’s been the venue for concerts by rockers like Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson and U2, among many others. One week each year, its stables house the jumping horses during the Dublin Horse Show and it has seen wrestling matches, rugby games and Shamrock Rovers FC matches.

This year on November 8 the RDS hosted the inaugural “Irish Pub Awards” and Ireland’s food and beverage industry promoters set out to name the best of the best.

With more than 500 applications in nine categories. Here are the winners, as reported by “The inaugural Irish Pub Awards were originally launched in late April at an event in Doheny and Nesbitt’s on Baggot Street, Dublin, organised by the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and Vintners Federation Ireland (VFI).

Commenting on the award ceremony, LVA Chairman John Gleeson said, ‘We are very pleased with the success of our first awards programme. These awards will now be recognised as the definitive awards programme within the industry as it is set up to reward all pub sectors right throughout the country.

“ ‘There is great value for pubs entering the awards in terms of excellent national and local media coverage along with the in-depth management training our 56 regional winners receive. We are delighted to have come together with the VFI on this great initiative.’

“The Porter House of Castlebridge, Co. Wexford, took home the trophy for ‘National Irish Pub of the Year’, while The Stag’s Head in Dublin was named ‘Best Tourist Pub’ and Johnny Quilty of The Goat Bar & Grill, located in the Dublin suburb of Clonskeagh, was presented with the accolade for “Pub Personality of the Year”.

The full list of winners includes: Innovative Pub of the Year, The Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare; Best Music Pub. Matt The Millers, Kilkenny City; Best Outdoor Space, The Terrace at Dinn Rí, Co. Carlow; Outstanding Customer Service. The Bog Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois; Best Tourist Pub, The Stag’s Head, Dublin; Pub Personality of the Year, Johnny Quilty, The Goat Bar & Grill, Clonskeagh, Dublin; Best Local Pub, The Porter House, Castlebridge, Co. Wexford; Best Food Pub, Mickey Finn’s, Redcross, Co. Wicklow.

Meanwhile The Irish Times reported a pub in Co Clare has become the first-ever pub in Ireland to win a Michelin star rating. The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvara, Co Clare, run by chef Aidan McGrath and his wife, Kate McGrath have been running the pub for nine years, the newspaper reported.
“The Michelin judges say McGrath’s cooking ‘has a classical French base that delivers on flavour’. McGrath said at the ceremony that the win was down to his classical training while also ‘fine-tuning things over the year’,” the newspaper reported.

“The inclusion of Wild Honey Inn brings to 13 the number of Michelin starred restaurants and pubs on the island of Ireland, two in the north and 11 in the south. All of the 12 Michelin-starred restaurants retained their awards. In Dublin, Chapter One, L’Ecrivain, The Greenhouse and Heron & Grey held on to their single-star status, while Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud continues to hold two stars.

“One star was also retained by Galway restaurants Aniar, run by Irish Times columnist JP McMahon and Enda McEvoy’s Loam. Kilkenny also held on to two stars, with Gareth Byrne retaining his award for Campagne – which he has held since 2014 – and a star remaining at the Lady Helen restaurant at Mount Juliet Hotel in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. Further south, House Restaurant at Cliff House Hotel, in Ardmore, Waterford also keeps its star.”