The 2011 editions of the Bridgestone 100 Best guides are the twentieth editions of the books. Twenty editions! But 1992 was only... Twenty editions ago. Blimey!
The narrative of the twenty editions is a simple one: continual, gradual, steady, inexorable improvement, right throughout the country.
There are best restaurants west of the River Bann. They are in Leitrim and Longford, in Dublin 8 and on the Aran Islands. There are chefs who have been in from the start who are still on top of their game, like Kevin Thornton. And there are new bloods all over the place, like Caitlin Ruth or Barry McLoughlin.
The diversity and quality aren't the only good bits. The best restaurants have also had a great year in 2010, with many people telling us that they are up 20%,30%, and even 40%. What has caused this? Smart customers, allied to better value and better quality. People want certainty when they go out, and the Bridgestone destinations have gotten better at delivering, every time. But people aren't wasting money, and they are spending smartly. That's the way it should be.
So, some facts. There are 17 new entries in the 100 Best Restaurants 2011. There are 9 new entries in the 100 Best Places to Stay. The standard of the new entries is simply stellar, as it has to be if you are keeping great places, such as l Mulligan in Stoneybatter, or La Boheme in Waterford, out of the frame. Twenty years ago it was hard to get 100 great restaurants and places to stay. Today it causes us agony to leave great places out. Restaurants operate in a completely free market, unlike most businesses, and today the rules of Darwinian survival prove that the best adapted are those who not merely survive, but positively thrive.
From the success of the 2011 Bridgestone Guide entrants we will rebuild our tourist economy, our self-confidence, and our pride in being able to do something - offer unique hospitality and world-class cooking - in the way that only we can do it.
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