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Chefs and Restaurants of the Year

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

CHEF OF THE YEAR: Maggie Roche, Hugo's, Dublin
With a CV that includes working in The Waterside Inn, and The Merrion Hotel, in 2015 Maggie Roche took on the position of head chef in Hugo's Restaurant, on Dublin's Merrion Row. 2017 saw Ms Roche receiving plaudits from all quarters for her work in one of Dublin's most classic and lovable bistros. At Theatre of Food at Electric Picnic, Maggie joined Darina Allen, Jess Murphy and Audrey McDonald on stage, and showed herself to be as adept a debater as she is a cook.

RESTAURATEUR OF THE YEAR: Niall Sabongi, Klaw, Dublin
Niall Sabongi has had a busy 2017. When he wasn’t working as a Failte Ireland Food Champion, he was opening funky new restaurants – Klaw Poké on Capel Street, Klaw The Seafood Café on Fownes Street – and all the while keeping Klaw, his classic Temple Bar fish shack, running smoothly. Mr Sabongi knows one thing: how to make eating fish and shellfish the best fun imaginable. And he hasn’t stopped just yet: keep your eyes on George’s Street early in 2018.

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: La Taqueria, Castle Street, Belfast
Adam Lynas and Eliza Vignolle cook the best Mexican food in Ireland. Never mind that their funky little restaurant in the centre of Belfast is upstairs over a Mace Express: what matters is that La Taqueria food is the real deal, and not some dumbed-down Tex-Mex mess. Mr Lynas knows his way around a tortilla and a fundido, so order a margarita to start and let the fun begin.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Clenaghan's, Aghalee, Co Down
Danni Barry has been killing it ever since she got the doors open at Clenaghan's, an old stone building in the middle of nowhere in County Down. Exemplary technical skills meet with ruddy, agrestic country dishes in a culinary marriage made in culinary heaven. Only problem is getting a table, and agonising over whether you should lick the plate.

DISH OF THE YEAR: Lamb with Scallops and a Carrageen Dressing, Renvyle House, Connemara
This masterly invention by chef Tim O'Sullivan was the centrepiece of a Wild Atlantic Way menu served at Renvyle House last March, and the dish persuaded everyone to get to their feet to give Mr O'Sullivan a standing ovation. If there is a single dish that manages to represent the Wild Atlantic Way, then Tim O'Sullivan is the guy who created it. Unforgettable.

PUDDING OF THE YEAR: Imelda Tynan’s Rhubarb Tart, The Store Yard, Portlaoise, Co Laois
Imelda Tynan learnt to bake from her brother, the late, great Jim Tynan, and she learnt well. To listen to her talk about baking, about pastry, about patisserie, is to listen to someone for whom the art of baking is nothing less than rapture. Fortunately, when you get a taste of Ms Tynan’s rhubarb tart, you get the taste of that rapture. Irish baking – and Irish food culture – at its zenith.

DYNAMO OF THE YEAR: Grainne O'Keeffe, Clanbrassil House, Dublin.
Head chef of Clanbrassil House, Culinary Director of Bujo, Director at SaucyLdn: what can't Grainne O'Keeffe do? More importantly, what can't she cook? This culinary dynamo had an annus mirabilis in 2017, and her cooking in Clanbrassil House is a statement of exactly where modern Irish cooking is at, right now.

Ireland the Best

Ireland The Best Paperback, Out 22 Mar 2018

This fully comprehensive and independent guide to Ireland gives you only the very best recommendations, whatever your budget. Over 2000 recommendations for every type of adventure.

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