So, Frankie Mallon moves into Westport, opens up a little 34-seater restaurant that he calls An Port Mor, and Westport gets voted The Best Place to Live in Ireland. Could these events be, in any way, related?
Mr Mallon was pretty much all around the block before winding up on Bridge Street. He went to Portrush Catering College, then lucked out and found himself in Paul and Jeanne Rankin's Roscoff, working alongside Darren Simpson and Alastair Fullerton as that restaurant powered its way to glory by offering the finest cooking Northern Ireland had ever seen.
But he was restless, and soon he was working in Bern, and then Paris, where he developed his ethos under the careful tutelage of Guy Savoy. He worked in and around Westport before putting his own name over the door, and success has been built year-on-year, patiently, wisely, his own way in his own time. He has no ego to speak of, so he is one of those cooks who knows what people want. There is nothing extraneous in his food, so everything is designed to hit the spot, especially his signature classics such as cod with a fine herb crust and a white wine, cream and chive sauce, or the great Achill sea trout with Clew Bay mussels. His food has the rigour of Martin Shanahan and the logic of Maura Foley, and you see it in his pairing of ingredients, such as his incredible starter of pot-roasted pig's cheeks with Kelly's black pudding and apple and vanilla sauce.
He has a clear philosophy: “We are an Irish restaurant and we serve Irish food”, he once told a conference, “but we also offer a Mayo experience: the bedrock of our food is our suppliers, and we just let the ingredients speak”. He even summed up his own life's journey: “Work for good chefs, get experience, learn as much as possible, then come home and use your experience to know what to do.”
Frankie Mallon knows what to do.