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Megabites Awards - 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 - Kevin O’Toole
Kevin O’Toole is a chef at the top of his game. His cooking in Temple Bar’s Chameleon Restaurant has been on fire for several years now. But what shows his power is when you take him out of Temple Bar – down to Theatre of Food at Electric Picnic in Stradbally, maybe, or to the Waterford Harvest Festival – and marvel at his ability to produce food for the Gods on any stage, in any place, at any time. The Chameleon’s steamed bao with caramelised pork belly and spiced pineapple compote is just one of the death-row-delicious concoctions that shows the chef’s utter mastery.

Restaurateur of the Year - Colin Harmon
Many people claim that the millenial mind is unknowable, but no one understands the Millenial mind better than Colin Harmon. The founder of 3fe coffee knows exactly the sort of spaces that Millenials want to hang out in, and his trilogy of Dublin eating house – Five Points, Daniel and the latest wow! success, Gertrude, on Pearse Street, give Millenials – and everyone else – the sort of spaces they want. With his perfectionist bent, Harmon also knows the grub – and the drinks – that his audience want, and that audience made Gertrude’s bacon and cabbage dumplings and tonkatsu pork sarnie famous in, oh, about 24 hours.
 
Restaurant of the year - Ichigo Ichie
In Ireland we have many restaurants that strain to be gastronomic temples. But Takashi Miyazaki’s Cork restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, is a gastronomic destination that has ambitions to be a temple. Ireland has never seen anything like this extraordinary kaiseki dining room, and immersing yourself in the food and service of the multi-course menu, eaten in this magical room, is a unique spiritual – and culinary – experience.

Newcomer of the Year - Host, Ranelagh
It’s worth eating everything that Chloe and Niall and their team in Host cook for their D6 customers – Andarl Farm pork chop; harissa cauliflower; smoked mackerel with crab. But, in particular, do not miss their masterly pasta dishes, which are so flawless that one presumes the couple have more than a smidgin of Italian blood somewhere in their DNA. It’s worth the trip to Ranelagh just to eat that chilli ragu with pappardelle.
 
Dish of the Year - Chicken Burger from Fowl Play
Andy Noonan likes to take apart the elements of live fire cooking in Fowl Play, his grill-within-a-pub in The Square Ball, just around the corner from Holles Street Hospital. The cherry-wood smoked chicken wings; the rotisserie chicken cooked over charcoal; the turkey dog; the smoked duck; the grilled halloumi. All of these are more than fine, but the Fowl Play chicken burger is nothing other than a masterpiece. It’s made with boned chicken thighs, which are anointed with house rub, then grilled over charcoal and served with their trademark Alabama white sauce, frisée and a cracking toasted brioche bun. It’s perfect.

Pudding of the Year - The Dessert Trolley from JR Ryall
Way back in 2007, Myrtle Allen wrote of JR Ryall that he “has worked in Ballymaloe kitchen since he was fifteen years old during his holidays. During this time he has become completely competent in all the work of our pastry department.” JR’s competence was recognised this year when the Ballymaloe dessert trolley was nominated for ‘Trolley of the Year” in the 2019 World Restaurant Awards. Mr Ryall is an artist of the pastry department, and one of the most luminary talents at work in Ireland.
 
Dynamo of the Year - The Cupcake Bloke
Star quality is rare. And Graham Herterich – The Cupcake Bloke – has that star quality. His baking has been a peerless benediction for the people of Dublin for some time now but, with the opening of his gorgeous shop in Rialto, we get a bigger glimpse of just how all-encompassing Mr Herterich’s talent is. The Bakery in Rialto is one of the jewels of Dublin, powered by nothing more than star quality.

Design of the year: Freight
What do you get if you put a couple of freight containers together and on top of one another? The answer is Freight, on Belfast’s Newtownards Road, which is the funkiest piece of restaurant design we have seen in yonks. The room is a pleasure to be in, bright and colourful, and feels welcoming and cosy. The cooking goes for the more-is-better school of culinary arts, but anyone who needs to see how to make a restaurant space where less-is-more needs to take a look at Freight.

 

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