Go North for a good thing. The Best of Northern Ireland this year for me was Coppi in St Anne’s Square. Coppi is a restaurateur’s restaurant where nothing has been left to chance, The food was always going to be good with the masterful Gary Bell overseeing the kitchen and the staff have been trained to within an inch of their lives. www.coppi.co.uk
Heading south my best meal this year was a visit to Chapter One for my sister’s college graduation dinner: the food, the room and above all the welcome and generosity represent the best of Irish hospitality. Other Dublin highlights included Terra Madre, The Vintage Kitchen, Bison Bar and Pitt Bros BBQ restaurants and Cleaver East.
www.thevintagekitchen.ie www.bisonbar.ie http://cleavereast.ie
Staying in Dublin you will find my Best Producer: Arun Bakery, to call Peter Flynn and Vlad Rainis bakers feels like a lie: they are revolutionary leaders. Summer travels took me to Co. Laois where my Best Big Event was held, The great and the brave descended on the Theatre of Food at Electric Picnic, this year saw an energetic and hilarious mish mash of everything from wine speed-dating to demos and rants featuring Neven Maguire, Kevin Thorton, Michael Quinn, Lily Ramirez and many more. Also a special mention to the Irish Craft Beer and Cider festival in the RDS which has exploded in popularity and is the best event for showcasing the “wine of our land”.
The Best Grass Roots event was a summer long a series of weekly talks, The Little Talks series hosted by WJ Kavanaghs on Dorset Street was an intimate set of talks by suppliers such as Arun Bakery, 3FE coffee, Metalman Brewing, The Celtic Whiskey Store and Improper Butter to name but a few.
Wandering westwards to my new base in Sligo, I’m fortunate to be a regular at Shells Café in Strandhill which gets the nod for Best Café. Jane and Myles Lamberth gave up the secure and sensible life to live their dream on the seafront in Strandhill. My other Sligo recommendations include Eala Bhan for upmarket dining and Hargadons for an atmospheric pub which a solid craft beer and food offering.
The year finished out in Westport with a handsome feast in the mighty An Port Mor where delicious Skeaghnore Duck is featured on the menu which brings me home to dear old Ballydehob in West Cork. If visiting West Cork and looking for something stronger than a glass of milk do call to the Levis Bar in Ballydehob where musician Joseph O Leary is preserving the tradition of hospitality enshrined within the walls of this one hundred year old pub.
Read our Editors' Awards for the year http://www.guides.ie/megabites/2013-megabites-awards