Aimsir, the tiny 24-seat Kildare restaurant that serves only a tasting menu of Irish indigenous ingredients, has been named the best restaurant in Ireland at the Georgina Campbell Awards, Ireland's longest running independent food and hospitality awards.
Opened by Cornish-born chef Jordan Bailey and his Danish wife Majken Bech-Bailey in May, Aimsir describes itself as "an all-island restaurant in Kildare" and has already pocketed numerous awards for its thoughtful look at the ingredients that are found on our small but dynamic island.
Bailey - who met his wife Majken while working as head chef at 3 star Michelin Maaemo - spent more than a year planning it with Majken, renovating a stone-cut building which was formerly a cookery school on the Cliff at Lyons property in Co Kildare.
Marlfield House Hotel in Co. Wexford was named Hotel of the Year. A boutique hotel set amidst rolling woodland, rose gardens, herb plots and an ornamental lake, Marlfield House Hotel celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.
Picking up yet another award was Mickael Viljanen, head chef of The GreenHouse in Dublin, just weeks after winning the same prize at the Food and Wine Awards.
Other notable wins were for Grano, the minute but extraordinary Italian spot in Dublin's Stoneybatter neighbourhood, which opened to long queues and fierce praise for its authentic and humble Italian fare and which walked away with Best Ethnic Restaurant. With all food overseen by Mamma Roma - the mother of the owner - and with specialty ingredients flown in, it's certainly some of the best Italian food in the country.
Meanwhile, Cafe of the Year went to Grow Cafe in Co. Waterford, the innovative grow-it-yourself spot encouraging a more hands-on approach to growing and cooking your food and serving up delicious meals as part of this vision.
The prestigious ceremony took place yesterday, in Dublin's InterContinental Hotel, with the esteemed travel writer and hospitality expert celebrating the diversity and innovation in Ireland's food industry, but also warning those in attendance of "a worrying lack of a sense of hospitality" in some hotels and restaurants.
Speaking at the ceremony, Campbell said: "It's a challenging time to be in food and hospitality right now, but it’s also a very exciting time and, in the main, standards are increasing at every level from ground-breaking new restaurants to casual dining destinations, street food trucks, cafés and bars.
"When carrying out our independent and anonymous assessments around the country, we have encountered disappointments once again, and particularly with some four- and five-star hotels, where there really should be no excuses", she added.
She highlighted the lack of hospitality in some esteemed establishments, poor training "or indeed no apparent training at all", adding that as hotel and restaurant prices rise, standards are not always doing the same, leading to a loss of "the competitive edge that was so hard won during the recession".
Campbell also honoured the memory of Myrtle Allen, who passed away earlier this year.
Read the full list of winners below:
- Hotel of the Year: Marlfield House Hotel, Co Wexford
- Restaurant of the Year: Aimsir, Co Kildare
- Chef of the Year: Mickael Viljanen, The GreenHouse, Dublin
- Taste of the Waterways: Wineport Lodge, Co Westmeath
- Seafood Restaurant: King Sitric, Co Dublin
- Outstanding Guest Experience: Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites, Co Galway
- Host of the Year: Mary Sweeney, Castle Grove, Co Donegal
- Business Hotel of the Year: The Shelbourne, Dublin
- Wine and Drinks Experience: Chapter One, Dublin
- Pub of the Year: The Roadside Tavern, Co Clare
- Newcomer of the Year: Kileavy Castle, Co Armagh
- Family Friendly Hotel: Newpark Hotel, Co Kilkenny
- Pet-friendly destination: The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
- Hideaway of the Year: The Hideaway at Dromquinna Manor, Co Kerry
- B&B of the Year: Glasha Farmhouse, Co Waterford
- Ethnic Restaurant: Grano, Dublin
- Casual Dining: James St, Belfast
- Cafe of the Year: Grow Cafe, Co Waterford
- Street food: The Garden Cafe Truck, Ballymaloe, Co Cork
- Country House: Ballyvolane, Co Cork
- Guesthouse of the Year: Perryville House, Co Cork