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Pub of the Year awards 2015: Toast of hospitality trade recognised at awards

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's top bars, restaurants and hotels have been named at this year's Pub of the Year awards.

The best the hospitality industry has to offer was on show during the glitzy event at the La Mon Hotel just outside Belfast, this week.

A total of 14 awards were presented at the Hospitality Ulster event, which was hosted by Pete Snodden.

Following a record number of entries from pubs, hotels and restaurants, a total of 44 shortlisted premises and individuals from right across Northern Ireland went head-to-head to be named the toast of the trade.

The Sunflower Public House, the atmospheric and quirky spot on Union Street in Belfast city centre, was named as the top city pub of the year

And the 'urban' pub of the year went to Mary's Bar in Magherafelt, while the rural award went to fellow Co Londonderry pub, Friels of Swatragh.

This year's awards extended the categories to include hotels and restaurants, along with a new gong for the 'industry legend'.

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And the inaugural title went to Merchant Hotel owner, and founder of the Beannchor Group, Bill Wolsey.

With the highest ever number of nominations recorded this year, Nathaniel McCauley from Muriels Cafe Bar in Belfast was named as Northern Ireland's top barman.

This year, pubs, hotels and restaurants were also commended for their 'commitment to local food'.

Pier 36 in Donaghadee was named best pub in that category, with Tedfords in Belfast awarded best restaurant, while Newforge House, Magheralin was the top hotel.

Olga Walls, chair of Hospitality Ulster, congratulated this year's winners.

"This year we have further developed our awards categories to recognise all the people and businesses, from rising stars to seasoned pros that make Northern Ireland's hospitality industry as impressive as it is," she said.

"We saw a huge increase in entries this year, with the standards the highest ever, which is a real indication of the quality and diversity of the sector.

"I would like to congratulate all of this year's winners and commend all of our shortlisted venues and finalists; to reach the final of a competition of this calibre is no mean feat.

"Each and every one should be proud to be counted amongst the best in Northern Ireland."

The shortlisted spots were chosen from right across Northern Ireland, and after judging, the premises were put through their paces by mystery shoppers.

Meanwhile, best hotel bar between one and three stars was awarded to The Salty Dog Hotel and Bistro, Bangor, while the Manor Country Hotel, Enniskillen scooped the top four to five star spot.

Three 'commitment to the community' awards were presented, with Front Page Bar, Ballymena taking the pub gong, 26 West Bar and Grill, Belfast named best restaurant and hosts for the night, La Mon Hotel and Country Club, best hotel.

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