Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Belfast's Ox ploughs a lonely furrow as Northern Ireland restaurants battle for honours

Ox restaurant in Belfast
Ox manager Alain Kerloc'h

They are the top awards in the Irish food industry.

But are Northern Ireland's restaurants and chefs lagging behind as they are out-cooked by their southern counterparts?

More than 900 restaurateurs and industry players were in attendance at Ireland's biggest ever restaurant awards on Monday night in Dublin to hear the Regional and All-Ireland winners announced.

But just one Belfast restaurant won in the All-Ireland category for the awards where Alain Kerloc'h of the Belfast's Ox was named best restaurant manager of the year. Nevin Maguire, the head chef of MacNean House and Restaurant in the border county Cavan, was crowned the best chef in Ireland and the award for Best Restaurant in Ireland was taken home by Kilkenny restaurant Campagne.

Mr Kerloc'h told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's a great achievement – again it's all about our team.

"It's about everybody who pushed very hard and worked very hard to get this reward.

"It would be better to get more restaurants in the north to win but it will happen.

"There are lots of good restaurants in Belfast and in the north so we will get there."

Some restaurants which won their regional county categories failed to get past their southern contenders.

Among them was Belfast restaurant Hadskis which won the regional award for best casual dining. Owner Niall McKenna said: "There is always someone from Northern Ireland in the mix. It's a very fair award.

"There are a lot of brilliant chefs in Northern Ireland, it is only a matter of time."

Newforge House in Armagh also won its regional category for best hotel restaurant.

Owner John Mathers (40) said: "We are chuffed to bits.

"Obviously the competition is very stiff because there are four different regions plus Dublin as well which is a huge market. I think Northern Ireland should be pretty proud of where we are."

President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Pádraic Óg Gallagher said: "This year's awards have been the biggest, brightest and the best.

"They are the awards everyone wants to be associated with, and everyone wants to be a winner."

The prestigious awards were held in The DoubleTree by Hilton in Dublin in association with the Sunday Independent Life Magazine.

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