NI Great Places To Eat Awards 2019

The Irish News are hosting a customer led ‘Great Places to Eat’ Awards in partnership with Food NI and Henderson Foodservices.

Please read article below and vote Here

“We are calling on the public to vote for their favourite restaurant across 13 categories

LET’S face it, when it comes to eating out, we’re all experts these days – and arguably we’re all food critics too.

We eat out much more than we once did, and we like to share our experiences, not just by word of mouth, but usually via social media (who hasn’t taken a picture in the last week of a dish set in front of them?).

And we all like to think we know the difference between good food and great food – whether we’re out for a humble pizza, stopping off for an old fashioned fish ‘n chips, or out with a corporate guest or loved-one at a high-end restaurant.

So you’ve been there, right? Now it’s time to tell a wider audience just how good those last eating experiences were.

The eating-out industry in Northern Ireland sustains 60,000 jobs and also helps support the region’s agriculture industry by sourcing as many of their ingredients as possible from the farming sector.

And to celebrate this, the Irish News today launches its Great Places to Eat Awards in association with Food NI and Henderson Foodservice.

It’s a very simple premise, because YOU decide what your favourite eatery is.

Between now and the closing date of noon on Monday October 28, we’re inviting readers to vote for their favourite places in these categories:

:: Casual dining restaurant

:: Fine dining restaurant

:: ‘Free from’ restaurant

:: Café/coffee shop

:: Pub/gastro pub

:: Hotel restaurant

:: Sunday lunch restaurant

:: Brunch restaurant

:: Family friendly restaurant

:: World cuisine restaurant

:: Social enterprise café

:: Visitor attraction café

:: Best place to eat local produce

Michel Shirlow of FoodNI/ Taste of Ulster said: “Food in Northern Ireland has evolved dramatically over the past decade, and we have earned the enviable award of World’s Best Food Destination for 2018/19.

“We have always had world class ingredients, and now these have been brought to the fore by talented chefs.

“We’re excited about this opportunity for people to vote in these inaugural Irish News Great Places to Eat Awards, and I hope people get out dining – and then get nominating for their favourites across any of the categories.”

Cathal Geoghegan, managing director of Henderson Foodservice, said: “The hospitality sector in Northern Ireland is booming. With so many great flavours, cuisines, cooking techniques and innovation coming into play in the eating out market, it’s an exciting time for the public to highlight the best we’ve got.

“It’s a competitive market with so many places to choose from to eat out; the true value has to come from delivering the overall experience through ambience, friendly service as well as great, tasty food.

Irish News marketing manager John Brolly added: “We’re urging the public to show their passion for food and vote for their favourite places to eat.

“Everyone has an extensive food knowledge, so here is a fantastic opportunity to show your support for the places you love.

“Places to eat are always a key topic of conservation. We love to tell others when we discover somewhere which combines great food, service and atmosphere.

“So now it’s time to celebrate and recognise the great range of outlets that we have across the country, from Belfast pubs to coffee shops in Enniskillen, to the eateries on the North Coast and everything in between.”

From today readers have the chance to tell us where is GREAT to eat. Simply Vote Here

You can now vote up to noon on Monday October 28, and the winners will be revealed exclusively revealed in the Irish News on Tuesday October 29.”

Barry Johns Gourmet Sausages

I met up with Barry from Barry Johns Sausages at the Love Your Home show. Barry has been doing some great things with his premium flavoured pork sausages. All made from IRISH Pork in Cavan.

Barry has been adding lots of different flavourings such as the traditional pepper, leek, to the exotic like chocolate and everything in between. Barry let me have some of his new and best selling ones to try.

I cooked up the leek, mozzarella and black pepper and my daughters, father-in-law and I really loved them. The sausage meat is nice and creamy with cheese and leeks oozing out with a nice black pepper kick!!

You can try his sausages as ever at the show (last day today) and buy them at Lidl. Barry will also be at The BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham next month.

Creamy IRISH Cheddar

I met up with old friends Jim, Lulu and James aka Old Irish Creamery at the Love Your Home Belfast show yesterday.

Jim (senior) was telling me that he has been creating new and exciting Irish Cheddar Cheese flavours. New at the show were Siriracha, coffee and pumpkin seed with honey and cinnamon.

I got to try all of these wonderful flavoured cheeses and have to admit loved them all!! Jim gave me a few to use at home with family and friends and I’m really excited about doing so, so big thanks Jim.

If you want to get your hands on some of these then get down to Titanic Exhibition Centre today and tomorrow!!

Love Your Home Belfast

It’s that time of the year when Love Your Home comes to Belfast at the Titanic Exhibition Centre. I was lucky to get a sneak preview before the crowds gathered!!

Plenty to see and do from a total rebuild to refurbishing, cooking to cleaning, gardens, lofts, decorations. You name it, it’s sure to be covered. Best thing is that it’s free in also.

There are three demo theatres for food prep, decorations and projects.

There is also an excellent array of food and drink stands where one can taste and buy. I had a fab introduction to Balsamic Vinegar by Franco from Taste with Gusto

The show is on today, tomorrow and Sunday!!

VIP night @ Tony Macaroni

Last night 150 extra special folk were wined and dined at the newly opened Italian restaurant that is Tony Macaroni at Victoria Square, Belfast.

It occupies the prime spot out of all the restaurants in Vic Square, the iconic glass corner tower ( ex Chiquito). Tony Macaroni is a large Scottish (Glasgow) chain of “Real Italian Food” run by Sep Marini. This is the second one in Northern Ireland (after Bangor).

I brought my daughter as my plus one, a welcome distraction from AQE preparations!! She was so thrilled and excited as it was a surprise for her. The interior has all been totally refurbished with the main features being the bar and the open kitchen.

On arrival we were very warmly met and seated by the Manageress. There was Prosecco on arrival but I opted for the sparkling water and Fanta for my daughter.

The menu was very extensive, with lots of mouth watering, Italian named dishes and my daughter immediately spotted the calamari whilst I opted for the Gamberoni (prawns).

After a few minutes our dishes arrived and looked incredible. They were big portions!! The squid was juicy and perfectly cooked and the garlic mayo and sweet chilli sauce accompanied them well, whilst the prawns were subtly flavoured with lemon, garlic and white wine and served with sticky rice. It didn’t take us long to finish!!

Spaghetti carbonara is a firm favourite for my two daughters and for me I love calzone, so I ordered the Americana and my daughter insisted on chips (I tried to dissuade her as I suspected the portions would be large).

When the dishes arrived I was certainly right about the big portion sizes!!

The carbonara was excellent (my daughters honest opinion!!) and I must say did taste excellent!! The chips were big fat fellows. My calzone was a bit plump round the edges but bursting with filling- the sausage, bacon and ham bursting out along with the tomato, cheese and onion and was tremendous! Alas bellies beat our eyes and we had to stop and leave room for desert!! We asked for the rest to be packed (so no 2 daughter wouldn’t feel left out!!).

For sweets my daughter chose the white chocolate sundae whilst I was recommended the toffee tablet cheesecake. When they arrived my daughters eyes lit up!! She immediately went to work, like a busy beaver, deconstructing it, peeling back the layers of cone, mint, cream, raspberries, vanilla and strawberry ice cream until the treasure of white chocolate was unearthed at the bottom.

Meanwhile my toffee tablet cheesecake, topped with raspberries and blackberries and served with a pot of cream was equally indulgent. “Tablet” I hear you say, it’s not medicinal but is what our Scots friends call butterscotch fudge. There were nice chunks on and in the creamy toffee cheesecake. The biscuit base was quite thin and the addition of the pot of cream was maybe too much!!

This was all washed down with a cappuccino and hot chocolate.

Well we could hardly move after all that!! The food was excellent and service was slick. We were given a nice gift bag containing a glass and bottle of Prosecco (for the wife of course!!) as well as the remains of the spaghetti and pizza (for no 2 daughter).

I shall definitely be back with the rest of the family as there are a few dishes I want to try and I love the Presto menu for £5.95 (£6.95 on Sunday) and the breakfasts and the “Go Jimmy style” of having pizza/pasta half/half, a great way to share.

I would like to kindly thank the staff and team at Tony Macaroni for the kind invite and would like to wish them all the best.