Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The year that was 2015

It's time for a little recap on the year that was 2015. For me personally, it was a better year than 2014 which had left me exhausted and bruised. I took charge of myself in 2015 and made sure that I had a higher quality of life. It's such a simple lesson, but one that we are bad at remembering. We have to make time for happiness in our lives, which in turns helps us balance the stresses of life. 

Anyway, 2015 was the year that luxury dining returned to Dublin. At the start of the year, I dined in John Farrell's SMS Pop-Down, but by the end of the year, the space had been transformed into the super-luxe, red-velveted Luna. While this restaurant is charmingly named after John's young daughter, it's not a restaurant for kids, with whopping great steaks, fine wines and gins and a New York dining club vibe. 

2015 also saw rising restaurant prices in Dublin, indicating a gradual return to the boom times. This was probably mainly stimulated by rising rent costs, but the question has to be asked if some of the price increases can be attributed to good old-fashioned desire to make more money? I re-wrote my guide to the Top 10 set menus and Early Birds in Dublin, and I was struck by the decrease in availability and value for diners. 

Finally, I think 2015 was the year that pop ate itself for restaurants in Dublin. Gluttonous, belt-stretching brunches were everywhere and expensive (even over-priced) cocktails appeared in any self-respecting trendy restaurant. It's time for a return to simpler dining. 

I ventured to Belfast at the start and end of 2015, topping and tailing the year with two excellent meals in Ox and Deane's EIPIC respectively,  both of which earned Michelin stars this year. The cocktail scene is also booming in Belfast, where I particularly enjoyed the 5 star luxury of the cocktail bar of the Merchant Hotel and the speakeasy New York vibe in APOC.  I think Dublin could benefit from a truly luxurious and professional cocktail service in one of the 5 star hotels. Who will step up to the mark?

Speaking of cocktails, Irish bartenders performed highly on the world stage in 2015. Karim Medhi from Saba reached the semi-finals of the Bacardi Legacy World Championships while Anna Walsh from MVP competed at the Diageo World Class competition and claimed Best Bartender in the Irish Craft Cocktail Awards. It was sad to see the temporary closure of Upstairs @ Kinara Kitchen following their Best Restaurant Cocktail Bar win, but things are looking good for a re-opening early in 2016.

No-shows continued to haunt restaurants, particularly smaller venues. It was truly saddening at times to read about restaurants being 50% empty due to no-shows on confirmed reservations. This kind of shitehawk behaviour puts jobs and businesses at risk. Some smaller venues will lose relative fortunes because they simply trusted a customer to show when they said they would.

As this is a summary of 2015, I suppose I should hand out some awards! I'll keep the list short. My best fine dining was undoubtedly Amuse on Dublin's Dawson Street. This small venue produces exquisite Asian-French food and is just sublime. 777 continues to be my choice for best casual dining in Dublin. On the drinks front, it's a draw between Upstairs@Kinara Kitchen and MVP for my favourite cocktails. 

This year, I decided to fulfil a long held wish and I enrolled for the WSET Level 2 qualification in wines & spirits with Premier Wine Training. I was delighted when the results envelope arrived informing me that I had passed with distinction. I think this is the start of something special and I've started to add more wine reviews to the blog.

A huge smile was put on my face when I was invited to judge the Pitmaster Competition at the Big Grill BBQ Festival in Herbert Park. Off the back of this event, we've purchased a column smoker for our back yard and are getting acquainted with the finer arts of low and slow BBQ. 

My views on blogging and the blogging community have continued to evolve over the last year. I've been blogging for over 7 years now, and I've seen a lot of change. The strong Irish food blogger community that was fostered several years ago has somewhat faded, and it's been replaced by the rise of the lifestyle blogger. Either way, I've continued to post in my own style, writing the reviews that I want to write and crafting a blog in my own voice. Even so, I was disappointed not to make the Food & Drink shortlist at the Irish Blog Awards in 2015 and my requests for feedback went unanswered. 

Finally, 2015 was the year that I adopted Instagram (follow me here). Interestingly, Instagram has taken partially taken over from blogging, allowing me the freedom to quickly share images with my followers. While I think Snapchat might be a step too far for me, Instagram just works. 


1 comment

Aodhnait said...

I have to agree with you about Amuse - what an amazing dining experience!

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