South Tipperary restaurant in line for three top national awards

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

A Clogheen restaurant is in the running for regional and all-Ireland titles in the Irish Restaurant Awards in Dublin tonight (Wednesday, May 25).

The Old Convent, run by husband and wife team Dermot and Christine Gannon, is in line to receive awards in the hotly contested Best Restaurant, Best Chef and Best Customer Service competitions in the top food industry awards after scooping the Co. Tipperary titles in these three categories.

The award winning restaurants will be announced at a ceremony attended by 700 guests at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.

The Old Convent isn’t the only South Tipperary restaurant to reach the all-Ireland final stage of the Irish Restaurant Awards. Cafe Hans in Cashel is also shortlisted for a regional and all-Ireland award for Best Casual Dining competition after also winning the Co. Tipperary title in this category.

Christine Gannon said to win three awards in the Munster heats of the competition is a real boost to the whole team at the Old Convent, which comprises two full time and six part-time staff along with Christine and Dermot.

“We are delighted to win the three county awards. It’s just such a great boost for the staff, especially the customer service one. It’s really wonderful to be acknowledged in that way,” said Christine.

The Old Convent is up and running five years. Dermot is the chef and Christine is the front of house manager for the restaurant and B&B. Dermot, who is shortlisted for the regional and national Best Chef gong at the Irish Restaurants Awards is originally from Connemara.

He and Christine, who is American, had a restaurant in Clifden for five years before moving to Co. Tipperary to set up the “Gannon’s Above The Bell restaurant in Cahir, which they ran above the Bell Pub for three years before taking the plunge to set up the Old Convent Restaurant and B&B/

“We bought the former convent almost six years ago and did some redecoration and opened up in July 2006,” recalled Christine. “We decided from the beginning just to do a set eight course dinner, which was a bit of a gamble but it has really come on well and put the Old Convent on the map. It’s a bit different. Our focus is on using local ingredients from artisan food producers.

“For the B&B breakfast, we have apples, juice and berries from Tras’ Farm near Cahir, meat from the Crowe Brothers in Dundrum and the local Baylough, Cashel and Crozier Blue cheeses. We have a lot of lovely plot farmers, who we get food from locally and over the mountains we use ice-cream from Baldwin’s Dairy Farm in Co. Waterford. We buy our meats from Jack McCarthy’s Butchers in Kanturk, Pat Whelan’s in Clonmel and the Good Herdsmen Organic Meat Factory in Cahir.

The Old Convent has already won several national awards and glowing reviews from food critics. Last year, it won Georgina Campbell’s Hideaway of the Year award.

Christine says the awards have helped the restaurant and B&B attract customers from all over the country .

The Irish Restaurant Awards is the biggest restaurant industry competition in the country.

Brian Fallon, President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which runs the awards, said the number of entries has doubled this year with 6,000 nominations made for Ireland’s favourite restaurants, chefs, gastro pubs, hotel restaurants and local food heroes throughout the country.

Nominations for the awards are made by readers of the Sunday Independent LIFE Magazine and members of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

The awards process runs from the beginning of February when nominations are made. Nominated restaurants, food producers, chef and cookery schools then face rigorous scrutiny from the consumer, regional judges, a mystery guest visitor and finally the National Awards Academy of judges.