Top judges from the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) arrived in the Orchard County this week, undertaking an intensive tour and inspection of Armagh’s thriving food, drink and hospitality sector in the Food Heartland.
Armagh, the centre of Northern Ireland’s official Food Heartland, has already been nominated by the 2,500-member restaurant body as one of only 10 top Foodie Destinations on the island and it is now vying to take the number one spot.
Sponsored by FBD Insurance, the ‘Foodie Destination’ initiative aims to encourage food tourism initiatives across the island and Armagh’s first-time Top 10 ranking is a major coup for the city and the wider Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area which has become known as the Food Heartland.
The top 10 shortlisted destinations are widely recognised as those that actively promote themselves through joint promotional activities such as food festivals, gourmet trails or farmers’ markets as well as great dining experiences.
A combination of the judges’ assessments and the results of an online public vote will determine the overall winner.
“This borough has so much to offer when it comes to world-class local food and drink products, access to learning about them, events to celebrate them and chefs who know how to do them justice,” Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Julie Flaherty said.
“I would urge local people to vote for the Food Heartland to ensure that our borough gets its deserved place on the all-island foodie map! If our destination wins, it will ultimately attract tourists and visitors to the area to strengthen the local economy, which is great for everyone in the borough.”
Proud citizens of the city, region and the wider borough, family, friends and visitors are encouraged to cast their vote to support the Food Heartland’s chances of winning at www.foodiedestinations.ie/city/armagh/.
Voting closes on Tuesday 21st August and the winner will be announced shortly after that.
Michele Shirlow, chief executive of Food NI, said: “Armagh’s annual Food & Cider Festival, which takes place in September, is a perfect example of a movement led from the front by the leading chefs of the area and its many artisan food producers in a unique private and public-sector project. The festival is a huge event spread over four days, covering several locations.
“With award-winning restaurants, gastro pubs and cafés and some of the finest artisan producers in Ireland, two of Northern Ireland’s three PGIs (Product of Geographical Indicators) in Armagh Bramley apples and Lough Neagh eels, one PGO (Product of Geographical Origin) – Lough Neagh pollan, and a world class cider cluster, it’s no exaggeration to describe the Food Heartland as the beating heart of Northern Ireland’s burgeoning food scene.”
Next month, the winners of this year’s Food Heartland Awards will be announced at a major ceremony at The Palace, Armagh, recognising the stellar achievements of the growing number of businesses in the area’s thriving and diverse agri-food and hospitality sector.