F&W Farm & Sea to Fork Award winner 2018, Ballymaloe House

F&W Farm & Sea to Fork Award winner 2018, Ballymaloe House

Our Farm & Sea to Fork award recognises those restaurants and chefs whose connection with the land and sea goes above and beyond, and this year’s winner is one of Ireland’s longest champions of the movement.

Ballymaloe House in Midleton, Co. Cork, has shown a consistent dedication to using organic and seasonal produce in the last half century since it was opened by the late Myrtle Allen, with farm-to-table cooking its centrepiece.

Located on a 300-acre farm set deep within the lush east Cork countryside, Ballymaloe House truly is the home of Irish Country Cooking.

Although times have changed in Ballymaloe, the Allen family continue Myrtle’s legacy with their cookery school and restaurant, with menus written daily around the seasonal vegetables grown on the farm just as Mrs Allen always did.

Herbs, edible flowers, soft fruits and apples come from their walled garden as well as onions, potatoes, kale, cabbage and salad leaves and many other vegetable, and the kitchen makes use of rhubarb plants which come originally from the walled garden of Mrs Allen’s childhood home in Cork.

Speaking to F&W about the win, Fern Allen says:

“We are delighted to win this award as we proudly continue and expand on Myrtle Allen’s philosophy of using the freshest and most local of ingredients. Our vegetables grown in our gardens are delivered to our kitchen door with the earth still on them, then scrubbed by hand and cooked with care.

“Our fish comes from Ballycotton daily and our meat from animals that graze on the lush east Cork grass. We thank you so much for recognising the importance of this ethos. “

Ballymaloe House is an experience in all that is wonderful about food - it teaches diners about where their food comes from, and shows producers where their ingredients go. Coffee served in the guesthouse and dining room is hand-roasted by The Golden Bean, a small roastery in one of the estate farm buildings and when possible honey comes from their own bee hives.

Ballymaloe cheese tray

Ballymaloe cheese tray

A cheese trolley after dinner features some of the finest cows, goats and sheeps cheese made in Ireland, while buffet dinners at weekends are served by members of the Allen family who continue to pour their passion for Irish produce into Ballymaloe.

Long before the concept of farm and sea to fork became “on trend” and embraced by so many chefs and restaurants in Ireland, this humble country house in Cork was elevating Irish food through local ingredients.

Even today, it is clear that the first champion of the movement remains undoubtedly the best.