Can food help keep rural pubs alive? Aidan McGrath, co-owner and chef in Ireland’s only pub with a Michelin star, certainly thinks so.
The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna was awarded a Michelin star back in October and was featured in its ‘Eating Out in Pubs Guide for 2018’. Aidan and his partner Kate Sweeney opened the pub back in 2009 and decided they wanted to produce food they would like to eat in a bar. Speaking to Fora.ie he said:
“We didn’t really know what we were going to do in terms of food,” he says. “One day we decided we didn’t want to do mediocre food. We just decided we’d do the food we’d like to eat in a bar.”
In terms of culinary expectations and the quality of ingredients on offer, Aidan believes Ireland has turned a corner and this is the area where rural publicans should be looking to help boost revenue. Aidan believes many publicans are ”missing a trick” when it comes to food. Aidan says:
“Everybody knows that the wet sales in pubs, in rural Ireland in particular, are not as good as they used to be. I think publicans need to reinvent what they’re doing. When I say they’re missing a trick, I think they should probably focus on food. It doesn’t have to be going down the route that we’ve gone, but if they do something a little bit different, it would work well for them and it would increase their revenue stream.”
The success of The Wild Honey Inn stemmed from years of culinary experience. Aidan believes there is no short cut for chefs in perfecting their skills, the effort you put in will therefore be reflected in the quality of food you are serving. He says:
“A lot of chaps come out of college and expect to become famous. You need to spend 10 years in good kitchens to become a rounded chef. It’s a slow-burn thing. You get out of it what you put into it, I suppose. The more effort and the more time you put it, the better it’s going to be. It’s like a stew.”
Aidan says the Michelin star was “historic” and there has been a “huge lift” in trade since the announcement was made last October.
“You can’t become complacent and rest on your laurels and ease off. You’ve got to keep focused and keep doing what you’re doing to a high level.”
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