The G8 goes gourmet. In Fermanagh

There are a lot of factors in selecting a location for a G8 summit. This time, as Kevin Donnellan finds out, it looks like Cameron and Co have followed their stomachs. To Fermanagh

Lough Erne Resort's tasty take on a mixed grill
Lough Erne Resort's tasty take on a mixed grill

On June 17th and 18th, the eyes of the world will come to rest on the county of Fermanagh as the G8 leaders visits an area of Ireland used to less high-profile tourists. While most headlines around the G8 summit in County Fermanagh will be concerned with politics, you might also find a few foodie Fermanagh features forcing their way into the papers.

Why? Because when the leaders of the world assemble on Fermanagh, they won’t just find a waterworld – they’ll find a culinary capital.

The thriving fishing stock in Lough Erne, an entire island devoted to the nourishment of Fermanagh’s ‘Black Bacon’ herds and a longtanding relationship with the land are some clues that Fermangh’s folk know good food. It’s in their bones.

So, when Barack Obama, David Cameron et al sit down for dinner after a tense session of negotiating, what can they expect?

The Chef’s perspective

Noel McMeel is head chef at the Lough Erne Resort where 2013’s G8 Summit will take place. In his mind, this is an opportunity for Irish food to take its deserved place on the centre stage.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase what we do; our hospitality, our food, our culture,” he says.

McMeel has worked with world-class chefs like Jean-Louis Palladin, Jean Pierre Moule and Alice Waters. And he has seen a huge shift in perceptions and expectations towards Irish food in recent years.

“Irish food can stand on its own. It’s not just Irish stew anymore, not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with Irish stew,” he laughs. “We’ve got beautiful lamb, great beef, great vegetables,” he continues. “We’ve got great local producers, and everything they do is for the love of food.”

Small is good

The sea change in the approach to Irish cuisine has been particularly noticeable in County Fermanagh, where local, small-scale producers thrive. McNeel again:

"Fermanagh itself is very self-sufficient,” McMeel explains. “Vegetables, Irish beef, black back bacon, chicken, lamb…So much great food comes into my kitchen from within the county.”

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Great Fermanagh food: some suggestions

Lough Erne Resort, Beleek

Worth a visit even when President Obama isn’t staying, perhaps? This place showcases all that Fermanagh – and Ireland – has to offer in terms of food.

Watermill, Kilmore Quay Club, Lakelands

A multiple award-winning restaurant offering, amongst many other culinary delights, a signature duo of salmon and lough perch.

Fiddlesticks, Belcoo

Overlooking Lough MacNeen, this small restaurant brings together some of the best Irish-sourced ingredients, including; Irish cheese fritters, Fermanagh sirloin and Killybegs mussels.

Cedars Guesthouse and Bistro, Irvinestown

A former rectory with a welcoming fire serving as a perfect backdrop to enjoy a dish of roast fillet of hake, creamed cabbage and champ potato.

Thatch Coffee Shop, Beleek

A listed building, this is the last remaining original thatched building in the whole of Fermanagh! A great spot for homemade scones and smoked Irish salmon.

Angela Merkel beginning her day with some slices of Fermanagh Black Bacon; Barack Obama’s eyes lighting up at the sight of his local rack of lamb, or Francois Hollande trying his first ever potato farl: when Fermanagh feeds the leaders, the world will be watching. Will you be coming for dinner?

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