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Monday 02 January 2012

IT'S been a year of value menus and early birds, pop ups and pop offs, bloggers and blaggers.

My annual awards are a reflection of a colourful dining year for all of us. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Lucindas 2011!

The Lofty Sardine Award

The Butcher's Grill in Ranelagh, Dublin, where my feet didn't touch the ground and my ass was perched on a high stool, squashed in like a lofty sardine.

The Old Faithful Award

Tom O'Connell, who at a time of deep recession held his nerve and created the excellent O'Connell's of Donnybrook, Dublin, where his faithful followers flock.

Small is Beautiful Award

Kosi Moodley's Indian gem Bistro Spice right in the heart of Monkstown Village, Co Dublin, where you can also bring your own wine.

The Disappointing Harvest Award

Matt the Thresher in Dublin's Lower Pembroke Street. Crab claws were small and smaller, and everything else lived down to the same mantra.

The Strictly Come Dancing Award

Tadgh Foley, who manages the Green Barn Cafe Bistro at Killeagh, Co Cork, will sweep you to your table in a move that even SCD judges could not whinge about.

The Sour Note Award

Coda at the Gibson Hotel, Dublin, didn't rock on any score. Ghastly food, and already setting up for breakfast shortly after we sat down to an early dinner.

The Braveheart Award

Mel Gibson acted the part but John Healy, maitre d' on TV show The Restaurant -- whose grace and charm astounds all as he awaits a heart transplant -- lives it and life to the full.

The Western Stars

JP McManus & Drigin Gaffey, whose Cava and Aniar in Galway are two of the hottest restaurants west of the Shannon.

Downton Abbey Award

Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare, rivals the TV show for grace and beauty.

The Top Roost Award

Joe Macken's pop-ups Crackbird and Skinflint in Dublin are hitting the highest perches.

The Apprentice Award

Sandra Murphy is more master than apprentice when it comes to running Rising Tide in Cork.

Revolving Door Award

La Stampa, where Louis Murray is now tangoing with Ronan Ryan. Let's hope they stay in step.

The 'X Factor' Award

Finin's in Midleton, Cork, where Finin O'Sullivan's vibrant personality is matched only by the quality of his gastropub grub.

The Odd Bird Award

Rachel Clancy's Magpie Inn in Dalkey, Co Dublin, has been attracting the locals looking for all that glisters.

The Shining Light Award

Electric in Cork city, which turned a bank building into something useful!

The Brangelina Award

Paul Byrne and Fiona McHugh, whose Fallon & Byrne in the capital's Exchequer Street spawned a whole new dining quarter.

The Top Cat Award

Garret Byrne of Campagne in Kilkenny, whose superb food must be another All Ireland contender.

The Twitter Award

To master butcher Jack McCarthy, who would make Kanturk the Irish capital.

And finally...

Every year I have the Rear of the Year Award -- though this year it's the Fairy Tail End of 2011 as the beautiful Sally O'Brien of Farmgate in Midleton walked up the aisle yesterday.

Originally published in