Millbay oysters are Ireland’s best food

John Rooney, managing director Rooney Fish with wife Rosemary
John Rooney, managing director Rooney Fish with wife Rosemary

Rooney Fish in Kilkeel has become the first Northern Ireland winner of the Supreme Champion title in the Blas na hEireann, the Irish National Food Awards.

The family-owned and managed fish and shellfish won the prestigious total for its Millbay Oysters from its own oyster farm in Carlingford Lough.

The oysters were judged the best by a panel of food and drink experts from among 3,000 food and drink products from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland entered in the annual awards. It was the first time that the supreme title has been won by a Northern Ireland food processor in the event’s 11 years.

Rooney Fish, in addition, won the Shane McArdle Best in Ulster Award and the gold award in the shellfish category.

All three awards were received by John Rooney, managing director and founder of Rooney Fish, the business he established in 1975 and currently exports virtually in output especially of shellfish to customers in Europe, China, Japan and South Korea.

Mr Rooney, commenting on the Blas na hEireann supreme title, said: “We are thrilled to have received such a marvellous endorsement of our Millbay Oysters in such a respected annual event.

“We are currently marketing our award winning oysters to Europe and further afield. These prestigious awards will be tremendously beneficial as we seek to grow this important part of our business.”

Millbay Osters were among dozens of awards won by Northern Ireland food and drink products to win awards at Blas na hEireann in what was the best ever performance from local companies.

The awards included a record 19 gold won by Northern Ireland. The gold winners were:

Armagh Cider Company, Craigavon for Orchard Twist apple and cranberry drink

Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Limavady for hickory smoked oil

Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, Bangor for Greek style natural yoghurt

Corndale Farm Free Range Charcuterie, Limavady, for Sika venison salami

Deli Muru, Belfast for fig chutney

Duvillaun Sea Salt, Waringstown for Atlantic sea salt

East Coast Seafood, Ballyhornan for smoked salmon

Glastry Farm Ice Cream, Kircubbin for Lemon meringue ice cream

Hannan Meats, Moira for Himalayan salt aged fillet and for salt aged ribeye

Glenballyeamon Eggs, Ballycastle

Holmes Bakery, Portadown for Irish flakemeal biscuits

Ke Nako Biltong, Ballyclare for natural biltong

Linden Foods, Moira for Deluxe Hereford fillet steak

Mash Direct, Comber for potato croquettes

McErlain’s Bakery, Magherafelt for SuperValu and Centra tea brack

MacIvor’s Cider, Craigavon for medium/dry cider

Refuge Hot Chocolate, Belfast for hot chocolate

Rooney Fish, Kilkeel for Millbay Oysters

Suki Tea, Belfast for fairtrade Belfast brew loose leaf tea

Two Northern Ireland companies were also listed in the Chef’s Larder Award – En- Place Food, Cookstown for black garlic miso and Irish Black Butter, Portrush for Irish Black Butter.

Refuge Chocolate in Belfast, a recent start-up business, gained two awards – Best New Product and Best Artisan Product for hot chocolate.