World is Kilkeel firm’s oyster in Top 50 Foods

Fresh oysters from the pristine waters of Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland have been listed among the Top 50 Foods by the UK Guild of Fine Food.

Oysters from Rooney Fish in Kilkeel, county Down are among five foods from Northern Ireland in the Top 50, part of the annual Great Taste Awards.

The others include three from Hannan Meats in Moira, county Antrim and smoked butter from Abernethy Butter, Dromara, county Down.

Hannan Meats, Supreme Champion in the Great Taste Awards in 2012 for guanciale, was listed in this year’s Top 50 for Glenarm shorthorn four-rib roast, sugar-pit beef brisket and Glenarm shorthorn wing-rib sirloin.

While Hannan Meats and Abernethy Butter have won Great Taste awards in the past, Rooney Fish is a first time winner.

In fact, the family-owned and managed seafood business only entered the awards for the first time this year.

It only started growing its own oysters in 2013, setting up an oyster farm at Mill Bay on Carlingford.

Great Taste, the world’s most coveted blind-tasted food awards, celebrates the very best in food and drink.

Out of 10,000 products to be judged, Rooney Fish was awarded a three-star Great Taste award.

The expert judges described the oysters as having a ‘nice meaty flavour - sweet tasting and lovely with a sea fresh smell and flavour, lovely creamy colour, enticing and bright, clean aroma, wonderful texture, especially for the size of oyster, smooth and melting with a brilliant flavour of fish and sea.

The judges continued: “Very fresh, lovely burst of salt and a sweetness to the end - very clever layers of flavour.

“A good roundness to the oyster which is so visually appealing, beautiful sweetness and lovely ozone flavour.”

Rooney Fish exports the oysters to France for foodservice operations including high-end restaurants in Paris.

The small company is also Northern Ireland’s biggest exporter of fish and shellfish including crab claws to international markets especially Asia including China, Japan and South Korea.

The oysters are now in the running for the Supreme Champion title.

This will be announced at a gala dinner in London on September 5.

Northern Ireland has twice won the supreme title – Hannan Meats in 2012 and McCartney’s Butchers, also from Moira, the previous year.