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Co Down is pub grub hub of Ireland according to guide

The Plough Inn remains on the list

KILLINCHY'S Balloo House has displaced troubled former `Inspector’s Favourite' Grace Neill's in this years's Michelin Guide to ensure that Co Down remains the pub grub hub of Ireland.

Until this year Grace Neill's in Donaghadee has been a fixture on the list which is popular with travellers keen to explore the best hospitality on offer during their stay.

Once again the Mourne county has bagged the lion's share of entries in the just published 2016 Michelin Eating Out In Pubs Guide - six out of seven in the north.

The winners are selected, first and foremost, for the quality of their food.

In overall terms, Down leads the way with six listings followed by Cork with five, Clare with four and Kildare with three. Dublin, Galway and Mayo each received two listings with Antrim, Kerry, Leitrim, Louth, Sligo, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow each having one listing.

Making a coveted spot in the guide is a boost to businesses.

For several years Co Down has been wowing reviewers, and 2015 has been no different, with Billy Andy's at Mounthill, near Larne in Co Antrim the only other part of the north recommended to beer lovers.

Balloo House has made the list alongside the perennially popular Pheasant in Annahilt, Poacher's Pocket in Comber, Pier 36 in Donaghadee and Parson's Nose and The Plough Inn seeing reviewers recommending a return visit to Hillsborough.

Another fixture, Grace Neill's has dropped off the list after a difficult year which saw the famous tavern, which has served beer and spirits to smugglers, pirates and sailors for more than 400 years close in April over a "licensing issue".

It has since reopened after pub and restaurant owner Paul O'Kane taking over its lease with a view to buying the 17th century public house in two years.

He and wife/business parter Mandy also run the Stables and the Groomsport Inn in the neighbouring seaside town.

Meanwhile, of the 25 pubs in the Republic, two are new listings - Old Spot in Ballsbridge, Dublin and Harte's in Kildare.

This year's guide recommends 590 pubs spread across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland of which 60 are new entries.

Guide editor Rebecca Burr,who also edits the famed Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland, said the pub industry "should be congratulated for moving with the times".

"More and more pubs are serving flexible all-day menus - incorporating breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea," she said.

* The Michelin `Eating Out In Pubs' Guide 2016 is now available in bookshops and online priced at £14.99.

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