FOR a body with a big belly and an even bigger appetite, there are few finer places to be in the world than Ireland in early summer, as tables groan under the weight of splendid native produce. Irish food is the one consistently good news story of the last few, economically-troubled years, and its international reputation continues to grow.&
As Irish chefs and cooks become more accomplished, the possibility of a distinctly Irish, new cuisine becomes more apparent. Dublin’s restaurant-based economy far outstrips the rest of the country, but in Galway every gourmand is slavering at the prospect of former Michelin-starred, Aniar chef, Enda McEvoy’s new restaurant, Loam, just off Eyre Square and due to open in August.
For economic reasons, restaurateurs in Cork have had to play a cagey game, but chef Kevin Aherne’s Midleton-based, Sage Restaurant continues to intrigue and excite. The country hardly needs another set of ‘food awards’, so let’s dub these the Irish Examiner summer food special ‘Accolades’, a celebration of the simplest street stall to the finest of fine dining.
This is not a ‘best of’ list; it is a random grab-bag of establishments that caught the eye (and the belly!).
The standard of cooking in Irish restaurants is rising, despite obstacles, many of them placed there by obtuse officialdom unable to grasp the importance of a vibrant restaurant sector to tourism.
Despite labour shortages in a time of high unemployment, despite the obstructionism of over-zealous health officials, and despite operating in one of the most heavily taxed hospitality environments in Europe, at the upper end we continue to produce food of a world-class standard using magnificent Irish produce.
, 8 The Courtyard, Main St, Midleton, Co Cork
, Henry St, Kenmare, Co Kerry
, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
, Dawson St (off St Stephen’s Green), Dublin 2
, 17, Cook St, Cork
, 19, Parnell Square, Dublin 1
, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
On my last trip to Paris, the best cup of coffee I enjoyed was in the Cork Airport departure lounge. It was better than that offered in too many places in the French gourmet capital. Irish roasters and baristas are easily matching Continental counterparts. We are not hidebound by tradition and, so, are open to experimentation.
19, George’s Quay, Cork
Bridge St, Cork
30, Mallow Street, Limerick, twitter.com/canteen
32/34, Lower Grand Canal St, D2, and Twisted Pepper Building, 54 Middle Abbey St, D1
Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, 353 15298732; thefumbally.ie
3, Denny St, Tralee, Co Kerry
The ease with which your average Gael reverts to the sandwich can display a lack of imagination, but when it is done right, using proper, handmade Irish bread, real Irish butter (dairy ‘spreads’ an instant disqualifier) and good, fresh local and seasonal fillings, ! you can see why it remains the national snack.
English Market, Grand Parade, Cork
2, Washington St, Cork
Emmet Place, Cork
11, Wellington Quay, Dublin
25, Market Arcade, Georges St, D2
49, Roche’s St, Limerick
The burger has hitched its star to the Irish food revolution, in a country that produces possibly the finest beef in the world. And with received wisdom about the role saturated animal fats play in heart health being radically revised, ensure there is a decent fat content (anything up to 20%) in with excellent minced Irish beef (or lamb, pork and even goat).
English Market, Grand Parade, Cork
32, Washington St, Cork
8, Bridge Street, Cork
86, O’Connell St, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford
24, Dame St, D2
36, Wexford Street, Dublin 2
One of the most controversial categories last time out (devotees of the fish-and-chip supper were outraged at the omission of their local chipper), but, remember, the list below is a personal selection.
Cross St, Galway & The Square, Gort, Co Galway
Bandon Rd, Cork city
MacCurtain St, Cork
Ballinlough Rd, Cork
2, Werbergh St, Christchurch, D8 (see www.leoburdock.com for other Dublin locations)
Kinsale, Crowley’s Quay, Co Cork
Street food is one of the fastest- growing food movements in the first world, but Irish municipal authorities are struggling with the concept, making it awkward for quality vendors to practice their trade, and compounding the sin by randomly sanctioning occasional and ill-thought-out gatherings for the quick buck.
But Marcus Hodder’s ice cream is amongst the finest in the country, and while Golden Bean retail from the wonderful Filter coffee shop in Cork, the coffee served from their stall is superb. And few dining experiences can surpass eating a fried mackerel a bare 20 minutes after it has left the Atlantic, alongside the Dursey Deli, a little seasonal chip trailer parked up next to the Dursey Island cable car.
Ice Cream — www.facebook.com/yumgelato
Pulled Pork Sandwich — www.woodsidefarm.ie
Salads — www.facebook/therocketmancork
Coffee — www.facebook.com/thegoldenbeancork
Indian food — www.greensaffron.com
Dursey Sound, Beara Peninsula, Co Cork 086-79 9270
Our consumption of alcohol hasn’t declined, but how we consume it has — the glory days of the Irish pub, where large crowds gathered to do nothing other than drink large volumes of alcohol, appear to be over for all but the youngest drinkers. Gastropubs, which treat food and beverages with equal respect, are bucking the trend. Better still, many of them sell genuine Irish craft beer, not industrially-brewed output.
Lower Bridge St, Killorglin, Co Kerry
Castletownshend, Skibbereen, Co Cork
10, William St. West, Galway’s West End, Ireland.
Cloghroe, Blarney, Co Cork
Grocer, 18, Stoneybatter, D7
89, Sunday’s Well Road, Cork
The nostalgic revival of afternoon tea continues and while some may dismiss it as best left to maiden aunts with a passion for crust-less sandwiches in salubrious surroundings, a splendid scone, fresh cream and a fine local jam will have even Stephen Seagal simpering, especially if washed down with Barry’s Tea.
8, College St, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork
Kinsale, Co Cork
Caroline St, Cork
62, Pleasant’s Place, D8
Tea and Garden Rooms, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Casual dining is putting the wind up the old-school Michelin brigade. It offers good food in a casual, laidback setting with none of the silver service, starched, stiff napkins and stiffer service. It is driven by a new breed of younger, cash-rich diner, unencumbered by mortgages or children, who know their food but want to remain in their own comfort zone, which is why some establishments smack of the pub, even club.
South Mall, Cork
, Pembroke St, Cork
Fade St, Dublin 2
Unit 4/5, Shannon Street, Limerick
Bram Stoker Hotel, 225 Clontarf Road, Dublin 3
, 66, Lower O’Connell St, Kinsale, Co Cork
It takes a large urban population to support late-night dining and that is why Dublin remains ahead, particularly when it comes to dining in situ and not at the bus stop on the way home.
Paradise Place, North Main St & Pembroke St, Cork
Pembroke St, Cork
Parnell Place, Cork
22, Wexford Street, D2
28, South Anne St, Dublin
18, South Great George’s St, D2
Again, Dublin has large enough populations to support ethnic restaurants, so lucky natives get to avail of the real thing, but the rest of the country is beginning to catch up.!
38, Pope's Quay, Cork
Anglesea St, Cork
Douglas West, Cork
O’ Connell Street, Limerick, Ireland
31, South Richmond Street, Portobello, D2
Cathedral St, D1
Cosy comfort can be as effective as high glamour, looking out to the sea from the down-home Deasy’s every bit as magical as gracing the Ballymaloe dining room by candlelight. You want a romantic setting to trigger a little offhand swooning, but a bit of life is just as necessary, to fill potentially awkward silences and divert attention, if necessary. The food must be good, but not fussy enough to distract from the main dish sitting across the table. The clincher, though, is when such a venue can instantly dissolve into the background, leaving you and your paramour alone to do plenty of staring into pools of limpid moonlight.
Ring Village, Co Cork
Shanagarry, Co Cork
Mallow, Co Cork
2, George’s Street, Waterford
Trinity St, D2
It takes more than overpriced, deep-fried lumps of processed chicken, and half-eaten crayons to pass the time, to be considered a child-friendly restaurant. So many establishments treat children as second-class citizens. The best child-friendly restaurants provide them with a decent child-friendly menu and do not immediately press the SWAT team panic button if an infant should cry, apparently a regular occurrence with your smaller class of human.
2-5, Winthrop Lane, Cork
Emmet Place, Cork
40A, Cornmarket St, Cork
5, University Court, Castletroy, Limerick
9-11, Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
3, Vernon Ave, Clontarf, D3
The gastro-pub is becoming the de facto venue when Irish people wish to eat, drink and make merry, but there is still something to be said for the restaurant with that little extra bit of glamour and sparkle, a place where you can enjoy decent food at decent prices and no one will bat too many eyelids if your rousing version of ‘Happy Birthday’ turns into a full blown impromptu conga. Providing you sit down again, of course.
Cornmarket St, Cork
77, Grand Parade, Cork
Long Walk, Spanish Arch, Galway
48, MacCurtain St, Cork
1 Coppinger Row, off South William St, D2
12, Richmond St, South Rathmines, D2
47, Ranelagh, D6.