Want to take a break where good food is guaranteed? Ciara McDonnell has her rundown of some of the best dining destinations Ireland has to offer.
Wild Honey Inn
This October, the Wild Honey Inn</a> in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, became the first pub in Ireland to be awarded the Michelin Star, and chef patron Aidan McGrath and partner Kate Sweeney are fast becoming jewels of the country’s foodie scene.
Expect seemingly simple dishes like tartiflette with organic goats cheese, onion fondue and smoked bacon to rock your world, but don’t get set on one dish — the menu changes regularly with the seasons and according to what local produce is at its best.
This is very much an adults-only expedition; they do not accommodate children under 12 and do not offer a children’s menu.
Rooms: The Wild Honey Inn has rooms above the pub that are calm and serene and the perfect place to lay your head after a night of feasting.
Insider tip: The restaurant is closed until the first week of March, so book now to avoid disappointment.
The original dining destination here in Ireland, Neven Maguire’s spot at Blacklion remains a pilgrimage for dedicated foodies.
Expect to be minded to within an inch of your life by Neven’s brigade of super-nice staff, who will mix you a pre-dinner drink to die for before guiding you through a tasting menu that will leave you just sated enough.
The man himself is very likely to make an appearance at your table at some point during the meal and (spoiler alert) he is just as nice as he seems on television.
Do not forget about breakfast, because at MacNean House , the morning meal is as important as the evening one, and you will not want to miss out.
Rooms: The rooms above Maguire’s restaurant are cosy and traditional with complimentary cookies and Madeleine’s should you find yourself peckish in the dead of the night.
Insider tip: You need to book this break almost a year in advance, so take note of upcoming occasions and think ahead.
The Old Convent
Set right in the heart of walking country, The Old Convent in Clogheen, Co Tipperary, is the best spot from which to base a break, which involves hiking followed by incredible food.
Husband and wife team Dermot and Christine Gannon have sympathetically restored the former convent and what remains is luxurious and ultra calming.
Head chef Dermot has devised two dining options at the convent, an eight-course tasting menu that caters to both vegetarian and carnivores and for the more relaxed diners, a bento-box style meal served in the drawing room.
Rooms: Beds are super comfy, and all rooms are different, but equally gorgeous. There is a resident’s lounge with a crackling fire, freshly baked cookies and lots of magazines.
Insider tip: There are no televisions at The Old Convent, so do not expect to catch up on your television programmes — use this trip as an opportunity to unplug from the world.
Paul Flynn’s restaurant and townhouse in Waterford remains at the top of all foodie bucket lists, and for good reason.
Not only do you get killer food, served with a modern spin, but also you are guaranteed a good time in this buzzy restaurant that prides itself as much on its personality as its food.
This is not to say that the food is not this restaurant’s big appeal — The Tannery is where the likes of top chef Angela Hartnett head to when they want a feed in Ireland.
Relax and be assured that you’ll be looked after by Flynn and his wife Maire who are quite literally the hosts with the most when it comes to destination dining.
Rooms: The Tannery Townhouse has 14 bedrooms, all of which are cosy, well appointed and airy. The townhouse is directly across the road from the restaurant, meaning an opportunity for a micro stretch of the legs before a mammoth breakfast the morning after your meal.
Insider Tip: The Tannery website runs regular accommodation and dining specials, so keep an eye out and book when the time is right.
Not a castle exactly, Gregans Castle in Co Clare has cultivated a serious following, thanks to its restaurant and head chef David Hurley.
Make straight for the Dining Room restaurant where fine dining is the name of the game.
Expect artful plating and culinary mastery here, all with a focus on local produce.
The wine list is exceptional, and they have a superb range of organic and biodynamic wines, which are becoming more and more in demand.
Rooms: The 21 rooms at Gregans are super swish – think heavy draping and luxury throws. The rooms do not have televisions, but they do thoughtfully leave magazines and newspapers in each room.
Insider tip: If you find it impossible to leave your dog or cat behind while you take a mini break, never fear — Gregans welcome your pets, and suggest you book a ground floor room to share with your four-legged friend.
A Cork institution which features one of the only chefs in the country who can make a vegetarian out of a carnivore, Denis Cotter’s Café Paradiso is one of our most sought-after dining destinations.
Dishes are executed with a delicacy and reverence to their ingredients that you might assume this vegetarian restaurant is stuffy, but far from it.
The extremely welcoming staff, who are delighted to walk all diners through the menu, offer titbits about where the ingredients came from, and suggesting wines to go with each course.
Rooms: There are two bedrooms above Café Paradiso, offering comfy touches like sofas, a cd player, board games and crucially, fresh coffee.
Insider tip: When booking, you will be asked if you want to include breakfast in your stay; do — it is a glorious spread of pastries, farmhouse cheese and granola. Delicious.
Lady Helen @ Mount Juliet
Award-winning Lady Helen is just as fancy as her name suggests.
The food here, under executive chef Ken Harker, is exactly what you would expect from a restaurant at the peak of its fine dining game.
Having retained its Michelin star this year, and as one of only a handful of Irish restaurants to have been awarded two AA rosettes, the menu at the restaurant is extremely on trend, pushing the boundaries of tastes and preparations.
Harker champions local ingredients, with rabbit and rosé veal making an appearance in season.
Rooms: The rooms at Mount Juliet are stunning and with the recent addition of Hunters Lodge, there is even more variety to choose from. No matter where you stay, you will sleep like royalty in these lush surroundings.
Insider tip: If you want to go fully-fledged foodie, book the surprise nine-course tasting menu, for €99 per person.
House Restaurant @ Cliff House
There is something surreal about dining over the rolling waves at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore.
Even though the views from the House Restaurant restaurant are undeniable, the food is the shining light here. Chef Martijn Kajuiter’s award-winning interpretation of modern Irish cooking shines not only because of his restraint when it comes to cooking, but also in the freshest ingredients, sourced as locally as possible.
The tasting menu is a culinary trip that every foodie should embark on.
Rooms: There are three room kinds to choose from at the Cliff House Hotel, and all are super luxe with majestic sea views.
Insider Tip: House boasts a private dining area should you so desire, and the private dining room features a fire and dramatic, 20ft-long oak table.
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