The Emerald Isle: A foody’s guide
What comes to mind when you think of Irish cuisine? Bread, butter, beef and beer: all the brown stuff, right? But the Irish, like many other European nations, have spent years adopting and adapting the culinary talents of others, often adding their own little spin.
The eight restaurants listed below, prices ranging from a special occasion’s budget through to just the slightest tug on the purse strings, are all making active efforts to cook seasonal, fresh and local food, redefining the identity of Irish cuisine.
The Merry Ploughboy, Dublin
Having played traditional Irish music together since 1989, this is the first (and only) music venue in Ireland to be owned and run by the musicians themselves. They’ve been handed the award for “Best Traditional Dinner/Entertainment in Ireland” for a third consecutive year and The Merry Ploughboy have consistently provided authenticity to the heart of Dublin for quite some time, through both food and culture. Considering it’s only a 30-minute drive from both Dublin Port and Airport, It is undoubtedly a must for any trip to Ireland, let alone the city.
If you’re interested in a tip from the menu try the slow braised shank of Slaney Valley lamb.
Fishy Fishy, Kinsale
Whether a visitor to Kinsale or a local, Martin and Marie Shanahan welcome all diners with open arms. This husband and wife team take pride in having built a personal relationship with the person who supplies their seafood each morning, ensuring that only the freshest of catches end up on their menu. For some fantastic signature dishes from Martin, one of the country’s leading seafood chefs it’s certainly worth visiting this southern region of the country.
Fish obviously takes the lead on the menu, try the Fishy Fish pie for a classic, hearty meal.
Ard Bia, Galway
One of Galway’s most iconic restaurant spaces and enduring restaurant operations, Ard Bia places a tremendous emphasis upon its aesthetics and “individualism” on top of serving great food. As you’ll see from their website, a vital part of their vision is to stay true to the roots of their local area whilst, also, delivering an identity that “transcends location,” taking inspiration for their dishes from around the world.
For something authentically Irish on the menu, give the Irish pheasant a go.
This modest and rather retired folk club, situated in the beautiful seaside town of Clonakilty, has earned a musical reputation that travels far beyond the confines of its West Cork residence. Offering a typical but traditional bar menu, DeBarra also has long-standing associations with members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and were chosen as the Munster representative venue for Guinness’ newest musical project ‘Amplify’; as one of five venues chosen nationally, they hosted Bastille, George Ezra and Walking on Cars. If you want a traditional setting with top-quality contemporary music, look no further!
This vegetarian and wholefood restaurant is located along Dublin City Centre’s Wicklow Street, producing home-cooked vegetarian and vegan-friendly meals, snacks and cakes throughout the week. Living up to its namesake, Cornucopia is certainly a place of abundance, also catering for coeliac or sugar-free customers (as well as having a small, selective organic wine list). Full menu options can be found here.
For a delicious hearty option, give the cashew baked aubergine a go.
Max’s is known regionally for its extensive range of local, fresh Kinsale seafood, married with fine creative sauces and the ability to adapt to changing seasons. Situated on the high street, their continually changing menu, found here, will consistently keep customers guessing over what they’ll be having next. Personally selected wines and vintages are updated monthly, focus is switched to wild game in the winter months and it comes highly recommended by most leading guidebooks.
The highlight of the menu is the braised Kilbrittan pork belly.
Mourne Seafood Bar, Dundrum
Mourne Seafood restaurants are special in two ways: they are exclusive to Ireland, the main Seafood Bar being situated in Dundrum along the eastern coast, and the shellfish is sourced from their own shellfish beds. The quality of staff and food remains consistently high in reviews, yet the prices are reasonable – one review claimed it was able to feed a family of four with two courses, drinks and a bottle of wine for around £100. There are also restaurants in Belfast and Dublin, the latter of which (along with Dundrum) is only a 10-minute drive from the Port Tunnel and 15 minutes from the airport.
The highlight of the menu is the Mourne Seafood Cassserole.
If you intend to visit, one of the best ways to get from place to place is by car, easyCar offers rentals in Ireland from just £8 a day!