Numbers 31-100 of Lucinda O’Sullivan’s 100 Best Restaurants are not ranked but are instead listed here in alphabetical order.
What struck me about Wade Murphy’s food when he was Head Chef in Doonbeg, back in the pre-Trump days, was his incredible lightness of touch. He and his wife Elaine bring this and so much more to their chic thatched cottage restaurant in the heart of Adare, Co. Limerick. There are ‘light eats’ – perhaps share a few – and ‘eats’ such Young Buck cheese, pear, chicory, pickled walnut and honeycomb; Inch House black pudding terrine, hock croquette, beer mustard, or perhaps Korean fried chicken with pickled radish and chili glaze.
The flagship of Asheesh Dewan’s Jaipur Group, Ananda, with its dramatic cream silk waterlily hanging shades, is a bastion of great Indian food. In a large sweeping colourful penthouse setting at the top of Dundrum Town Centre, kick off with a cocktail first while you take in the menu of adventurous regional dishes from the sub-Continent such as Goan Halibut with samphire fritters and timur patio prawns in a lemon leaf bouillabaisse or maybe a Southern Coastal Thali complete meal of prawns, fish, chicken, potatoes rice and bread. Seared Kilkeel scallops are there too, as is a terrific tandoor cooked smoked Barbary duck breast with confit leg terrine, passion fruit, and balsamic fig.
Garry & Mairead Anderson opened their restaurant in Killybegs following the success of their seafood shack on the old pier. They’re a dynamic duo, Garry knows his fish from his fowl having worked previously for Gordon Ramsay in Claridge’s London. Try the seafood chowder which won Best Chowder in Ireland in 2019 and 2020.
When you know Stephen McArdle is at the stove, you know you are in for good food. He has an eye for detail, only serving top quality produce. There are no short cuts with the man. Add sommelier Morgan Vanderkamer to the scenario and you have an alliance made in culinary heaven. I’ve had McArdle’s food many times down the years – in Dublin when he had The Arch Bistro in Churchtown, followed by Stanley’s in St. Andrew Street, so I knew that the journey to his new base in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, would be worth it. Set in the former Hudson’s, on the road leading to the back gates of Mount Juliet, it’s now an uber cool space. The menu changes, but foie gras mi cuit might be with brioche, apple & vanilla, while Duncannon crab is with Goatsbridge trout caviar…. and the beef is only historic. The pair are shortly to open the new UNioN Wine Bar in the old Munster Bar beside the Theatre Royal on The Mall in Waterford.
Paris has the whirlwind Periph’ Nord circling the city, Dublin has the South and North Circular roads, but don’t worry they’re very tame in comparison. As rents went up, restaurants moved outwards from the city centre, including Barry Fitzgerald and Claire Marie Thomas with their hip Bastible on the SCR at Leonard’s Corner, which has just received a Michelin star. Not quite a first for D8, as Locks did gain and lose one under previous managements. There’s a Nordic whiff here style-wise, although the eponymous bastible is a flat bottomed pot used in old Ireland for making soda bread. Perhaps they use it here for their sourdough, which features on their tasting menu, as do dishes such as chestnut soup, smoked eel and roasted kelp.
Big Fan Bao
It’s 60’s retro Hong Kong diner meets San Francisco Chinatown, and the punters are loving it. A lacquered look Chinese red ceiling has neon lighting above simple brown plywood panelled walls, terrazzo flooring and counter front, smokey glass tables, a couple of high-tops, and a gold fringed curtain. There’s a buzzy vibe, added to by the staff who are really on the ball. The menu is of the tick-the-box variety with some 27 small plates including Boss Bao’s (steamed filled buns) Jiaozi (dumplings) and Xiao Chi (various street food dishes). Do have The Black Dragon with a squid ink bun with Irish lobster tail, and cucumber jellyfish salad.
An upmarket French-style restaurant in the SoCoDu suburb of Monkstown owned by well-known chef Temple Garner with Peter Byrne as Head Chef. Byrne knows his onions having trained in Chapter One and having indeed been chosen by Gordon Ramsay for his restaurant at the then Ritz-Carlton at Powerscourt. The food is always excellent, not pretentious, just good classic French food. The Coquilles St. Jacques – gratinated Kilkeel scallops, chaudree of smoked haddock, Alsace bacon and brown shrimp, pomme Duchesse, buttered leeks and Gruyere cheese are ace – I’d happily have them every week!
Rana and Susan Miah’s colourful warm and welcoming Chandpur Indian Restaurant in Donegal town is the place to go if, like me, you are a fan of authentic Indian cuisine. The menu abounds with all the favourites and then some. Born in Chandpur, Bangladesh, Rana was taught to cook at an early age by his mother, so he features one of her favourite dishes, Indian Railway Curry, now cooked with the best of Donegal lamb and Irish potatoes and the customers love it.
Celebrating 22 years in business in May, Jim McCarthy’s Chart House is a stalwart of good food and hospitality in Dingle. The best of local and seasonal produce is served in style, including Angie Mack’s organic goat’s cheese mousse set off with beets roasted, smoked and pureed, beetroot sorbet and orange oil. The local Annascaul black pudding with pear and lime chutney is wrapped in filo and oven baked with kaffir lime jus. Kerry lamb is famously good and at the Chart House it’s a superb roast rack with dauphinoise potatoes, balsamic fig chutney and amber ale jus.
Colm Corcoran and Barbara Bond’s Coal is a stellar family-run restaurant in SoCoDu where Head Chef Colm offers terrific food to suit everyone, as well as great cocktails and an extensive wine list including Champagnes. The restaurant name is a nod to both the Blackrock of their location and the coals they cook on, which lend that special flavour to their steaks and other chargrilled dishes. A favourite with the medics from nearby Blackrock Clinic. They also have a 2/3 course Neighbourhood Menu, which is great value for days when you just don’t want to cook – and sure why would you when Colm will do it for you?
Overlooking Ballycotton Harbour in East Cork, the former dinky Pier 16 was transformed two years ago by local billionaire Pearse Flynn into a sleek restaurant with rooms, with ex Campagne Kilkenny chef Dan Guerin. Guerin has risen to the bar with seafood that leaps from the fishing boats fifty yards away and the finest of local viands and vegetables. Think black sole and turbot ravioli, courgette chutney, smoked pancetta, verjus bonne femme, or maybe roast dry aged sirloin & glazed short rib of beef, Roscoff onion, organic spinach, and Madeira jus.
Sitting on the deck at Dooley’s Waterfront Bar & Restaurant in majestic Waterville, Co. Kerry, cracking some lobster claws while looking out over Atlantic waters, is one of the best experiences you can have. David & Katie Farrell are seasoned restaurateurs, David having worked in the high-end US Smith & Wollensky’s steak houses, and Katie having started the U2 favourite The Blue Bull in Sneem when she was just 23. They also have The Scarriff Inn at Caherdaniel, but Dooley’s is their most recent restaurant, specialising in steak and seafood. They know how to give you a warm welcome to the Kingdom and a great Kerry dining experience.
Anthony Gray has done an awful lot towards putting the Sligo food scene on the map. He has two excellent restaurants there – the casual Hooked and the slightly more formal Eala Bhan. The decor at Eala Bhan has a cool urban brasserie feel and the new Head Chef in situ is Rafal Chimiak who delivers on excellent viands and seafood. Think of wonderful Mullaghmore lobster tail poached and flambeed in Cognac or perhaps a cracking fillet steak with all the fixings.
Marog and Sally O’Brien’s Farmgate Restaurant & Country Store in Midleton, East Cork, will be celebrating 40 years in business next year. Way ahead of her time, but with a great artistic eye, the original hipster Marog opened in what had been a rustic galvanized tire shed. It’s a glorious place to be, in a setting that is rich with an eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures, enjoying food at its best and watching the buzz of the many regular customers that flock there each week. Keeping it simple is the philosophy, and the local seafood here is beyond perfection. Warm salad of pan-seared scallops might have Frank Murphy’s black pudding, while their famous Farmgate traditional roast free-range duck is with sage & onion stuffing, and apple sauce with roasties.
Fennelly’s Of Callan
What sisters Etain and Aoife Holohan did here was absolutely inspirational. They turned an old former pub into one of the hippest spots in the country, with not only great food but with an amazing rustic yard where they hold fantastic courtyard musical gigs and other artistic events. Think of Buddha bowls; Cajun pork belly stew; spinach & moong dal curry; porky sandwiches; burnt Basque cheesecake; almond bakewells; tarte au chocolat with vanilla and black pepper ice-cream,
Fish & Bean
When it comes to seafood you won’t find any better man behind the stove than Dave Mullan for he has worked in some highly prestigious restaurants. Last year, Dave’s fans were delighted when he and his wife Aine opened Fish & Bean Café in the stunning location of Sligo Yacht Club, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Rosses Point, with great outdoor seating. Simplicity is the real sophistication and it wasn’t long before the word spread of his monkfish curry with scallops, mussels and turmeric rice, his seared scallops with smoked bacon granola, not to mention his crispy squid or Coney Island oysters naked or tempura. There’s lobster and crab ravioli, hake burger with dillisk aioli, not to mention fillet of halibut with leek fondu. There’s wine, beer and spirits too. Where do I stop?
An iconic landmark in Cork’s famous foodie town, Fishy Fishy in Kinsale has been delighting diners with its fab, fresh, high-end fishy fare, for decades under the masterful eye of Chef Patron Martin Shanahan and his wife Marie. Set over two floors and with a lovely outdoor area for al fresco eating, Martin’s background as a fishmonger plays a major role in their success, and he takes pride in knowing exactly who has caught his seafood that morning, ensuring that only the premium catch makes it to his menus. Go for the lobster, of course!
Known as Hurricane Attwell for being a whirlwind in the kitchen, chef Eddie Attwell has worked in 2 Star Michelin restaurants and represented Northern Ireland on the BBC’s Great British Menu on two occasions. Moving to West Cork, for the past couple of years he’s been wowing people with his food at Garnish Restaurant in the legendary Eccles Hotel overlooking Bantry Bay. Think of starting with fritto misto with fennel jam, confit lemon, and dill mayo, or salt cod brandade, with sliced fennel. Shoulder of lamb is slow cooked, served with bulgar wheat, curry yoghurt, tomato and raisin chutney. Delicious.
Founded in 1957 and visited by movie stars from John Wayne to Grace Kelly to Maureen O’Hara to Pierce Brosnan, as well as locals, like Bono, the famous Guinea Pig is now secure in the hands of French chef Jerome Fernandes who delivers on the best of French classics and seafood. Superb Dublin Bay prawns sauteed by Jerome with garlic and fresh herbs, finished with a Cognac or Pastis flambé or jambon persillé de Dijon. The sole on the bone is to die for as is the local Dalkey lobster.
Forget jingly Chinese music and sloshy stir-fries, Karl Whelan and Will Dempsey’s Hang Dai on Camden Street is an ocean of glam cocktails and a splash of sassiness. Atmospheric and an utterly absorbing experience, it’s like sitting in a Shanghai Metro car with the cast from a Bond movie sipping Martinis and Singapore Slings in the background. Duck is the star of the show at Hang Dai, cooked to succulent perfection on an open wood-burning oven.
Henry’s Bistro & Wine Bar
With a background that includes the amazing Dromoland Castle and Castlemartyr Resort, Dermot Fetton knows a thing about good food and service. His Henry’s Bistro in the centre of Ennis is all about progressive modern Irish cooking with the emphasis on local produce. Think sauteed mushrooms on brioche with Parmesan cream and maybe scampi, dressed salad & hand-cut fries.
I first had Damien Ring’s hip fare when he was at Screebe House in Connemara with his partner Suzi O’Gorman – who does a terrific job as front of house. The couple are now at Kingdom 1795 in Killorglin playing a blinder with their superb 3-course menu. Think dressed crab, kohlrabi, watercress horseradish followed by maybe turbot, oyster mushroom, onions, chicken butter. Get thee to the Kingdom.
La Cote & The Cheeky Cod
Paul Hynes and Edwina’s quayside seafood restaurant brought a little bit of the South of France to Wexford delighting patrons with a fine dining experience that’s both affordable and relaxed. Last year they added their ‘little brother’, The Cheeky Cod, a fish shack, parked on the quay doing fish and chips to go. So, take your pick, terrific fish by way of La Cote’s Tasting menu or more terrific fish at the shack. Fine dining, fair prices and a fab evening out.
Las Tapas De Lola
Dubliner Vanessa Murphy and her Spanish partner Anna Cabrera own one of Dublin’s most popular restaurants, Las Tapas de Lola on vibrant Wexford Street, featuring a pretty front covered terrace area and a lovely urban Spanish style tiled interior. With authentic Spanish tapas, wines, beers and sangria, you can be as authentically ‘nose to tail’ as you wish, from pig’s cheeks to sauteed lambs kidneys, liver to oxtail, Spanish black pudding to sausages, plus paella and tortilla etc, and you’ll will find them all here at prices that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Tipperary man Ronan Ryan is one of the best-known and liked restaurateurs in Dublin. Down the years, Ryan has known what attracts cafe society to his table, from his legendary Town Bar & Grill, where every second table was occupied by politicians, journalists, celebs and a few chancers too. His latest French-style premium cafe restaurant in Donnybrook has likewise been delighting D4’s cafe society with casually chic food and that all important vibe from morning through evening.
I’d travel the length and breadth of the country for decent Dublin Bay prawns either as scampi or as a prawn cocktail, and the best of both specimens are to be found is in the Lighthouse Bistro at the Garryvoe Hotel in East Cork, expertly presented by Head Chef Kevin O’Sullivan. There’s nothing like the flavour of these plump crustaceans lightly battered and deep-fried served with celeriac remoulade and fries or coated with a Marie Rose sauce and served on crisp Gem lettuce. They also do a perfect sole on the bone, not to mention their fantastically generous fish & chips in a crispy beer batter with skinny fries, mushy peas and tartare sauce. Always busy, always buzzy, great friendly staff and fun, but do book ahead. Lovely terrace in summer too.
A book could probably be written about the people who’ve come and gone through Locks since it was first opened some 35 years ago – not just the eclectic cafe society patrons but the colourful managements and chefs as well. Locks has always maintained its certain stylish cache in a glorious setting overlooking the swans on the Grand Canal above Portobello. Under the present team of Connor O’Dowd and Paul McNamara with Head Chef being Andy Roche, the food is stunning. Castletownbere scallop is with squash, sea lettuce, langoustine & scallop roe bisque, while Hannan’s Delmonico for two comes with smoked crispy mash, truffle emulsion, 24-month Comte, caramelized onion, bone marrow bearnaise.
The dynamo that is Grainne O’Keefe opened her new restaurant, named for her grandmother, on the first floor of the long-standing French Paradox on Shelbourne Road, which has always been popular with the D4 set. It’s a clever alignment of talents with the FP being exclusive supplier of their directly imported wines. Grainne has a great eye for detail with dishes such as Cais Na Tire agnolotti, butternut squash, shiitake, and hazelnut, and Iberico pork, anchovy, date, confit potato. With Rod and Penny Stewart nearby as new neighbours, they might well be ‘sailing’ up for supper.
Ex Chapter One and Thornton’s, Chef Killian Durkin, with his wife Jess D’Arcy, who is ex Etto, opened Mamo restaurant on the seafront in Howth, Co. Dublin, and quickly had the locals descending from the Hill. Their ‘cod chip’ should have its own copyright, along with their rendition of slow-cooked shoulder of Comeragh Mountain lamb. Mamo definitely belongs on anyone’s Top 100. It’s very small, and very much in demand, so be sure to book your spot if you don’t want to be disappointed.
Stunningly located on a hillside overlooking Kinsale Harbour, Man Friday was originally opened in the 60’s by the legendary Peter Barry, who ‘got things going in Kinsale’. It was a wow back then and it’s a bigger wow now under the baton of Daniel Horgan, who has worked with the best of them, including Ottolenghi and Petersham Nurseries. Split over four levels, with superb outdoor terraces, seafood is huge here including stupendous hot seafood platters, scampi, sole on the bone, and their famous fish pie. Carnivores are sated by the great range of steaks, plus duck Armagnac, pork belly and so much more.
Marco Pierre White
I’ve always loved the glamorous retro Soho style of MPW’s Dawson Street restaurant. The original enfant terrible of the restaurant scene, who achieved 3 Star Michelin level by the time he was 32 – and gave them all back – recently celebrated his 60th birthday, and his Dublin restaurants, the second is in Donnybrook, in collaboration with the Fitzers Group, are as popular as ever. Think classic prawn cocktail, or a fab chicken liver parfait with raisins, Madeira jelly and toasted brioche, followed maybe by sole on the bone or a cracking centre cut fillet steak, jus gras, and triple cooked chips.
Jutarat Suwankeeree grew up helping her grandparents on their stall at the night markets of Chiang Mai. Now, she and her husband Conor Sexton have become the destination for those who want truly authentic Thai food. On two floors in Ranelagh, it’s a real experience, with great cocktails too. Yum Poo Nim – crispy soft shell crab – is a must, as is Cha Plu leaves topped with ginger, shallots, dried shrimps, roast peanut, roast coconut, lime, chilli, fish sauce, palm sugar & dried shrimp sauce. Follow that, as they say!
No 35 Kenmare
At the end of a day’s touring and holidaying, we all look forward to a good meal and a nice bottle of wine. On Kenmare’s Main Street is No. 35, Dermot Brennan’s cracking stone-walled restaurant in a casual setting with great atmosphere. Focusing on the best of what’s local and seasonal, Dermot also raises their own rare breed Saddleback pigs for their delicious free-range pork. Tony Schwarz is the Head Chef and he knows a thing or two about good food. Try his duck terrine with plum chutney and maybe the halibut with celery, cider, and Granny Smiths.
With a background that includes Dromoland Castle, and Kevin Thornton’s eponymous restaurant, not to mention being a former Eurotoque Young Chef of the Year, Norbert Neylon hit the ground running 20 years ago in Cavan with his terrific restaurant. Joined now by Keith Hutton as Head Chef, the Oak Room offers tremendous food and fun at excellent prices. Confit pork cheek with pickled mustard seeds is with a scallop and apple puree while wild halibut might be paired with cauliflower, salted lemon and prawn bisque.
Panorama Bistro & Terrace
With an unrivalled view out over Cork City, the Panorama Bistro & Terrace at The Montenotte Hotel certainly hits the spot, be it morning, lunch or dinner, seven days a week. The cooking from Chef Tabrez Shaikh is assured and adds an eclectic twist to many dishes, such as Langoustine bisque with a punchy twist of smoked paprika oil. Have a pre or after drink in The Glasshouse Bar in the grounds, accessed over a glass bridge from the terrace, it is a wow.
Sebastien Masi and Kirsten Batt’s Pearl Brasserie has been serving modern French food in their atmospheric basement for over 20 years now and it just keeps getting better. Opposite Government Buildings and next door to the Merrion Hotel, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a prominent politician or two to indulge their penchant for good food in a discreet glass booth. The pan-fried duck foie gras with ginger and apple compote is superb, as is the crab meat with fennel and apple in a tomato gazpacho, not to mention the duck magret Rossini with slow cooked leg croquette, foie gras & truffle sauce.
There isn’t a culinary accolade in this country that Sunil Ghai hasn’t achieved, including Best Chef in Ireland. His fab Pickle Restaurant on Dublin’s Lower Camden Street focuses on North Indian regional cooking with amazing aromas and spices. Sunil will create a Tasting Menu on request or you can go a la carte with wonderful dishes such as Jungle Maans – a traditional hunter’s family preparation of wild boar cooked with shallots, ginger, sundried red chillies & black pepper. Book your passage to this Indian experience.
Pichet opened in 2009, having been the subject a TV programme, documenting the trials of Nick Munier and Stephen Gibson as they set up a restaurant at the former dinky Moira Hotel. A dream team for the cameras, Munier had been maitre d’ on Marco Pierre White’s Hell’s Kitchen and Gibson had a culinary pedigree that included Fauchon, the iconic Parisian food store. With glitz and glamour adorning every Gitanes-blue chair, Pichet was the hottest ticket in town. Nick Munier sold out a few years later and now, more than a decade on the chairs are now tan, and it’s still a wonderful modern take on French bistro. Try the cod, Gruyere potato crust, Bourguignon, Alsace bacon, Jerusalem artichoke.
Diarmuid Ó Mathúna opened his terrific bi-lingual cafe in a beautiful thatched building last summer in Baile na hAbhann, next to TG4, in the Connemara Gaeltacht. Ballymaloe-trained Diarmuid describes himself as a blow-in from Cork who grew up in a small rural pub, so hospitality is in his blood. With loads of outdoor space, not to mention the nearby beaches for picnicking, think of the of ace local produce like Connemara lamb tagine, or maybe Eggs Benedict with Feeney’s pulled bacon collar, hollandaise and sourdough toast; crispy sourdough baguettes might have roast free-range chicken, Aran Islands goats cheese or Kylemore Farmhouse cheese, with leaves and beetroot from Beechlawn Organic Farm. Don’t miss the POTA chowder with fresh fish from Ros an Mhíl, Kelly’s shellfish and Dillisk brown soda. Half-portions available for children.
Perfectly situated just opposite the Donegal Pier in the eponymous county town, Debbie O’Reilly and Jo Daly, who is President of the Donegal Women in Business Network, run a terrific and friendly restaurant championing the best of local produce. Zesty crab and courgette linguine has Burtonport’s finest hand-picked white crab meat, while Byrne’s natural oak smoked Killybeg’s haddock is complemented with Algaran Dillisk Seaweed. Sit upstairs for a great view of Donegal Bay.
Set in the exclusive heart of the Blue Haven hotel, the new Rare Restaurant brings a totally different cuisine and cocktail experience to Kinsale. The Head chef here is Meeran Gani Manzoor who works his magic serenely on stage behind a sleek glass screen. Think John Dory with a bouillabaisse, or Lavender duck breast with fondant potato, orange glacee, and asparagus. The octopus corndog is amazing not to mention the mango and meringue dessert with coffee cream, poached pear, roasted barley caramel and butter biscuit.
It was hot in the early 90’s and now, with its new terrace and revamped art deco style restaurant, Roly’s Bistro in Ballsbridge D4 is hotter than ever. It’s always packed, with a buzz of ‘who’s who at the zoo’, it suits multi generations and you never get a bad meal from Paul Cartwright’s kitchen. They also do the best Dublin Bay prawns in the city – prawn cocktail, scampi, Franco-American Neuberg style – not to mention their legendary Kerry Lamb Pie, which is on the menu since day one and was a fave of the late Terry Keane.
Tim O’Sullivan has been the Executive Chef at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara for many years. One of the most respected chefs in the country, there’s a lightness of touch in all of his cooking but he is quite extraordinary when it comes to seafood and shellfish – of which there is an abundance coming from the waters of the Atlantic right outside the door. Sitting in the beautiful Arts & Crafts style Rusheenduff, with someone tinkling the ivories of Count John McCormack’s travelling Steinway piano in the background, while enjoying carpaccio of scallops or golden crusted crab cakes, followed by rack of Connemara lamb, is a very special experience.
In the most elegant setting of Limerick’s exquisite No.1 Pery Square, a beautiful boutique hotel in the city’s Georgian Quarter, Sash Restaurant, named for its historic sash windows, is a haven of good food and local produce showcased in the finest of fashions. Seared prawns might be with fennel, black garlic and dillisk, while breast of Thornhill duck will also have the confit leg with roasted beets and beet jus, while you must also leave room for glorious desserts including date & cardamon pudding with salted caramel brown bread ice-cream or a divine hazelnut bavarois with nougatine, praline and coffee cremeaux.
The Leslie family has been in residence at Castle Leslie since the 1660’s, and the current holder of the family torch is the fab Sammy Leslie who has done her lineage proud, lovingly restoring this magnificent house and estate and opening it to the public. Located on 1000 acres of undulating countryside, dotted with woodland and glittering lakes, there is just so much to do here, and one of the principal attractions is its 2 AA Rosette award-winning Snaffles Restaurant. Spacious and welcoming with a striking wall of contemporary glass to tantalize the eye, the food is excellent, and they have an extensive gin menu featuring over 100 varieties from all over the world. Try the pan-seared King scallops, prawn boudin, caramelised cauliflower puree, sea urchin powder, sea herbs & prawn oil.
Solas Tapas Restaurant
Nicky Foley takes tapas to a level we don’t see anywhere else in Ireland. With a background that included Richard Corrigan’s famous London restaurant Bentley’s, this fantastic chef came home to Ireland a few years ago, eventually setting up in Dingle where he knocked the socks off both locals and visitors with his small and not so small plates. Octopus carpaccio with garden herb salad, soy & mirin and yuzu aioli is beyond stunning, while Cahillane’s Kerry lamb rack, seaweed & mint tapenade, with miso spiced aubergine will have you sucking the bones for hours. And what’s more, you’ll also have great fun.
I love seafood shacks and fish ‘n chippers, but I also love the rather grand high-end cosmopolitan seafood restaurants you find in Madrid, Paris or London, and which were in Dublin in the old days, such as the legendary Red Bank or the Lord Edward’s former seafood restaurant. Padraic O’Kane and Larry Murrin spotted this gap when they opened their fabulous SOLE on Dublin’s South William Street, where giant Norwegian King crabs loom out from a glass case, while Dover sole on the bone with lemon butter is perfectly cooked with a firmness to the flesh, and where plumptuous scallop shells filled to their pretty frilled edges would have James Joyce lusting as he did over Nora Barnacle’s “big full proud bosom”.
When Conor Mee of the Courthouse Restaurant in Carrickmacross opened Square in Dundalk, he earmarked Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2017, Conor Halpenny, as Head Chef. Everything about Square is simple and stark with the focus being placed solely on the quality of your meal, and believe me they know what they’re doing. Think scallops, smoked pancetta, cauliflower and hazelnuts, or sirloin steak, roasted onions and beef fat chips.
The Ballymore Inn
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 31 years since The Eagle in Clerkenwell, London, first opened its doors, coining the word ‘gastropub’ as it brought the public a new way of dining. The idea was restaurant standard food served in casual pub surroundings. Of course it took off, and one of the first great gastropub and restaurants was Georgina and Barry O’Sullivan’s Ballymore Inn in Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare. Not only keeping up with, but staying ahead of the times, with their excellent food. Think chargrilled Slaney lamb cutlets with spicy Indian dahl, yogurt & mint topping.
The Beach House
Having started originally in Blackrock Market and opened two fish restaurants in Dublin, including the Fish Shop in Smithfield which they still have, Peter Hogan and his wife Jumoke Akintola ditched Dublin for Peter’s home turf, the seaside town of Tramore, Co. Waterford, establishing their ace Beach House Restaurant on Turkey Road. Boatstrand brown shrimps are with mayo, sorrel, and crusty bread; oysters with rhubarb and fennel; clams with beurre blanc. They also offer rooms.
Tucked away in the very heart of Fota Island Resort is a culinary gem which is beginning to be really noticed. The Cove, their bijou specialty fine dining restaurant, is a little oasis both serene and luxurious, where you are completely away from the world. Head Chef Maris Urbanovics delivers on an extraordinarily beautiful Tasting Menu showcasing influences from his Latvian homeland, and has just won Chef of the Year at the recent Hotel & Catering Gold Medal Awards. Think baked Rossmore oyster with turbot fin, purple potato, wild horseradish leaf and sandwort with perhaps a mini flower pot of delicious 3 months preserved muffin topped potato bread with a quenelle of seaweed butter and a clam shell, holding oak smoked sea salt.
The Garden Terrace
I ran into Mel Gibson in the lobby of the 5 Star InterContinental Hotel in Ballsbridge as I was dashing out to their wonderfully elegant Garden Terrace to enjoy a delicious seafood tower. It’s that sort of place – full of famous faces. Being 5-Star, there’s crisp white napery, and colourful cosy rugs in case it gets chilly, but it’s still a real garden haven, complete with a fountain, a great escape from the city for enjoying the best of executive chef Alberto Rossi’s ‘casual’ all day Lobby Lounge dining menu. This covers everything from oysters to prawn cocktails to properly elegant clubhouse sandwiches and fillet steaks. GM Nicky Logue runs a great ship here. High standards, formal, but great fun, the perfect combination.
The Glass Curtain
East Cork chef Brian Murray’s stylish restaurant opened in late 2019 in the old Thompson’s Bakery on MacCurtain Street – where a mile of their legendary Swiss Roll had been produced every day. Murray operates with a huge Japanese Robata grill, serving cracking contemporary eclectic small and large plates that are right on the nose of our times. Scallop crudo is with oyster cream and dashi gel, while turbot is roasted on the bone and served with tempura oyster and lobster coulis. There’s a 5-course Tasting Menu also.
The Maigue Restaurant
Everyone from Princess Anne to Princess Grace to Michel Roux, have crossed the doorstep of the beautiful Dunraven Arms Hotel in pretty Adare, Co. Limerick. An original coaching inn built in 1792, it’s a bastion of charm and exquisite hospitality. Dining in The Maigue restaurant on superb contemporary classic food using the best of Irish produce is a real experience. Think roast breast of Clonakilty chicken, baked beetroot & black pudding, hay smoked onions, jus roti, or the real star of the show, the roast prime rib of aged Irish beef ‘carved to your liking’ at the table by the tux attired Maitre d’ and served with homemade horseradish sauce and red wine jus. They also carve an ‘overnight cooked’ ham each morning at breakfast. Standards, style and class abound here.
The Old Couch Cafe
Having been at The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Damira Levacic and Przemyslaw Muszynski moved to Waterford to set up their terrific Old Couch Cafe. They offer the somewhat unusual combination of serving extraordinarily beautiful modern afternoon teas during the week, and at weekends an exciting 10-course Tasting Menu. With dishes reflecting their native Polish and Croatian cuisines using local produce, exquisite presentations include Woodstown oysters with sea buckthorn and green peppercorn granita with elderflower mignonette, while Ridgeway olive fed wagyu beef fillet is with King oyster mushroom, red wine poached shallot, Hennessy peppercorn sauce and duck fat roasted potatoes.
The Olde Glen
The Olde Glen Bar in Carrigart hit the ‘must visit’ list, with all the eager Insta foodies whirling up to Donegal, when Ciaran Sweeney, former head chef of Forest & Marcy, returned to his native county and took up the role of Head Chef – Dublin’s loss was Donegal’s gain. There’s a hip ‘bread & snack’, followed by the likes of wild mushroom tartlet, confit egg yolk, smoked onion sabayon. Keep an eye out nearby also for their brill little Bia Box converted horse trailer, serving great sambos in the local village.
The Olde Post Inn
People travel from all over the country to dine, or indeed dine and stay, at Gearoid and Tara Lynch’s outrageously pretty Olde Post in Cloverhill, Co. Cavan. With a track record that includes Thornton’s, Le Coq Hardi, London’s Pied a Terre and Lea Linster in Luxembourg, Lynch’s culinary pedigree is impeccable. As he is coeliac himself, it’s the perfect spot for anyone who not only wants a supreme dining experience but also gluten-free one. Think Andari farm pork belly, seared scallop, apple & Calvados sauce. He has also just opened The Duck Inn Gastropub at The Imperial Bar in Cavan.
The River Club & Grill Room
Located in Cork’s River Lee Hotel with a fab colourful riverside terrace overlooking the rushing waters of the Lee, and a sleek bar doing great cocktails, there’s a touch of ‘Madrid meets New York’ here. The Grill Room itself is smart, classy and clubby with swirling leather banquettes, contemporary paintings, and that all important buzz. The Robata grilled Hereford fillet and sirloin steaks are excellent, as are the Dublin Bay prawn & crayfish cocktail, and the grilled sole on the bone.
The Saddle Room
The clientele in the hallowed environs of 5-Star hotel restaurants are always the stuff of novels and there’s nowhere better for people watching than the Saddle Room of the Shelbourne Hotel, which has stood proud overlooking Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green for almost 200 years. In the old days, the big attraction was roast beef carved from the trolley, now it’s more fine-dining with contemporary takes on the classics. On a recent visit, we had daube of Charleville beef with a Bourguignon jus, bacon lardons and roast garlic. They also do a terrific Dublin Lawyer Lobster Thermidor and Dover Sole “Meuniere”. Their Constitution Room upstairs with its green silk walls is exquisite for private functions. Here you can see the chair Michael Collins sat on a hundred years ago – it’s actually quite emotional – and where Executive Chef Garry Hughes creates an exquisite personalised menu for guests.
The Winding Stair
Overlooking the Ha’penny Bridge and the Liffey in the historic heart of Dublin City, The Winding Stair Bookshop & Cafe was named partly for the Yeats poem, and of course in honour of its winding staircase. Elaine Murphy brought her expertise into the picture in 2006 and turned it into the dining icon it is today. Nowadays, they’ve got a great roof terrace that unites The Winding Stair and sister restaurant The Woollen Mills. High ceilings, stripped floors, bentwood chairs, wooden tables, and great food including a terrific WS fish plate of home smoked fish and shellfish, as well as a 10oz rump stead with Gaelic escargots, baked bone marrow, chips and wild mushrooms. Dublin at its best.
Situated right in the heart of Athlone, this brainchild of Chef John Coffey and his wife Tara opened its doors in 2007 with the goal of showcasing the fabulous producers of the Midlands region in a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere and, over the years, they’ve gone from strength to strength doing just that. With next-level fare and a great atmosphere to match, it’s no surprise that the accolades have come rolling in.
Toddie’s Restaurant & Bulman Bar
A perfect oasis by the short pier at Summercove in Kinsale, the Bulman Bar just screams summer holidays with a bustling friendly atmosphere and ace bar food featuring lots of fresh local fishies. Upstairs things get kicked up a notch at their fabulous Toddie’s Restaurant, named for one of Ireland’s legendary urbane Hoteliers, the late Toddie O’Sullivan, who managed Dublin’s Gresham Hotel in the 1960’s. Chef Patron Pearse O’Sullivan, grandson of the eponymous Toddie, and his wife Mary, are part of the backbone of Ireland’s beloved gourmet capital, and for good reason. I’d make the drive down for Pearse’s lobster risotto alone.
Town Hall Bistro
Located in what was formerly Ennis Town Hall, bedecked with a backdrop of beautiful original art, it’s a classy joint in a cool setting and part of the Old Ground Hotel. Think of superb lunches and brilliant afternoon teas as well as dinner, where you might find grilled halibut with crabmeat, stuffed Portobello mushroom and a tomato & lemon beurre blanc, or herb crusted loin of Clare lamb with rosti, ratatouille, and a port, juniper berry & redcurrant jus.
The second restaurant of Liz Matthews and Simon Barrett, they got it just right here, as they did with the mothership, Etto on Merrion Row. It has the feel of a chic understated urban spot in Madrid and it has a devoted discerning clientele who all want to bag the table in the window. Have a glass or two of Callejuela Manzanilla Sherry and nibble on salted almonds, Cecina croquetas, Iberian chorizo, Padron peppers or maybe squid a la plancha. Alternative starters and mains include Carabinero prawn rice, beef tartare, a delicious Manchego agnolotti and maybe roast monkfish on the bone – all good with a bottle of Amber wine.
The first solo venture a couple of years ago by Greystones brothers, chef Keelan Higgs and Aaron, who’s front of house. Set in a former tattoo parlour in Thomas Street, the pair endured “hours of sleepless nights and backbreaking labour” to get it going but were rewarded very quickly by the visit of the rubber tyre man, who awarded them a star. A narrow shop-front, and a long narrow room, lead to the open kitchen at the back, where a 6-course Chef’s Choice sharing menu is constructed. Think foie gras & chicken liver parfait, followed by grilled halibut, kale, mussel sauce, hasselback potatoes, creme fraiche, trout roe. Do take sommelier Vanda Ivancic’s advice she comes up with some gems. Rumour has it a second D8 restaurant is to come.
Wilde’s at The Lodge
Overlooking Lough Corrib, and part of the Ashford Castle Estate, this former hunting lodge is where classically trained chef Jonathan Keane, who is a great supporter of local food and the annual Cong Food Festival, delivers on innovative contemporary food par extraordinaire. “Local food with imagination” is how he puts it. So, think maybe of wild turbot on the bone, sauce Veronique, chicken skin crisp, pomme puree or pan roast hake, bouillabaisse, fennel, sauce rouille, baguette crisp.
Wilde at The Westbury
The plush 5-star Westbury Hotel, located just off Grafton Street, is one of the great meeting places for Dubliners. They do light lunches in the gallery, and their Balfe’s Bar & Brasserie is a great casual spot for all day dining, but, for the headier heights of the high end, Wilde at the Westbury is the star attraction. Offering an amazing interior decor that echoes 1930s art-deco glamour and style, plus the addition of a fabulous covered garden terrace and cocktail bar, don your most glamorous duds and indulge in the extensive chic, contemporary-classic food, such as Dover Sole meuniere, and maybe have a cocktail or three. You’ve earned it!
Unlike his previous restaurant, which was in a pimped out container in London’s Camden Market, Chef Adrian Martin’s ambitious new Dublin restaurant is in a Georgian townhouse in D2 elaborately renovated and kitted out with lavish gilded gold and brocade Buck House style sofas and chairs. The aptly named Good Room serves a 3-course menu, while the snazzy former stripped back basement kitchen is doing a lavish tasting menu at weekends. The food is superb with beautiful olive breads on a bed of hay, hand-dived scallop ceviche with meadow sweet and Oscietra caviar, while glazed Thornhill duck is with foie gras, onion miso, fermented greengage, and Grand Veneur sauce.
Wild & Native
Set on the Strand Road in Rosslare, at Fergal and Jodie Dempsey’s Wild & Native Seafood Restaurant & Wine Bar they pride themselves on ‘low food miles’, striving to ensure that their menus are local and fresh, and provide customers with the kind of foods that their ancestors would have eaten – hence the name. The F-word is the thing here, with Chef Fergal being a big fan of foraging for all kinds of natural delights to treat his patrons. The restaurant is bright and modern, with a pretty, welcoming decor capturing that fresh airy feeling of being by the beach. So, next time you’re in the sunny south east, be sure to forage for a table at Wild & Native.
‘Eat Right! Feel Amazing!’ is the slogan at the terrific Woodruff in Stepaside, D18, where the menus are all about provenance, seasonality and sustainability. Offering a weekly changing and carefully crafted menu bursting with local ethically sourced ingredients and plenty of foraged bits too, the friendly service, relaxed air and superb food have certainly earned Woodruff a spot in my top 100. Think snacks of periwinkles, pickled razor clams, fermented black bean and chili, followed by Koji aged hanger, gambas, tomatillo salsa verde, and beef dripping crumb.
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/food-reviews/lucinda-osullivans-100-best-restaurants-31-100-41507202.html Lucinda O’Sullivan’s 100 Best Restaurants: 31-100