100 of the best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland 2019

The definitive delicious list: The Irish Times’s annual guide to the best foodie destinations

On this year’s definitive delicious list: chef-patron Ross Lewis and head chef Eric Matthews at Chapter One in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

On this year’s definitive delicious list: chef-patron Ross Lewis and head chef Eric Matthews at Chapter One in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The big list, fantastic feasts and where to find them, the 100 unmissably delicious places we love and you will too. This enterprise started, as it always does, with a meeting to figure out the lie of the land this year. We had a new face at the table. Aoife McElwain and I were joined by Lisa Cope, the woman behind the Dublin dining website allthefood.ie.

Then came the forehead wrinkling, the sleepless moments, 4am rememberings of a place that should be included, discoveries of new gems and flurries of emails to battle for places that we each love in a way that feels personal.

This list has become a way to look back at a year of eating and be happy at how good it has been. But then the joy at a new place that simply has to be on the list is not without pain. Someone else is going to move to a life outside the hallowed 100. They will, no doubt, survive and thrive.

This year’s definitive delicious list is a snapshot, a postcard of a moment when the Irish restaurant scene is changing, becoming something new and finding itself all over again. We’ve made a real effort to look beyond the buzz of Dublin’s restaurant scene and go as far-flung as we can. Next year’s list will be different again. Because if we’re lucky we’ll fall in love with a whole new slew of places and be delighted to put them on your radar. – Catherine Cleary

We’ve marked this year’s newcomers and used a to flag everywhere that serves a main course for less than €15

Jump to:

Casual

Strong on provenance

Cafes

For special occasions

Family friendly

Off the beaten track

World food

Vegetarian and vegan friendly


CASUAL

Bia Rebel, in Belfast: damn fine ramen
Bia Rebel, in Belfast: damn fine ramen

Bia Rebel NEW
409 Ormeau Road, Belfast; 048-7933861720
Jenny Holland and Brian Donnelly taught Irish eaters that you cannot overthink ramen. It has lots of moving parts, and when each one is exquisite you’ve nailed it. Donnelly, a chef with a fine-dining background, brought damn fine ramen to Belfast’s Ormeau Road, and later this summer there’s word of a road trip to Ballydehob, in west Co Cork, with a ramen food truck, as if west Cork weren’t lucky enough already. Start queuing, folks. Catherine Cleary

Tartare
56 Lower Dominick Street, Galway; 091-567803
JP McMahon (an Irish Times contributor) has created a cool, unpretentious room where great flavours in wine and food can be enjoyed without having to pull up a table and tuck your knees under a white tablecloth. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that cooking of the standard the Tartare team maintain can be served in a relaxed bar setting. Deliciousness does not have to come with a side order of formality. CC

Dooks Fine Foods
Kerry Street, Fethard, Co Tipperary
There are lots of Yotam wannabes who think a pomegranate seed and a squeeze of lime will cut it. Then there’s a band of Irish chefs who worked for Yotam Ottolenghi’s London restaurants and cafes and get that it’s all about the best ingredients worked until they produce the best flavours. Richard Gleeson came home to Fethard to open Dooks, a brilliant addition to this lovely Tipperary town. CC

Wine & Brine
59 Main Street, Moira, Co Armagh; 048-92610500
Restaurants are canaries in the mine when it comes to chilly economic breezes, but, as we saw during the last crash, tough times can produce impressive cooking. As a restaurant in a small town over the Border, Wine & Brine has to work hard to provide value for local customers and attract visitors. This, as a certain guide might say, is a restaurant worth the trip. CC

Terra Madre
13a Bachelors Walk, Dublin 1; 01-8735300
There’s no such thing as Italian food, any Italian worth their salt will tell you. It’s all about the regions, and every village within each region has its own way of doing things. Terra Madre was the original band of friends who wanted to introduce Dubliners to the tastes of their home. The name means mother earth. Down here, she’s a hugger. CC

Las Tapas de Lola
12 Wexford Street, Dublin 2; 01-4244100
If Vanessa and Anna, the owners, had their way, there would be no seats in their restaurant, just a bar, and a sawdust-covered floor, where delicious small plates are casually served alongside fino and wine. Their Irish customers wanted sit-down dining, so they complied. The welcome is as large as the menu. They serve all the best tapas without the step count that would be clocked up to eat like this on a tapas strip in Spain. CC

Grano NEW
5 Norseman Court, Manor Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7; 01-5382003
An Italian mother shepherded this brilliant Stoneybatter restaurant into being in the depths of an Irish winter when she flew in with a suitcase of stiff grass stems for rolling the handmade fileja pasta. Roberto Mungo’s mother has gone home, but her stamp remains, and Grano has been the best addition to Stoneybatter since L Mulligan Grocer opened its door. CC

Restaurant 1826 Adare
Main Street, Adare, Co Limerick; 061-396004
As Limerick’s reputation for good food continues to grow, the chef who brought his skill to the area, Wade Murphy, continues to do what he does best in this lovely roadside restaurant. The roof may be thatched but the methods are very much today, and Murphy is fanatical about local ingredients and a great ambassador for Irish food. CC

Fish Shop
6 Queen Street, Dublin 1; 01-4308594
There is something blissful about a no-choice menu. Fish Shop became a set-menu operation after Peter Hogan and Jumoke Akintola opened a more casual bar around the corner, on Benburb Street. The menu is written in Sharpie on the metro tiles, and it’s all exquisite. A plate of turbot, asparagus and Jenny McNally’s Carolus potatoes was a true treat last month, making this my favourite Dublin restaurant north of the River Liffey. CC

Brownes of Tuam
The Square, Tuam, Co Galway; 093-60700
Once this small-town pub got its fame from a Saw Doctors song. Now it’s known for the cooking of Stevie Lane, the grandson of the original owner. Stevie and his wife, Amanda Fahy (who met working in the bar), turned the lights back on in Brownes in 2016, with a shoestring refurbishment to allow them to put all the fun into the food, bringing sweetness back into the sugar town that is Tuam. CC

The Universal NEW
9 William Street West, Galway; 091-728271

Conor Lynam of Bierhaus, in Galway, launched the Universal, a hybrid of chic bar and small-plates restaurant, in late 2016. The head chef, Matt Davis, serves small plates with universal influences. Regular dishes include squid tentacles with miso mayonnaise, and fried nems (otherwise known as spring rolls) with a Vietnamese dipping sauce. Vegetarians will love the paneer kofta with a cashew coconut curry or the grilled fresh cheese with aubergine puttanesca and fried tempura leeks. A menu with too many influences can easily feel disorganised and unfocused, but Lynam and Davis pull off a global reach with easy-going finesse. Aoife McElwain

Solas Tapas & Wine Bar NEW
Strand Street, Dingle, Co Kerry; 066-9150766

At Solas Tapas & Wine Bar the chef, Nick Foley, and front of house, Ann Connell, are serving Mediterranean-style small plates on the Dingle Peninsula. Our favourites include fennel marinated in Dingle gin with toasted almonds, mint, ricotta and sweet tomatoes, and squid stuffed with Annascaul black pudding and parsley butter. This casual spot doesn’t discourage drop-in food enthusiasts, but reservations are wise on busy Dingle weekends, such as those for Féile na Bealtaine, Dingle Food Festival and Other Voices. AMcE

Pi NEW
10 Castle House, 73-83 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2

Pi casually slid on to the Dublin pizza scene last summer and within weeks had detonated a debate about whether it was the best pizza in the city – we were in the affirmative camp. Pizzaiolo/owner Reggie White worked in an office before jacking it in to train with Darina Allen at Ballymaloe, and his obsession with pizza is evident from the first bite of the leoparded, 48-hour fermented base, with its punchy sun-ripened-tomato sauce and creamy, tangy Toons Bridge Fio di Latte on the most simple, perfect Margherita. Lisa Cope

Uno Mas NEW
6 Aungier Street, Dublin 2; 01-4758538

Etto was always going to be a hard act to follow, but owners Liz Matthews, Simon Barrett and chef Paul McNamara have made it look effortless. This Spanish-inspired restaurant feels more like Barcelona than Aungier Street, and the bar seating is some of the best in the city. The gildas (Spanish “lollipops” with guindilla peppers, anchovies and olives), chargrilled octopus and flan de queso are unmissable. LC

Loose Canon NEW
29 Drury Street, Dublin 2

Loose Canon is Dublin’s temple to natural wine, and the daily changing small plates have been put together with as much thought as the wine list. Cheese and charcuterie are always seasonal and in peak condition, and small plates feature predominantly Irish ingredients, with occasional curveballs, like Toons Bridge ricotta topped with Goatsbridge trout caviar. If you’re on a budget, the toasties are an excellent way to get fed and still have change from a tenner. LC

Host NEW
13 Ranelagh, Dublin 6; 01-5612617

Host is like a chink of a much more cosmopolitan city shining through the suburban Dublin village of Ranelagh. They follow the winning neighbourhood formula of sharing plates, natural wine and sharply dressed staff, but the handmade pasta and general vibe that your wish is their command tip it over the edge. A Host in every neighbourhood would do much to alleviate the stresses of modern life. LC

Etto
18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2; 01-6788872
Got a birthday coming up? Go to Etto. Anniversary? Etto. Want to cheer yourself up with a fantastic lunch on a rainy Monday? Etto. Has a restaurant ever been as loved in Dublin before? It seems to be everyone’s favourite (everyone who has eaten there anyway), and they rarely (ever?) put a foot wrong, with their seasonal, modern Italian/Irish menu, eclectic wine list and sunny staff. LC

Bastible
111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8; 01-4737409
Barry Fitzgerald and Claire-Marie Thomas’s neighbourhood bistro has been a cornerstone of the Dublin dining scene since opening, in 2015, and is a major part of the new wave of restaurants taking the capital up several notches on a globally recognised level. It’s still as good as ever and not sitting still for a second. Sunday lunch here is the ultimate reward after a trying week. LC

Clanbrassil House
6 Clanbrassil Street Upper, Dublin 8; 01-4539786
Head chef Gráinne O’Keefe, one of the young guns of the Irish culinary scene, only seems to be getting better and better. Clanbrassil House is about sharing plates, mainly cooked over fire, great wine and a team that aren’t interested in playing it safe, making it one of the most exciting restaurants in the city. LC

Mr Fox
38 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1; 01-8747778
There’s a quiet confidence about Mr Fox – you’re unlikely to hear them shouting about how great they are any time now – which makes the food an almost shockingly fantastic surprise when you get there. Every element on every plate has a reason for being there, and the nostalgia-laden desserts, like the super split and the coffee iceberger, are a joyful way to end a meal. LC

The Old Spot NEW
14 Bath Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4; 01-6605599

The days of the gastropub seem to have come and gone, but the Old Spot would make you beg for their return. Fiachra Kenny’s food always seems to overdeliver (the Kilkeel crab risotto is a particularly fond memory), the wine list is better than a lot of high-end restaurants’, and the charming staff seem to love working there. If only every neighbourhood had one. LC

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STRONG ON PROVENANCE

Chapter One, in Dublin: strong on provenance
Chapter One, in Dublin: in love with Irish food. Photograph: Alan Betson

Chapter One
18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin 1; 01-8732266
Ross Lewis Instagrams regular love letters to Irish food, marvelling at the sheen on some pickled herring finished with Lambay crab, or enjoying the shift of seasons when roots give way to shoots. The supplier list for Chapter One is where all the good stuff starts. The cheffing techniques and tweezers are deployed to enhance what has arrived through the delivery door. CC

The Legal Eagle
1-2 Chancery Place, Inns Quay, Dublin 7; 01-5552971
If only all pubs could grow up to be like this revamped veteran beside the Four Courts. The evolution of the Legal Eagle under the talented restaurateur Elaine Murphy put a dream list of Irish food, craft beer and cider, and gutsy flavours into the spotlight. There are toasties here and côte de boeuf for a spendy splurge, continuing Murphy’s theme of unpretentious, always tasty Irish food. CC

L Mulligan Grocer
18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7; 01-6709889
Seáneen Sullivan and her business partners saw the beauty of putting great Irish ingredients into a typical pub setting so the food hugs could be as warm as the boozy ones. No laurels are being rested on here, and a halo of great food has eddied out from the foundation stone that is Mulligans, turning Stoneybatter into a terrific little food village. CC

Eastern Seaboard
Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth; 041-9802570
It’s the small touches that I remember from a lovely meal in this Drogheda restaurant: creative, ambitious ideas like the smoked oyster mayonnaise for dipping pencil-thin bread sticks baked in the sister Brown Hound bakery, next door. This is a restaurant that started out great and keeps getting better. CC

Assassination Custard
19 Kevin Street Upper, Dublin 8; 087-9971513
Everything about this quirky, friendly little place is small: the plates, the menus (handwritten on paper bags) and the prices. Well, almost everything. They go large on the sourcing of properly delicious Irish ingredients, from the monkfish cheeks from Meath Street to the weekly pilgrimage to McNally’s for vegetables. Gwen McGrath and Ken Doherty know that great food starts with great ingredients. CC

Kai
22 Sea Road, Galway; 091-526003
Jess Murphy isn’t the sort of chef who’ll fire off an email to a supplier and wait for the boxes to arrive in the door. She’s more likely to pull on her wellies, zip up her orange anorak and go down to the farm to see and taste it. If there were a Pulitzer prize for provenance, then the Irish Times cookery writer would be a contender. It’s the starting point that makes the food in her Galway restaurant sing. CC

Sage
The Courtyard, 8 Main Street, Midleton, Co Cork; 021-4639682
Kevin and Réidín Aherne have become a serious employer in Midleton, with almost three dozen staff between the restaurant and casual-dining operation in a stone courtyard off Main Street. Their approach is proof that if you build it on what grows and grazes and swims around you they will come. Sage’s 12-mile menu always made food sense, and the success they’ve made of it shows others how much business sense it can make too. CC

Loam
Geata Na Cathrach, Fairgreen Road, Galway; 091-569727
There’s no place like Loam. Enda McEvoy is an ingredient nerd who makes it his business to get to know the people who grow, catch and farm his food. He treats every part of the food thoughtfully and is always exploring ways to turn waste into taste, but not in a preachy way. Most diners won’t even notice the quiet revolution he’s staging behind the pass in a restaurant named after the rich crumbly soil that grows the best food. CC

Restaurant Chestnut NEW
The Chestnut Tree, Staball Hill, Ballydehob, Co Cork; 028-25766

When you get your limes from west Co Cork, it shows a certain extra level of commitment to your local larder. The chef at Restaurant Chestnut, Robbie Krawczyk, Instagrammed two juicy-looking limes from Glensallagh Gardens in December, precious little green globes. The fish and seafood, foraged and farmed produce and excellent meat served in this newly starred restaurant are all testament to provenance as king of the kitchen. CC

Dela
51 Lower Dominick Street, Galway; 091-449252
The husband-and-wife team of Margaret and Joe Bohan specialise in plot-to-plate food at their Galway restaurant, sourcing as much produce as possible on their organic farm, in Moycullen in Co Galway, for their head chef, Sylvain Gatay, to cook with. On the farm they’re expanding their growing patches to include vegetables that would otherwise be difficult or cost-prohibitive for them to source. Think padron peppers, yellow pear tomatoes and cucamelons, alongside garlic, kalette and celery, grown sustainably and organically from seed by the Bohans. Acres of heart and soil is what makes this family restaurant so special. AMcE

Ard Bia
Spanish Arch, Long Walk, Galway; 091-561114
Aoibheann McNamara is a bona-fide trailblazer. Her team at Ard Bia, led by the restaurant’s manager, Amelia Colleran, take inspiration from McNamara’s love of travel and slow food when it comes to their menu. Vegans will love their vegan breakfast and daily vegan stew of the day; nonvegans will love Middle Eastern- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes featuring the best of Irish ingredients, such as Gubbeen cheese, Hegarty cheddar, Colleran’s ham, Burren Smokehouse salmon and Galway goat’s yogurt. Even after nearly two decades of serving food in Galway, the Ard Bia family still have their finger firmly on the pulse. AMcE

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The Seafood Cafe
11 Sprangers Yard, Fownes Street Upper, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; 01-5153717
Niall Sabongi’s shrine to Irish seafood is the go-to spot for fresh fish in Dublin city centre. The menu changes with what has come off the boat that morning, but Dublin Bay prawns lightly fried in butter, Irish lobster rolls and crab on toast are staples (and highly recommended). Their weekend brunch features a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, complete with a prawn garnish – obviously. LC

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CAFES

Tiller + Grain: brings the lunch offering in Dublin city centre up several notches
Tiller + Grain: brings the lunch offering in Dublin city centre up several notches

Tiller + Grain NEW
23 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2

Clair Dowling was still testing her menu on customers when I took one of the small seats in the back of her lovely cafe and loved every mouthful. Another Ottolenghi graduate, she has brought the lunch offering in Dublin’s city centre up several notches. When Niall Davidson’s new place opens just up the road, later in the summer, this looks set to become quite a food quarter. CC

The Pepper Pot
Powerscourt Centre, 59 William Street South, Dublin 2; 01-7071610
I blame the food-service industry for dragging down the quality of cake at many of Ireland’s cafes and coffee shops. Too many short cuts and prepped sauces, bases and mixes go into cakes these days. Not here, though. Everything, including the springily delicious bagels, is made from scratch. The Pepper Pot Victoria sponge should be eaten regularly as a reset button for how cake should taste. CC

Strandfield Cafe
Ballymascanlon, Dundalk, Co Louth; 042-9371856
There’s an Avoca-style oasis of plant and food shop and cafe and pizzeria in this lovely farmyard operation to tempt you off the motorway for a gentle pitstop. The people behind this cafe take their baking very seriously. Everything from scratch and no short cuts. You can taste the difference. CC

Pudding Row
Main Street, Easkey, Co Sligo; 096-49794
The buzz of conversation as you walk up the stairs into this first-floor cafe is the sound of summer. A trip (or several) to Pudding Row has become an unmissable part of family stays in Sligo. A perfect day involves wrestling a surfboard in Inniscrone for a couple of hours and then heading over to Easkey rubbery-kneed with the hunger, to tuck into Dervla James’s cooking. I’m already planning this year’s visit. CC

4 Vicars
4 Vicars Hill, Armagh; 048-37527772  (NOTE: NOW CLOSED)
There’s a long tradition of restaurants in the South not looking to fish and seafood from the North, preferring to source from west Co Cork when a port like Kilkeel, in Co Down, is far closer. All the fish and seafood served in this lovely hilltop restaurant is landed at Kilkeel. The husband-and-wife team of Gareth and Kasia Reid are on a personal mission to show diners there’s more to Armagh than apples. CC

Meet Me in the Morning
50 Pleasants Street, Portobello, Dublin 8
Or the afternoon. It’s not time-dependent. What is certain is that you will get delicious food here in this bespoke place where they pack more flavour into one bowl than some restaurants get into whole tasting menus. The sourcing is impeccable, and the opening of their second operation, Loose Canon, has not dimmed the focus that this professional operation brings to things. CC

Ubh Cafe NEW
George’s Street, Newbridge, Co Kildare; 085-7667911

Having paid her dues working in fine dining, the pastry chef Emma Spain decided to rediscover her passion for a simpler approach to cooking by opening Ubh, in early 2017. Her partner, Shane Byrne, roasts the coffee while their team of cooks, baristas and floor staff work with Spain to design a menu that changes every other week. On the roster are Dunlavin Dairy milk, Gubbeen cheese and chorizo, Toons Bridge ricotta, Garryhinch Wood mushrooms, local egg supplier Chick O’Loughlin (best name ever for an egg supplier?) and local Polish bread baker Richard Kamola. Regulars are obsessed with their mushrooms on toast with Parmesan cream, poached egg and wild garlic pesto foraged by Spain. The couple have just opened their second cafe and microroastery, Bad Habits, in Naas. AMcE

This Must Be the Place NEW
High Street, Cahernamart, Westport, Co Mayo; 087-7074500

Susan Timothy and Andrew McGinley opened their cafe in Westport last summer, serving simple fare elevated by quality ingredients and solid cooking by their head chef, Eoghan Kelly. The menu changes often and according to the seasons, and they love using the local grower Joe Kelly’s organic leaves and O’Reilly Bakery sourdough. One of their most popular dishes is a bacon croquette served with cabbage, poached eggs and hollandaise. Coffee is exceptionally good – it’s made with Anam Coffee beans, which are roasted in the Burren – and the brownie made for the cafe by a local baker, Anne O’Malley, really convinces us that this is the place. AMcE

Five Points
288a Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin 6
This neighbourhood cafe near Dublin 6’s five-pointed crossroads is a partnership project between 3fe and the barista Adam Sheridan. At Five Points, coffee is king, the rarebit with wild garlic and smoked-bacon bechamel sauce served by Katie McCann, the head chef, is to die for, and the tunes on the sound system are always on point. AMcE

Storyboard
Camden Block, Clancy Quay, Islandbridge, Dublin 8
The Cork man and 3fe alumni Jamie Griffin is the bard of Storyboard, and his genre of tales is food and drink. Mark Butler continues Laura Caulwell’s legacy as head chef through dedication to a pared-back menu, where McNally Family Farm produce, Le Levain Bakery bread and Wicklow eggs are the superstars of this story. Griffin is in the process of obtaining a wine licence, so watch this space for a new evening offering to come. AMcE

My Boy Blue
Holyground, Dingle, Co Kerry
Stephen Brennan, a Dubliner, and Amy O’Sullivan, who is local, are playing a blinder at My Boy Blue. Expect dishes like avocado toast with fried eggs and White Mausu chilli peanut rayu for brunch, and Thai green chicken curry with lemon grass and ginger served with sweet-potato poppadoms for lunch. The coffee – which is always excellent – is from 3fe, and Bácús Bakery treats are delivered daily from right around the corner. AMcE

Established Coffee
54 Hill Street, Belfast; 048-90319416
Bridgeen Barbour and Mark Ashbridge continue to win people over with the outstanding coffee and food at their central-Belfast cafe. They’re spreading the love by hosting brewing classes at their Established Academy if you’re interested in learning how to make better coffee at home. AMcE

Bang Bang
59a North Leinster Street, Phibsborough, Dublin 7; 01-8689244
Named after the Dublin street character, Bang Bang is a beautiful mix of community cafe, deli, vintage shop and art space, run by the brother-and-sister team of Grace and Daniel Lambert. Their Brunch Burger perseveres as their most popular dish. AMcE

Bread 41 NEW
41 Pearse Street, Dublin 2; 087-2977284

Eoin Cluskey’s dedication to “real bread” led him to open this bakery and cafe last year based on the belief that bread should have four ingredients: flour, salt, water and time. The cafe is the ideal showcase for the talented bakers in the kitchen, with unmissable pastries and a menu mainly based around their sourdough and batch breads, which are all available to take home. LC

Two Pups Coffee
74 Francis Street, Dublin 8
Two Pups is the cafe everyone wishes they had within walking distance of their house. With ample seating (including outside tables for sunny days), speciality coffee, and a menu focused on seasonal, Irish produce, it’s what cafe dreams are made of. They effortlessly turn out show-stopping dishes daily. The peanut butter and avocado toast with eggs and pickled onions, and the French toast with plum compote and white-chocolate mousse, have been particular favourites over the past year. LC

Alma NEW
12 South Circular Road, Portobello, Dublin 8; 086-8158324

There are family operations, and then there’s Alma. Six members of the Parisi family opened this Argentinean cafe earlier this year, with Alejandro and Lucrecia, the parents, in charge, and their four daughters doing everything from front of house to social media. Alma’s brunch menu, with dulce de leche pancakes, and steak, eggs and chimichurri, has added something different to an eggs-Benedict-saturated scene, and customers show their appreciation by queuing down South Circular Road at weekends. LC

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FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Ox, in Belfast: keeps getting better
Ox, in Belfast: keeps getting better

Ox
1 Oxford Street, Belfast; 048-90314121
Chefs still get in a spin about fine dining in Ireland, try too hard, throw too many things into squeezy bottles and get so stressed about it all that you can nearly taste the hydrocortisone on the plate. Stephen Toman knew exactly what he wanted to do in Ox when he opened it with the king of front of house Alain Kerloc’h six years ago. The aim was to keep getting better. And it has. Ox is wonderful. CC

Locks
1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin 8; 01-4163655
Cosy in winter, washed with shimmering canal light in summer, Locks is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere. It has a lot to do with the calm sense you get when you walk in here that you are among people, chefs and front-of-house staff who know precisely what they’re doing and how to do it. CC

The Tannery
10 Quay Street, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford; 058-45420
The chef Paul Flynn and his wife, Máire, didn’t invent the idea of a world-class restaurant in a small town. But they’ve been doing it for more than 20 years in Dungarvan, hosting cookery-school students, visiting celebrity chefs (who talk of memorable Downeys Bar experiences for years to come) and greenway explorers. The food is stellar – and what has also endured is the pride that they are doing this in their beloved hometown. CC

Aimsir NEW
Cliff at Lyons, Lyons Road, Celbridge, Kildare; 01-6303500
Aimsir is the new fine-dining restaurant on the block. The restaurant in part of the old cookery school at the Cliff at Lyons, in Co Kildare, sees the former Maaemo head chef Jordan Bailey and his wife, Majken Bech-Bailey, bringing Danish, Cornish and Norwegian influences to a locavore menu. Everything but the sugar has been sourced on the island. And that’s not for the want of trying. (They found two sugar-beet growers and almost burned down the kitchen in the attempt.) The food is dazzling, the service brilliant and bookings like hens’ teeth.

The Greenhouse
Joshua House, 21 Dawson Street, Dublin 2; 01-6767015
Occasion dining with all its props – the linen, the Frenchness, the heel-clicking precision service, the sterling-silver table scrapers – have been getting a bad rap in recent years as the trends rush towards informality. But Mickael Viljanen has continued to fly the crisply starched flag. It helps that he’s got a fiendish flavour sense and works French classics to perfection in the service of meals that are truly occasions. CC

Canteen Celbridge
4 Main Street, Celbridge, Co Kildare; 01-6274967
Some chefs still think “posh” food must involve ingredients from high on the hog, the fois-gras-and-fillet-of-beef school of cooking where it feels like an algorithm set to bling has composed the menu. James Sheridan’s menus are always interesting and personal, not in a whacky fashion but in a “here’s a chef who’s thinking” sort of way. Sheridan’s partner, Soizic Humbert, brings total professionalism to front of house. They’re a great team, and this is a great restaurant. CC

Variety Jones NEW
78 Thomas Street, Dublin 8; 01-5162470
We are barely two generations removed from people who learned instinctively how to cook over fire, the predominant method of most Irish households. Knowing how fire works is a central plank of Variety Jones, a wonderful addition to Thomas Street in Dublin. The fire became central almost accidentally when Keelan and Aaron Higgs, who are brothers, couldn’t get their gas hob connected. Now it’s a crucial part of the wonderful cooking that’s happening here. CC

Dax
23 Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin 2; 01-6761494
Graham Neville’s cooking feels slightly under the radar. First he was in the member’s club that was Restaurant FortyOne, on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Then he moved to the business-district basement restaurant that is Dax. Throughout that cooking career he has been creating the kind of food that would be starred in another city. His food is subtle and utterly delicious. CC

Ichigo Ichie
5 Sheares Street, Cork; 021-4279997
Sitting at the chef’s counter in this black-box space, you could be anywhere where deliciousness is taken deadly seriously. Dinner here could be intense, but it’s not, thanks to the combination of happiness and cooking skills that Takashi Miyazaki brings to his dream restaurant. You are watching a man in his element, and the food he hands you tastes of joy. CC

Forest & Marcy
126 Leeson Street Upper, Dublin 4; 01-6602480
If there were a poster child for modern Irish food in the capital, it’s hard to think of a better candidate than Forest & Marcy. If there were a poster dish, the fermented potato bread with bacon and cabbage would win every time. Ciaran Sweeney and team quietly go about their business in this neighbourhood kitchen, taking the best Irish produce they can find, doing little to it and making their guests very happy. LC

Liath NEW
Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin; 01-2123676

Damien Grey’s follow-up to the hugely successful Heron & Grey has already surpassed the original, with a tasting menu consisting of his most spellbinding dishes from the past few years and a newly revamped room that feels more like Scandinavia than south Co Dublin. All eyes will be on the Michelin awards this autumn to see if he regains his star, but that already seems like a done deal. LC

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FAMILY FRIENDLY

Gertrude, in Dublin: planned with children (and their food- and wine-loving parents) very much in mind
Gertrude, in Dublin: planned with children (and their food- and wine-loving parents) very much in mind

Gertrude NEW
130 Pearse Street, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2; 01-5157563

The first proper restaurant from the 3fe coffee roastery was planned with children (and their food- and wine-loving parents) very much in mind. The spacious interior is buggy friendly and has high chairs aplenty as well as a comfortable nappy-changing facility. Even better than all of that is that children aren’t condemned to chicken nuggets and chips. Half-portions of everything on the adult menu are available at half-price, and there’s a simplified menu, with beans on toast and pancakes, in case your mini-me doesn’t feel up to the pork tonkatsu sandwich or the duck buns – but why wouldn’t they? LC

Gaillot et Gray
Clanbrassil Street Lower, Dublin 8, 01-4547781
It’s mesmerising to watch the bakers in this wonderful neighbourhood pizza place and bakery turn and fold pillowy sourdough loaves on the floured surface before popping them back into proving baskets for more time. The same dough goes into the pizza, and the toppings are just as beautiful. You may only ever want Emmental on your pizza after a visit here. CC

Michael’s
57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin; 01-2780377
You can (just about) see the sea from Michael’s; more importantly, you can taste it in a way that not many city restaurants manage. Generosity is the spirit here, from the beautifully cooked platters of the freshest fish and seafood glistening with butter to the chats with the customers on which the chef Gareth Smith (or Gaz, as everyone knows him) lavishes the rest of his time. If you’re a fish- or seafood-loving family, this is your place. CC

Camerino NEW
Goethe-Institut Irland, 37 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2; 01-5377755
Georgian basements can be inaccessible places for buggies and smallies, but not here. Thanks to the lavish refit of the German Goethe-Institut, this old building is now open to everyone. The beauty is matched by Caryna Camerino’s baking and cooking. Simple soups, salads and hotpots are the order of the day, and lots of mothers-to-be have made it a favourite spot thanks to its proximity to the National Maternity Hospital, on Holles Street. Decaf coffees all round. CC

Overends Kitchen
Airfield Estate, Overend Way, Dundrum Dublin 14; 01-9696666
Children get excited about food in a way that more jaded adults sometimes miss out. Airfield is a working model farm where warm eggs can be collected and milking watched, food grown or mooing within earshot of this lovely cafe. The food in Overends Kitchen is as impressive as the farm. Sunday lunch is a particular favourite, and the Woolapalooza Festival gets better every year. CC

The Ballymore Inn
Main Street, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare; 045-864585
I love this place because they make chicken-liver pâté the way my mum used to make it. The old favourites remain and new dishes – falafel with tahini dressing, anyone? – are executed with the same attention to detail and flavour, giving plenty for a variety of family members to eat. When the house-made pizza dough is topped with as stellar an ingredient as Ballyhoura wild mushrooms, you know you’re in a good food place. CC

Grow HQ
Farronshoneen, Dunmore Road, Waterford; 051-584422
You might recognise Grow HQ as the backdrop for the RTÉ TV series Grow Cook Eat. In the Grow HQ cafe, the head chef, JB Dubois, works closely with the head grower, Richard Mee, to design a cafe menu that makes the most of the produce grown on site, paired with great local suppliers like Seagull Bakery, with its sourdough. All dishes are available in Little GIYer size for under-12s. Check out the monthly junior cookery club and the Grow Cook Eat children’s camps held throughout the year. AMcE

The Dough Bros
1 Cathedral Buildings, Middle Street, Galway; 091-395238
Rolling dough on Middle Street since 2016, the Dough Bros continues to serve up blisteringly good pizzas. The process is on view for all to see in the open-plan kitchen, where the wood-fired pizza oven takes centre stage. AMcE

Old Street Restaurant
Old Street, Malahide, Co Dublin; 01-8455614
Having two small children themselves, Mark and Adriana Fitzpatrick had family dining high on the priority list when they opened Old Street, in 2017. High chairs and nappy changing were a given, as was a thoughtful children’s menu with the option of half-sized portions of adult dishes. Last year they introduced kids-eat-free Sundays (one child for each adult) and sealed their fate as the go-to family Sunday lunch spot on the northside of Dublin. LC

BuJo NEW
6a Sandymount Green, Dublin 4

The day Michael Sheary’s daughter was born, in 2014, he made a promise he was going to do something to make the world a better place for her to live in. With a background in hospitality, and after several trips to the United States, he saw an opportunity for an Irish burger joint – BuJo – with “a Michelin-starred approach to sourcing and sustainability”. He hired Gráinne O’Keefe (of Clanbrassil House), and they spent two years working on the concept before BuJo opened, in early 2018. Almost every ingredient they use is Irish, with grass-fed beef and potatoes from north Dublin and burger buns from Kildare. They operate fully on renewable electricity, all packaging is compostable and even staff uniforms have been ethically made. Their commitment to sustainability was rewarded with a three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association last year – the only burger restaurant in the UK and Ireland to have received its highest award. LC

Batch Coffee House NEW
Main Street, Falcarragh, Co Donegal

We came off Falcarragh beach famished recently and just came across this gorgeous new roomy, friendly place in the Gaeltacht village. The menu at Batch is based around the great bread they serve here, but there are other star ingredients, like Mulroy Bay mussels. An open prawn sandwich became something better again thanks to the leaves from Killult, an organic horticultural project between Falcarragh and Gortahork. Toasties were perfect postsurf fare. CC

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OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Little Fox, in Ennistymon: Niamh Fox and her team love showcasing local ingredients. Photograph: Alison Derham
Little Fox, in Ennistymon: Niamh Fox and her team love showcasing local ingredients. Photograph: Alison Derham

Little Fox NEW
Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare; 065-7072311

The food world took notice when Niamh Fox (formerly of Ard Bia, Paradiso and Kai) moved with her partner, the furniture designer and knifemaker Sam Gleeson, to Ennistymon to open her first solo venture. The chef and her team alter the menu every day, but you can expect variations on a potato and Gubbeen chorizo hash with fried egg, campfire beans with sausage, or the Foxy salad bowl. They love showcasing local ingredients, such as Hugo’s Deli sourdough from Lahinch, Inagh free-range farm pork, and greens from Moy Hill Community Farm. Coffee is made with Galway’s Calendar Coffee, and they serve bottles of Kombucha Full of Love, brewed in nearby Killaloe. AMcE

Mews Restaurant
Baltimore, Co Cork 028-20572
Right from its opening summer Mews has been a joyous place: three friends having the best of times sourcing food for their restaurant project by chatting with men in pubs. The original trio has changed, and Ahmet Dede came down from the big smoke to cook when Luke Matthews moved up. He has been rewarded with a well-deserved Michelin star. Book now before the migrating hordes of barristers do. CC

Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites NEW
Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co Galway

It’s one thing growing your own vegetables. It’s another thing bringing the soil to grow them over to the island by boat and mulching it with seaweed in winter to keep your patch of precious fertility flourishing on a windswept rock. Inis Meáin is a magical island, and this is a restaurant that does it enormous justice, serving food grown just outside the window or fished from a spot you can see on the extraordinary vista of ocean as you dine. CC

Shells Seaside Bakery & Cafe
Strandhill, Co Sligo; 071-9122938
Perched on Strandhill’s stunning coastline, Shells Seaside Bakery & Cafe specialises in comfort food flavoured with a breath of fresh sea air. Don’t leave without trying a baked good – they have three bakers working with them to create daily delicacies of brown bread, croissants, scones and hot cross buns. AMcE

Teach an Tea
Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, Co Galway; 099-75092
Alissa and Michael Donoghue serve home-made and home-grown food from tea rooms on the ground floor of the Donoghue family home, originally built in the 1800s. Expect fresh fish and greens, tarts featuring Aran Island goat’s cheese and top-class baked goods. AMcE

Firehouse Bakery
Delgany, Co Wicklow; 01- 2876822
If you love Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore’s bakery and cafe in Delgany, Co Wicklow, you should head to Heir Island, in west Co Cork, for a class at their renowned bakery school. If you don’t fancy taking a boat to your sourdough (although it’s less than five minutes by sea to Heir Island from the mainland), the east-coast home of Firehouse Bakery serves up stunning sourdough, wood-fired-oven pizza, and divine cookies, cakes and pastries. AMcE

Pilgrim’s NEW
6 South Square, Townlands, Rosscarbery, Co Cork; 023-8831796

“Did you have the spuds?” Regulars at Pilgrim’s are evangelical about Mark Jennings’s oak-smoked potatoes, with good reason. These bad boys are smoked and roasted, crushed open and then finished in a deep-fryer before being tossed in a balsamic glaze. Jennings and his partner, Sarah-Jane Pearce, opened their relaxed dining room in 2015 with a focus on the foraged, local and seasonal. The list of local suppliers displayed on the back of the menu is actually longer than the short but perfectly formed list of dishes, which changes constantly. Make the pilgrimage to Rosscarbery to experience this cooking in this space. It’ll be good for your soul. AMcE

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WORLD FOOD

Miyazaki, in Cork: this tiny Japanese takeaway and restaurant serves some of the most astonishingly good food in Ireland
Miyazaki, in Cork: this tiny Japanese takeaway and restaurant serves some of the most astonishingly good food in Ireland

Miyazaki
1a Evergreen Street, Ballyphehane, Cork; 021-4312716
People queue for a spot at one of the six seats in this tiny Japanese takeaway and restaurant serving some of the most astonishingly good food in Ireland. These days its owner and head chef, Takashi Miyazaki, is usually found at his Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, so he has meticulously trained his team of chefs at Miyazaki, led by Mike McGrath, to re-create what makes his cooking so magical. Miyazaki’s lemon ramen has the power to replenish the weariest of hearts. AMcE

Lucky Tortoise Dumpling Company NEW
8 Aungier Street, Dublin 2
A pop-up for a long time, this tortoise set up a permanent home on Aungier Street recently. The menu is simple and full of flavoursome street-food favourites from Japanese, Korean and Chinese schools of cooking. It’s bring your own beer (they only have a wine licence) and down to Scoop for dessert, but this pared-back place is wildly popular. So make sure to book. CC

Rasam
18-19 Glasthule Road, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin; 01-2300600
The restaurateur Nisheeth Tak revolutionised Indian food in Dublin decades ago, bringing chefs to Ireland to wean us off the stock sauce approach that made every Indian meal taste the same. Rasam is still innovating and roasting and blending its own fresh spices and keeping the experience special, a place still teaching us about hospitality and delicious cooking. CC

3 Leaves
Blackrock Market, Blackrock, Co Dublin; 087-7691361
Santosh Thomas and his partner, Milie, are a great food couple. He’s a chef who thinks about what’s shifting and changing in the seasons, she has spoken about the joy she gets from balancing her work as a cancer nurse with working front of house. There is lots of thought here about how the world around us influences how we feel and how delicious food can help us leave happier than when we arrived. CC

Nightmarket
120 Ranelagh, Dublin 6; 01-5385200
The best Thai cooking has an addictive combination of hot, sweet, salt and sour. Lesser places dial up the sweetness, but Jutarat Suwankeeree is a cook who has been around the magic of this food since she was a girl. Great for groups of people since they’ve expanded upstairs, Nightmarket is a blast of freshness in this restaurant district. CC

Kimchi Hophouse
160 Parnell Street, Dublin 1; 01-8728318
Kyoung Hee Lee and her team have been bringing bibimbap and gochujang to Dublin city centre since 2006. Recently she, her manager, Mihui Ko, and her head chef, Seoungin Jung, redesigned the menu, introducing new dishes, such as K-popcorn prawn (and, yes, that is a nod to the K-pop phenomenon) and the sweet and spicy U-dong with fried kimchi, alongside old favourites such as their sushi and the classic bibimbap, which is still their bestseller. AMcE

Hang Dai
20 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2; 01-5458888
What do you get when you mix 1980s John Carpenter movies with Hong Kong subway decor and the facade of a Chinese takeaway? You get Hang Dai. The vibe that head chef Karl Whelan and front of house Will Dempsey go in for is Beijing-style roast Skeaghanore duck, salt-and-pepper-fried tofu doused in fermented chilli sauce, and superspecial noodles served in New York-style takeaway boxes. The restaurant features a sound system designed by the Irish sound architect Toby Hatchett, meaning you can always hear what your dinner date is saying while DJs spin vinyl from the booth. AMcE

Wa Cafe
13 New Dock Street, Galway; 091-895850
Sushi is the speciality of Wa Cafe’s chef and owner, Yoshimi Hayakawa, who offers up some of the best you’ll find in Ireland. Gannet Fishmongers provides the produce while Hayakawa serves up the magic touch. AMcE

Vietnom NEW
The Glimmer Man, 14 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7; 087-3207279

This flavour-bursting food truck at the back of the Glimmer Man Pub in Stoneybatter is serving some of Dublin’s best street food, with predominantly Vietnamese flavours and a bit of Mexican thrown into the mix. The cauliflower tostadas with peanut sauce, chillies and pickled onions are pilgrimage worthy, and the courgette fried rice with nuts, chillies, pickled onions, herbs and flower petals is the product of someone seriously au fait with flavour. LC

777 NEW
7 Castle House, 73-83 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2; 01-4254052

The flavours at 777 are in a particularly good place right now. The head chef, Essa Fakhry, recently spent time in New York working in the kitchens of Cosme and Empellon, and came home with fire in his belly and a new slate of ideas, like the charred Iberico Secreto with poblano peppers, peaches and sour cream. This is food like the type you find in Mexico City – no relative to sad burrito chains or supermarket taco kits. The excellent margaritas are mandatory. LC

M&L Chinese Restaurant
13-14 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1; 01-8748038
Ireland may not be bursting at the seams with authentic Chinese food, but M&L is a little corner of Sichuan off O’Connell Street. The green beans with garlic and chilli have started many people on the path to addiction, and the house-made dumplings with beef and pork, topped liberally with chilli oil, are noise-makingly good. With BYO at a bargain €6 per bottle, it has become one of the hospitality industry’s favourite hangouts. LC

Ananda NEW
Cinema Building, Dundrum Town Centre, Sandyford Road, Dublin 16; 01-2960099

Convincing a 24-year-old Karan Mittal to leave sunny San Francisco for rainy Dublin was the smartest move Ananda’s owners could have made. The former Indian Accent chef’s tasting menu is a journey through his childhood in Delhi, and after being invited to a preview of his latest creations I was back within a week for more. Lunch is a different beast from dinner, with a well-executed set menu catering to locals and shoppers, but in the evening Mittal comes alive, unleashing family recipes and original creations while weaving in the best of Irish produce. The intense black-lime sorbet, disarmingly simple plate of Indian breads with goat’s butter and eye-wateringly good dahl, and roast Roscommon goat leg with fermented rice pancakes and chutneys are all unmissable. LC

Shouk NEW
40 Drumcondra Road Lower, Dublin 9; 01-5322114

Shouk makes people happy. From the home-made pitta warm from the pan to the almost indecently satisfying beef and lamb arayes, to the meze platter that always seems too generous, both in size and in sheer flavour, it’s hard to go back from Middle Eastern food this good. Which might explain why it’s so hard to get a table. The outside seating in the back is one of Dublin’s best-kept sunny-day secrets. LC

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VEGETARIAN- AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY

Pickle, in Dublin: If you thought vegetarian food was boring, Sunil Ghai’s lovely curry house will change your mind

Pickle
43 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2; 01-5557755
Long, slow cooking and expert spicing turn the lentil into a star ingredient in Sunil Ghai’s lovely curry house. The vegetable thali came on the menu in January to chime with healthier-eating urges, but it has stayed put well past the denial months of the new year’s resolution stage. If you thought vegetarian food was boring, Pickle will change your mind. CC

Iyer’s
38 Popes Quay, Shandon, Cork; 087-6409079
This little cafe could hold its own in the World Food category, as you’ll notice the south Indian food served here is fiendishly tasty before you’ll notice that it’s also vegetarian. Gautham Iyer has a real feeling for threading Irish ingredients through Indian dishes, like the delicate white wild garlic flowers topping a bhelpuri of puffed rice, herbs and tamarind. CC

Paradiso
16 Lancaster Quay, Cork; 021-4277939
Denis Cotter got international recognition this year for his collaboration with the organic growers Ultan Walsh and Lucy Stewart of Gort na Nain farm, the judges at the World Restaurant Awards noting its “longevity and synergy”. In other words, the Paradiso farm partnership was not down to any bandwagon-jumping. Eighteen years later, farm and restaurant are flourishing together. CC

Sweet Beat Cafe
Bridge Street, Sligo; 071-9138795
After a long drive to Sligo recently, Sweet Beat’s house beans on a chilly Monday were a godsend when everything else in town seemed closed. Their house rosehip and hibiscus kombucha is punchy with flavour and fizz, and it’s always a pleasure to see how busy this place is. As a recent convert to soaking dried chickpeas instead of reaching for a tin, I’ll bet they’ve been doing that kind of thing here since the doors of this lovely cafe opened. CC

The Bookstop Cafe
5 Bridge Street, Kenmare, Co Kerry; 083-8533903
There are two smells I love, and both are in this small cafe on a laneway in Kenmare. The first is the warm human fug of second-hand books, which you can buy or leaf through carefully as you eat. Then there are the delicious food smells. The Bookstop is a co-operative making delicious vegetarian food, like a creamy dhal with a beet and barley salad served with lettuce that was freshly picked from someone’s garden. CC

The Fumbally
8 Fumbally Lane, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8; 01-5298732
There is meat and sometimes fish (for the Wednesday evening suppers) at the Fumbally, but vegetables have always been centre stage. The thriving cafe was built on falafel: it was the only dish they served when they opened their doors. In the Stables, next door, a small fermentation factory makes jars of wonderful kimchi, preserved lemons, miso and fermented garlic paste, which make for a truly delicious plant-heavy diet. CC

Groundstate Coffee
48-50 James’s Street, Dublin 8; 083-8820258
More than just the coffee shop you’d assume from the look of the place, this has been a seriously great addition to James’s Street. Chefs here prepare meat dishes, but their vegetarian options are more than half the offering, and they source their vegetables from the hero supplier McNally Family Farm. CC

The Rocket Man Food Co
38 Princes Street, Cork; 021-4278550
Vegetarians, vegans and those who simply enjoy eating their greens have food heroes in Jack Crotty and his business partner (and mum), Simone Crotty. Try the plant-based quick food of the Rocket Man Food Co on Princes Street or at Mahon Point and Douglas farmers’ markets, or check out their falafel bar, East, housed in the historic Winthrop Arcade. AMcE

Brother Hubbard
153 Capel Street, Dublin 1, 01-4411112
The Brother Hubbard crew, led by owners Garret Fitzgerald and James Boland, have been looking after vegetarians and vegans since 2012, with Middle East-inspired menus at their Capel Street and Harrington Street locations in central Dublin. Try their home-made vegan cornbread with grilled greens and corn for brunch, or book yourself in for an evening meze feast. AMcE

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