Bank Holiday bites: 10 great Irish pubs that also serve excellent food
These watering holes across Ireland also serve great food, from locally caught seafood to roast dinners
Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcolgan, Co Galway
As summer rolls in and road trips, staycations and weekend adventures start to happen, if you’re like me, stopping off to eat will be high on the agenda. If you’re not, I would highly recommend it.
Embarking on any trip, or indeed day out, with a crafty detour for a nice meal planned, can be transformative. And for those “impromptu” plans, pub grub suits most of us. They are more casual than a restaurant but calmer than a busy cafe; heels or flip flops are welcome and there should be an expectation to relax once you walk through the door.
But while there is no shortage of great pubs around the country, it can be all too common for pub food to be an afterthought. That is not the case for these gems. Whether it’s a seaside pub buying fish from local boats like Deasy’s in Clonakilty, Co Cork, Kildare stalwart The Ballymore Inn growing as much as they can themselves, or the pub in Sligo where they’ve gone as far as buying a vineyard in France to source their own wine – each of these establishments has gone that extra mile for their food.
In fact, they are pubs for planning your day or, indeed, a whole trip around . . .
The Ballymore Inn
Main Street, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare, 045-864 585
The Ballymore Inn has been in business 16 years and has been picking up accolades just as long for its wholesome pub food. Provenance is high on the agenda, with plenty of locally sourced - or homegrown when in season - vegetables, free-range chicken and sustainable fish. They make their own bread, pizza, tarts, biscuits, and ice cream. With people travelling from all over to eat here, they’ve become dab hands at perfecting the extensive menu while catering to all. You’ll find options for kids, vegetarians and vegans, which is probably the reason this is cited by many as a wonderful place for family get-togethers.
FOR FISH LOVERS
Ring Village, Clonakilty, Co Cork, 023-883 5741
Deasy’s has become a bit of a poster pub for serving superb local produce, and with good reason. Sitting down for a meal in this traditional pub with old-school charm is a joy. Chef Caitlin Ruth gets fresh seafood daily from the local day boats – with sustainability as a focus rather than fashion, so expect to find lesser-showcased fish, like ling, cooked to perfection. For the rest of the ever-changing seasonal menu, they use almost exclusively locally-grown ingredients, vegetables from local farms and beef, chicken and pork raised in the nearby fields. Ruth has even sourced locally grown chillies. Add in stunning views out over the harbour and you can see why they are used as an example of how great pub food can be.
A BEACH-DAY FEED
The Strand Cahore
Cahore Pier, Ballygarrett, Gorey, Co Wexford, 053-942 7486
Aileen and Patrick Hanley only took over this seaside pub last year but have done a fine job of making a name for themselves through their food. Putting their hospitality pasts to good use, they’ve assembled a menu featuring some great Irish food producers. Meadowfield Farm goat’s cheese, Sneem black pudding, Ballyhack smoked salmon and fish from nearby Kilmore Quay. Comforting mains include west Kerry lamb cutlets and local Macamore Buffalo Farm burgers with Wexford cheddar. They make all their own bread, sauces, dips and desserts. Tuck into a local feast while enjoying the views of the beach pier and sea views as far as Wicklow Head.
FOR CITY RAMBLERS
The Legal Eagle
1-2 Chancery Place, Inns Quay, Dublin 1, 01-555 2971
We are spoilt for great pubs in Dublin city but pub food, alas, has not always been on par. Then along came The Legal Eagle. The pub itself is smart and welcoming, with lovingly restored surrounds. An extensive but accomplished menu really celebrates Irish food. From name-checking great suppliers (Lough Neagh smoked eel, Pigs on the Green bacon, Roaring Water Bay mussels) to reimagining the classics – Old School Prawn Cocktail anyone? Don’t miss the homemade bar snacks – pickled eggs, pork scratchings and DIY crisp sandwiches. All on hand for the ultimate pub-food experience.
GREAT FOR FAMILIES
The Poachers Inn
Clonakilty Road, Bandon, Co Cork, 023-884 1159
These guys have been quietly garnering a great reputation for their seafood, although it’s not exclusively a seafood spot, with fish coming from neighbouring Kinsale, Baltimore, Skibbereen and Castletownbere. They grow some of their own salad leaves and all the bread is made in-house. Combining a love of local ingredients with plenty of worldly influence on the menu means you can expect dishes like creamy chowder with lemon and star anise, paella with scallops and prawn curry with ginger and lemongrass. They cater well for children and always have an irresistible selection of homemade desserts.
BEST FOR OYSTERS AND GUINNESS
Moran’s Oyster Cottage
The Weir, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, 091-796 113
The world-famous Morans on the Weir has been garnering attention for its food and drink since 1966 when Al Byrne, a Guinness rep and a brother of Gay Byrne, decided to have a Guinness party here during the Galway Oyster Festival. The thatched pub is now synonymous with the festival and a favourite with locals and tourists alike. The freshest Galway flat oysters, steamed clams, prawn cocktails and crab claws all come with homemade brown bread. Fish and chips, local Clare lobster and an epic selection of seafood platters and open sandwiches fill the rest of the menu.
FOR OLD-SCHOOL CHARM
4-5 O’Connell Street, Sligo, 071-915 3714
Dating back to 1864, this is a beautifully preserved, and in some parts restored, pub, full of snugs, stone floors and hidden alcoves. They proudly boast about provenance on their menu, growing some of their own fruit and vegetables in polytunnels and sourcing the rest from nearby Ballincar Farm. They cold-smoke their own salmon and beef comes from the butcher across the road. But what are they making with all this great local food? Think soup, salads and staples like stew, fishcakes, oysters, chowder, steak and fish. They even have wine from their own vineyard in the Languedoc.
FOR SUNDAY LUNCH
The Old Spot
14 Bath Avenue, Dublin 4, 01-660 5599
This cosy Dublin 4 pub was re-designed a few years ago, transforming it from an unremarkable boozer into a welcoming bar and restaurant. They’ve been carving out a reputation for serving what is regarded by many to be the best Sunday lunch in the city especially since Denise McBrien took over the front of house and Fiachra Kenny the kitchen. The meat-centric menu refreshingly names its sustainable sources – Feighcullen duck, McLoughlin’s dry-aged beef and Salters free-range chickens. They appear as elevated classic roast dinners on Sundays, served with a troupe of trimmings: duck-fat roast potatoes, carrots, cauliflower cheese and red wine jus. Walk it all off at nearby ramblers’ favourites Sandymount Strand or Poolbeg Lighthouse.
ROAD TRIP STOP-OFF
Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen
76 Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary, 062-62007
This smartly-restored 19th-century pub reopened in 2017 with a new look and an enticing menu, embracing modern gastropub cooking. There are tempting homemade bar snacks – sweet potato crisps with chilli salt, beer nuts and triple-cooked chips. Sourcing from Tipperary is high on the agenda, with organic meat from The Good Herdsmen, vegetables from Annie’s Organic Farm and Comfrey Cottage and of course Cashel Blue cheese. A well-executed menu offers a brilliant club sandwich, a burger with Cashel Blue, wild venison and boar pasties, Irish mussels with white wine and garlic and rib eye with chips or mash. An essential stop-off anytime you’re on the M8.
FOR LOCAL VIBES IN THE CITY
L Mulligan Grocer
18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, 01-670 9889
As new food businesses continue to open at a rapid rate in Stoneybatter and its surrounds, L Mulligan looks on like a supportive big sister. For me, they set the standard doing really great casual pub food with a local focus. Much like they’ve done with their beers, the food menu honours the best of Ireland, peppered with hero suppliers like Gubbeen cheese and meats, Ballymakenny vegetables and Velvet Cloud dairy. They do weekly Sunday roasts – it might be TJ Crowe’s roast pork belly or free-range roast chicken with trimmings. They also run a fun diary of events that focus on spreading the word about great food and drink or adding value to the local community.