Catherine Cleary’s best restaurants of 2018

From humble street food to Michelin-star magic, here are my most memorable meals

Big money restaurants: chains have muscled their way in one expensive refit after another. Photograph: iStock

Big money restaurants: chains have muscled their way in one expensive refit after another. Photograph: iStock

In times of glut there is always scarcity. It might sound like a fortune-cookie aphorism but in our information-saturated age, the scarce commodity is attention. How many meals do we eat while actually thinking about the food we’re eating? Or are we just chewing mechanically while our thoughts dart about elsewhere?

This year, the landscape clamoured for our attention. Like a child who’s been ignored for too long, our weather threw several spectacular tantrums. The countryside was blanketed with white and then scorched brown in the heatwave that followed the late-spring blizzards. Big question marks about how we farm were written in our scorched shallow-rooted monocultured grass. On a trip to Inis Meáin, I saw what it looks like when an island runs out of food for its animals even for a brief time: bewildered cattle in bare brown fields and bags of beef nuts on the boat.

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