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Fourteen great Irish restaurants for winter 2021 worth a special journey

Our food experts Corinna Hardgrave, Lisa Cope and Ali Dunworth reveal their favourites

It is so wonderful to see restaurants back open – and, dare we say it, feel some normality returning, as we head out to meet friends and enjoy the conviviality of a good night out with great food. All the places to eat in this list come from our new guide to 100 great restaurants for winter 2021, which also includes new openings, great places to dine with friends and family, where to go for a special occasion, the places that are doing amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes, the places with clever wine lists, and where to eat outdoors as the days get cooler. Things will continue to change, so be sure to check details with the restaurant when booking. Corinna Hardgrave

Cliff at Lyons, Celbridge, Co Kildare; 01-630500,
If two Michelin stars aren't enough reason to get you to Aimsir then the exceptional dedication to ingredient-led cooking should. Chef Jordan Bailey works exclusively with native Irish produce for Aimsir's impressive 18-course tasting menu. Expect clever uses of foraged Irish herbs and spices, plenty from their onsite kitchen garden and new farm and a finely curated selection of Irish suppliers on the menu, along with outstanding two star cooking of course. Ali Dunworth

Main Street Kinsale, Co Cork; 021-4709696,
Bastion in Kinsale was added to the growing list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Cork last year with good reason. Here you'll find pared-back modern Irish cooking with a huge emphasis on local and seasonal sourcing for their signature tasting menu. They also offer a full vegetable tasting menu option, although it should be pre-ordered. The extensive wine list is well curated and matches the refined cooking happening here. Closed mid-January to mid-February. AD

By The Pier, Ballycotton, Co. Cork; 021-4646768,
The quiet fishing village of Ballycotton in East Cork has a few reasons to visit – the stunning 7km cliff walk; pints in The Blackbird; and the natural smoked haddock with potato velouté and a crispy hen's egg at Cush. Chef Dan Guerin's food philosophy is the more local, seasonal and sustainable the better, and his menu takes classic component such as croquettes, fishcakes and jus, and spins them into something that overdelivers on the menu description. The interiors are modernly maritime and very comfortable. Lisa Cope


Gregans Castle
Ballyvaughan, Co Clare; 065-7077005,
The location for this boutique hotel, in the middle of the Burren, is enchanting, and head chef Robbie McCauley makes full use of the local larder. It is tasting menu only, so very much for a special occasion, with two options – a seven-course menu for €80, or a 10-course menu for €95. McCauley's cooking is confident, flavours are well-defined, and he has the maturity to pare back where necessary. All diets are catered for with advance notice. Corinna Hardgrave

Ichigo Ichie 
5 Fenns Quay, Sheares Street, Cork; 021-4279997,
Cork is always a great destination for dining and when you're looking for something really special you won't be disappointed by Michelin-starred Ichigo Ichie. Here, chef Takashi Miyazaki specialises in Japanese kaiseki tasting menus – elaborately prepared, beautifully plated, super seasonal and incorporating plenty of excellent local suppliers. If you can't get a booking here, seek out his nearby takeaway Miyazaki for an equally excellent but much more casual option. AD

Slatefort House Bullaun, Loughrea, Co Galway; 087-3300559,
Head to Lignum for refined yet relaxed fine dining where there is a real dedication to the ingredients being hyper-local, seasonal and sustainable. The centrepiece of the restaurant is the wood-burning oven where they cook much of their 10-course tasting menu so expect plenty of smoke, char and warming woody flavours. They also cater well for vegetarians, with a full veggie tasting menu available when requested. AD

Linnane's Lobster Bar
New Quay, The Burren, Co Clare; 065-7078120,
The substantial outdoor terrace at Linnane's was one of the big hits this summer, as long as you had booked well in advance. It overlooks the working pier in New Quay where lobster is landed, and available on the menu for €41 a pop. That price may be a bit rich for some diners – although probably not those who arrived by helicopter the last time we were there – but there is also good value to be had. We particularly liked the clams, and the fish and chips. CH

MacNean House and Restaurant
Main Street, Blacklion, Co Cavan; 071-9853022,
If ever there was a destination restaurant, Neven Maguire's MacNean House is it, and although it seems to be forever booked out, it is always worth checking for cancellations. Maguire's food is always delicious, and he has the agile ability to weave in nuances from his travels while still allowing the essential beauty of local produce to shine through. The nine-course tasting menu is €98, and €153 with a wine pairing. CH

Morrissey's of Doonbeg
Doonbeg, Co Clare; 065-9055304,
Cosy in the winter with two smart interconnecting rooms, and buzzy in the summer with a large outside terrace, the menu in this gastropub is pleasingly straight forward. Doonbeg crab claws in a bath of warm garlic butter is a speciality, as is scampi and locally landed fish. Prices are reasonable, and portions are substantial, so you may find you want to share the apple crumble which comes with ice cream and a jug of warm creme Anglaise. CH

6 South Square, Townlands, Rosscarbery, Co Cork; 023-8831796,
You should travel from far and wide to eat at Sarah-Jane Pearce and Mark Jennings's Pilgrim's (and many do each year). The menu of homegrown, locally sourced and foraged produce is brought together by hands that are nothing short of magic, and even if you think you know a vegetable, fruit or cut of meat, prepare to be dumbfounded by its newly found flavour. The diningroom with its white washed walls, wooden beams and dried flower bouquets, evokes a quaint French cottage, and it's one of the loveliest places in west Cork to enjoy what's sure to be one of your most memorable meals. LC

Restaurant Chestnut     
The Chestnut Tree, Staball Hill, Ballydehob, Co Cork; 028-25766,
Elaine Fleming and Rob Krawczyk have always had a purity of vision when it comes to the style of food they serve on the €100 tasting menu in their one-Michelin star restaurant. They now raise their own pigs for charcuterie, make their own butter and cheese, and pickle, ferment and dry seasonal produce throughout the year. All of the produce used comes from organic farmers and an ability to treat these ingredients with restraint results in focused, delicious food. CH

Square Restaurant
6 Market Square, Dundalk, Co. Louth; 042-9337969,
In a small, simply decorated room that would almost bring Etto to mind, Conor Halpenny, the winner of the Euro-Toques young chef of the year in 2017, has returned to his home town to cook a focused a la carte menu, driven by local and seasonal produce. Snacks, and tasty starters such as buttermilk fried chicken, are followed by substantial main courses and elegant desserts such as a very on-trend choux bun. CH

The Cottage Restaurant
Jamestown, Co Leitrim; 071-9625933,
Right on the banks of the Shannon in the village of Jamestown, you'll find Sham Hanifa's unassuming restaurant, The Cottage where he is cooking some of the most creative food in Ireland. Hanifa skillfully combines his Malayasian and Thai cooking knowledge while showcasing specialist Irish produce and homegrown ingredients for a menu that is as tasty as it is exciting. Note the restaurant is closed in January. AD

Wine & Brine
59 Main St, Moira, Co Armagh; 0044-28-92610500,
Chris McGowan, who trained with Richard Corrigan, Pierre Koffmann and Gary Rhodes, will be familiar to fans of the Great British Menu. He now runs this restaurant with his wife Davina, where the focus is on using local produce featuring dishes such as pig's head doughnut with smoked eel, and plaice on the bone. A tasting menu runs on Saturday, and Sunday lunch is £32 for three courses. The menu includes vegetarian options and they're happy to adapt for vegans with prior notice. CH

Jump to: 
Thirteen great places that are new and noteworthy
Seventeen great places to go with friends
Twelve great places with iconic dishes
Fifteen great places for special occasions
Ten great places for vegetarians
Six great places for families
Six great places for all-weather outdoor dining
Seven great places with tempting wine lists