Ireland’s top 100 cafes, restaurants and bars for lunch

It’s an institution that seemed in danger of crumbling for a while. Lunch looked like the least loved of our three meals a day, fuel to be consumed while thumb-swiping or clearing the in-box. “Let’s do lunch” became code for “Let’s not bother.” Not having time for lunch became a dubious badge of honour, as if how busy you are were a sign of how important you are.

In the downturn, restaurants were facing half-empty rooms at lunch. Many threw in the towel, telescoping staff and kitchen costs into one extended dinner service of early-bird and pretheatre wheezes. Lunch was nearly toast.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

When Lisa Cope, Marie-Claire Digby and I met to plan this list we were happily surprised by how many types of lunch we could name, which allowed a different kind of top 100 to evolve. Many of our firm favourites had appeared in our list of 100 of the best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland, published in May, but didn’t make the cut this time, not because we’re fickle but because they don’t serve lunch. That lack of a lunch sitting is still a striking feature of the urban-rural divide.

But the good news is that lunch didn’t die: it came back stronger. Our great-lunches list will take you to unusual places: lunch at a library, college, Michelin-starred restaurant, takeaway or second-hand bookshop, among others. A day can be built around a lunch; business can be cemented; long lunches can feel like a mini break from reality; families can last the pace where a dinner might test everyone’s energy levels; you can also grab a quick lunch. Wherever you go, taking this list as your guide, you can be pretty certain it will be a great lunch.

Lunch can be taken lightly or seriously. We’ve opted for the latter: a seriously good list of legends in their lunchtime. Catherine Cleary

Jump to:
Cultural
Business
With friends
With family
Long lunch
Make a day of it
Sunday lunch
Pit stop
Speedy
Special occcasion

CULTURAL

TU Dublin Green/Blue Room
Technical University of Dublin, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin 1, bookings on scaft@tudublin.ie
The student restaurant at the culinary school of TU Dublin – or Dublin Institute of Technology, as it was then – is one of the city’s best lunch secrets – and, at €10 for three courses (and €4 for a glass of good wine), a bargain to boot. It doesn’t really advertise, because it doesn’t need to, but each semester, lunch is served in the Blue or Green Room restaurant from Monday to Friday, cooked by first-, second- or third-year students, and the public are welcome. It’s a learning environment, but serious food has been known to come out of the immersion programmes in particular, where second or third years take over the entire running of the restaurant, deciding everything from the dishes served to the wine list. At prices like these, you can afford to take a punt on the student chefs. Lisa Cope

Camerino Bakery at the Goethe
Camerino Bakery at the Goethe

Camerino Bakery at the Goethe
Goethe-Institut Irland, 32 Merrion Square East, Dublin 2, camerino.ie
The second cafe site from the Canadian Caryna Camerino has brought some of her Capel Street quirkiness (and raspberry-cheesecake brownies) to the basement of the Goethe-Institut, which promotes German culture and language in Ireland (and houses one of the nicest public libraries in Dublin). The menu of soup, salads and sandwiches, which changes each day, is hand-written on a clipboard, with most of the vegetables coming from Dublin farms, and olive oil from a friend’s farm in Italy. It’s worth a visit just for cake. LC

Hatch & Sons
15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, hatchandsons.co
You don’t have to visit the Little Museum of Dublin to go down the basement steps to Hatch & Sons, but if you do, it will feel like a very rounded experience. Domini and Peaches Kemp’s food in this lovely former kitchen is a nod to the past in the shape of dinner in the middle of the day, with hearty Guinness-and-beef stew, and a hopeful Irish future where delicious food from small Irish producers is the norm. Catherine Cleary

IFI Cafe Bar
6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, ifi.ie/cafebar
The Irish Film Institute was one of the first buildings in Temple Bar to be refurbished nearly 30 years ago. Today the 18th-century former Quaker meeting house remains at the cultural heart of Temple Bar as a model of how to use old buildings well. Its cafe is a good spot for lunch. What better way to prepare yourself for a French art-house movie than with a croque-monsieur and good coffee? CC

Luncheonette
National College of Art and Design, 100 Thomas Street, Dublin 8, facebook.com/luncheonettedublin
An art student turned a student canteen into a secret gem with Luncheonette at NCAD. It’s probably the only student canteen in Ireland where nonstudents regularly line up to eat. Jennie Moran is the woman who took student catering out of the doldrums and made it better. Much better. CC

Ink
DLR Lexicon, Haigh Terrace, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, instagram.com/inkcafe.dl
Eating and talking were traditionally verboten in libraries, but you can do both at Ink, at DLR Lexicon. Dún Laoghaire’s beautiful library has a cafe on its ground floor that is grounded in the thinking you’d expect in a building dedicated to knowledge. The emphasis is on reducing waste and serving a sustainable, tasty lunch. CC

Crawford Gallery Cafe
1 Emmet Place, Cork, crawfordgallerycafe.com
The debate about whether food is art or craft can be pondered over a plate of roasted bone marrow drizzled on buttery sourdough or delved into deeply over devilled kidneys at the Crawford Gallery Cafe. It’s Cork’s good room with art on the walls and light spilling in from the tall windows. As the cheesemaker Bill Hogan put it, the Crawford cafe is a place you want to linger. CC

Good Day Deli
Good Day Deli

Good Day Deli
Nano Nagle Place, Douglas Street, Cork, gooddaydeli.ie
Clare Condon and her partner Kristin Makirere (everyone calls him Mak) both felt their hearts quicken when they first saw the purpose-built cafe in the garden of the grounds of Nano Nagle Place. They had the feeling that this was their place. The fish tacos were added to make it welcoming to nonvegetarians, as the rest of the menu is meat-free. This is a cafe putting the sustenance into sustainability. CC

The Bookstop Cafe
5 Bridge Street, Kenmare, Co Kerry, bridgestreetcoop.com
This cafe, with its tiny garden, combines comfort home cooking with shelves stuffed with an eccentric collection of second-hand books. You can enjoy a delicious slow-cooked dhal while thumbing through a 40-year-old travel guide to Ireland, tracing the changes. It’s a vegetarian cafe with many dishes fully vegan – and this is a co-operative, so everyone who works here gets a share of the profits. CC

The Secret Garden Cafe
North Mayo Heritage Centre, Enniscoe House, Ballina, Co Mayo, northmayogenealogy.com
The setting makes the cafe at North Mayo Heritage Centre stand out from the crowd, and the kitchen garden where food was once grown for Enniscoe House is now growing it for the house and cafe. The apple tart is just as you might remember it from home. CC

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BUSINESS

Mr Fox
38 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1, mrfox.ie
Every two years TU Dublin hosts a gastronomy symposium on its Cathal Brugha Street campus. Some of the brightest, most decorated food and gastronomy academics from around the world fly in to give lectures and listen to their contemporaries speak on a multitude of issues surrounding food. As you might imagine, the decision on where to take them for lunch is not taken lightly, so it feels like a stroke of fate to have Mr Fox on their doorstep. The gastronomic brains fuel up on dishes such as pig cheek with tartare sauce, apple, watercress and quail egg; or duck leg with beluga lentils, morcilla, cavolo nero and smoked prune; and end with Mr Fox’s take on the ultimate Irish dessert of an Iceberger or Super Split. LC

Dax
Dax

Dax
23 Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin 2, dax.ie
Stepping into Dax feels like stepping back in time, somewhere in rural France, where Champagne and lobster bisque was standard lunch fare. The cavern-like diningroom is draped in French refinement, but the warm staff and unstuffy service always deliver a relaxing experience. The set lunch, at €29 for two courses or €35 for three, is a great way to experience Graham Neville’s cooking without blowing your food budget for the month. LC

Delahunt
39 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2, delahunt.ie
The trick to building a small restaurant empire is to make each branch of it do something different. So by day Delahunt is a hard-working cafe, with lunch staples such as haddock smokies and eggs Benedict with roasted pork on toast. By night it’s a restaurant – and its sister wine bar, Frank’s, is pulling them in down the road. At this rate they don’t even need to milk the Meghan and Harry effect. CC

The Garden Room
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, thegardenroom.ie
Of course there’s a much starrier lunch option at the Merrion Hotel stable, but there’s lots to like in the Garden Room, not least the view of the garden, with its sculpture of a melancholy James Joyce. The menu has gutsy rustic options, such as crispy pig’s ear, and well-sourced Irish ingredients, such as Harty’s oysters. One for a longer business lunch when you’ve time to relax. CC

Pearl Brasserie
20 Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2, pearl-brasserie.com
A brasserie that sits halfway between Doheny & Nesbitt and Government Buildings should by rights be heavy, French and old fashioned. This restaurant might be under street level, but that doesn’t mean it’s missing the shifting food fashions in the world above. It is French, but there are deft touches of Asian, Italian and Middle Eastern food here too. CC

The Saddle Room
The Saddle Room

The Saddle Room
Shelbourne Hotel, 27 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, theshelbourne.com/dine-drink/the-saddle-room
Hotel diningrooms can be unloved places where the breakfast buffet is the culinary height of the day and then it’s all downhill from there. The Shelbourne does something a lot more special with its lunch menu, such as whiskey-cured salmon and a hearty selection of roasts and grills. The clubby room has well-spaced tables for relaxed business chats. CC

Wilde
Westbury Hotel, Harry Street, Dublin 2, wilde.ie
There is more casual dining at the Westbury Hotel, but sometimes it’s nice to push the boat out a little farther. Wilde is a lunch place where the food is memorable rather than predictable. Thornhill duck breast is teamed with roasted squash in the colder months, and this is a kitchen that knows how to get the best out of vegetables, whatever the season. CC

James Street
19-21 James Street South, Belfast, jamesstandco.com
Weathering Brexit tempests will be easier with a solid local clientele who know you’re consistently good. Niall McKenna has been evolving his Belfast restaurant business to be just that. James Street (as the amalgamation of the former James Street South and the Bar and Grill at James Street is now called) reopened just over a year ago, and the ship looks steady for whatever’s ahead. CC

Canteen
Main Street, Celbridge, Co Kildare, canteencelbridge.com
It might feel like every business lunch happens between Dublin’s canals, but there are plenty of deals done and alliances made outside the overheated capital. Canteen has the benefit of being close to the city but a place unto itself, with superb food by James Sheridan, such as his charred mackerel with scallop and soused turnip or roast wood pigeon with smoked potato. CC

Everett’s
22 High Street, Waterford, Co Waterford, everetts.ie
This restaurant could just as easily go in our Make a Day of It category. Or you could combine business with a day trip, lunch in Lycra and round off your meeting with a visit to the Waterford Greenway to pedal it all off. Service is friendly, and this venerable old building is home to a very competent kitchen. CC

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WITH FRIENDS

Gertrude
130 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, gertrude.ie
Bright and airy, Gertrude is where to go when you’re sick of sandwiches (or want a nice glass of wine with lunch). Start with the mushroom soup with truffle arancini, followed by the duck bao, and you’ll be less than €20 lighter. How much you spend on vermouth cocktails, sherry or natural wine is entirely up to you. LC

Lucky Tortoise
8 Aungier Street, Dublin 2, luckytortoise.ie
Lucky Tortoise brought dim sum, kimchi and Japanese pancakes to Aungier Street earlier this year after several successful pop-ups in Ranelagh. Its €12 lunch deal, available every day, is one of the most generous in town, and includes miso soup, okonomiyaki (those Japanese pancakes), dumplings, rice and kimchi. If you can’t handle that much food, just pull up a chair for some char siu buns and drown them in chilli oil for maximum speed-lunch smugness. LC

Alma
12 South Circular Road, Portobello, Dublin 8, alma.ie
This family-run Argentinian cafe is unlike anywhere else in Dublin. Where else can you eat juicy steak, eggs and chimichurri in the sunshine, drink coffee with dulce de leche in it, and have the staff treat you like a member of their extended family (one they really like)? The food tastes as good as it looks on its carefully styled Instagram feed, and it’s a welcome break from same old cookie-cutter cafe menus. LC

Assassination Custard
Assassination Custard

Assassination Custard
19a Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 8, facebook.com/assassinationcustard
Outside of food and drink circles, it feels as if no one knows about Assassination Custard – maybe because it only opens for lunch from Tuesday to Friday and can seat a maximum of 12 people – but if you haven’t you should rectify that some lunchtime soon. Produce is king for its owners and chefs, Ken and Gwen, with regular cycling trips to Temple Bar market to collect vegetables from the McNally Family Farm stall, and there’s a Mediterranean twist to their food, with dishes such as panelle (chickpea fritters), Sicilian caponata and smoky aubergine with curry leaves. A meal here feels like being invited into someone’s home. LC

3 Leaves
Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin, 3leaves.ie
A visit to 3 Leaves is redefining for anyone whose experience of Indian food is limited to their local takeaway. Owners Milie and Santosh treat diners as if they’re guests in their home, and the lunch taster menu, featuring a selection of their dishes, is just €12 during the week and €14.95 at the weekend, meaning you can justify adding some pani puri and palak pakora chaat to start with. This is Indian home cooking, not adjusted for the Irish palate, and the quality and honesty of the food make it worthy of a trip, whether you live in Dublin or not. LC

Soup
Soup

Soup
28 George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, soupramen.ie
Everything that comes out of Soup’s small Dún Laoghaire kitchen is made on the premises, and you can taste it. The ramen is the best I’ve found in Ireland, and dishes such as its oxtail gyoza with pistachio, fennel and lovage and spectacular umami salad are as inventive as they are delicious. The long tables are designed for sharing, and the drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, have had as much thought put into them as the food. LC

The Muddlers Club
1 Warehouse Lane, Belfast, themuddlersclubbelfast.com
If you’re after a lost afternoon with friends, no one will judge you down this alleyway in Belfast, where one of the city’s best restaurants sits like an insider’s secret. The Muddlers Club is just far enough off the beaten strip to feel like a hideaway, and Gareth McCaughey’s cooking is a proper treat. CC

Ard Bia at Nimmos
Spanish Arch, Long Walk, Galway, ardbia.com
There’s a collaborative energy in this lovely restaurant, where Aoibheann MacNamara brings together different people and food cultures for a lovely experience for her diners. Friendly get-togethers need a relaxed, comfortable setting, and Ard Bia is all of that. As the Corrib rushes by outside, time ticks by more slowly here, with delicious lunch staples like the Ard Bia Reuben with Mossfield Gouda and sauerkraut. CC

Linnane’s Lobster Bar
New Quay, Co Clare, linnanesbar.com
You could almost reach into the sea and harvest your own lunch in this lovely pub, with its sunny outdoor tables. The seafood platters here are the perfect thing for friendly catch-ups. If it’s freshly caught, it will be here for your enjoyment. CC

Little Fox
Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare, littlefox.ie
Niamh Fox’s quirky Ennistymon cafe has had gastro-tourists from Ireland and beyond making pilgrimages to Clare since last year, for dishes such as sticky pork belly, peanut rayu, sesame cucumber pickle and rice, and confit tomato flatbread with onions, garlic and creme fraiche. All of the dishes on the short menu are peak flavour, and one lunch here is likely to ruin all others for weeks. Don’t miss dessert – if you’re too full, take away a slice of what must be one of the country’s best carrot cakes, for later. LC

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WITH FAMILY

Grano
Grano

Grano
Unit 5, Norseman Court, Manor Street, Dublin 7, grano.ie
Grano owner Roberto Mungo brought a slice of Sicily to Stoneybatter just before Christmas last year, and it has been one of the most talked-about restaurants in Dublin ever since. Its two-course lunch, at €12 for a starter and main, is almost as cheap as you’d find in Italy, and with dishes such as panzanella, stuffed sardines and handmade pasta with anchovies and capers, as well as many of the ingredients being imported directly from the farms of Mungo’s family friends, it’s the closest you’ll get to the real deal without getting on a plane. LC

The Fumbally
Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, thefumbally.ie
Business partners Aisling Rogerson and Luca D’Alfonso are the mammy and daddy of the Fumbally family, a group of cooks, growers, makers and thinkers who work and eat here. The Fumbally has become the linchpin around which Dublin’s best cafes revolve. Their shared tables are brilliant for family gatherings, smallies, oldies, four-legged members and all. CC

Storyboard
Clancy Quay, Islandbridge, Dublin 8, storyboardcoffee.com
A friend brought her family to this lovely cafe after a ramble in the Phoenix Park recently, and everyone loved it. The fit-out is simple, and so is the food idea. Start with excellent (mostly Irish and mostly organic) ingredients, then make them as tasty as possible. Simple soup and sandwiches offer no hiding places for short cuts to be taken. And they don’t take them here. CC

Overends Kitchen at Airfield
Airfield Estate, Overend Avenue, Dundrum, Dublin 14, airfield.ie/overends-kitchen
Airfield Estate’s Overends Kitchen, run by chef Luke Matthews, uses what’s available on the grounds, from its fruit and vegetable plots, polytunnels and herd of Jersey cows, to produce a menu with the intention to “grow, farm, use and give back”. The lunch menu features salads, soup, tarts and other regularly changing dishes, and if something’s not in season you won’t see it. All dishes are available in a half-size for half the price, so children eat as well as the adults. LC

Bresson
4a Monkstown Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin, bresson.ie
The long family lunch is still a strong part of French culture. A leisurely meal by the sea that takes you from bouillabaisse to tarte Tatin, with plenty of good bread and butter on the side, is the kind of rhythm into which all can relax. For an intergenerational gathering, there’s plenty to suit everyone on Bresson’s crowd-pleasing menu. CC

Moran’s Oyster Cottage
The Weir, Roymore, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, moransoystercottage.com
It takes a lot to keep a veteran restaurant fresh and avoid decline. At Moran’s the freshness comes from the fish and seafood they serve here, unadorned and simple. Brown soda bread warm from the oven and freshly shucked wild Clarenbridge oysters are an exquisite treat. Older family members will remember the flavour of a wild native oyster, and younger ones will discover it to keep. CC

Ballymore Inn
Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare, ballymoreinn.com
Funding has been announced to extend the Blessington Greenway from 6.5km to 43km and take in a number of villages on the west Wicklow side of the county border. Even if that takes a while to materialise, there are already lovely forest walks near Ballymore Eustace that can bring the family to Barry and Georgina O’Sullivan’s tables with a good appetite for their chicken-liver pâté and house specialities such as Duncannon fish and chips. CC

Wine & Brine
59 Main Street, Moira, Co Armagh, wineandbrine.co.uk
Lunch at this elegant restaurant comes with the kind of prices that make you think it will be ordinary. But the cooking at Wine & Brine is several notches above its mid-range pricing. Starters are excellent gastropub favourites, and mains get very special. The diningroom is lovely, and you will feel properly spoiled after a visit here. CC

Grow HQ
Farronshoneen, Dunmore Road, Waterford, giy.ie/grow-hq
Grow HQ, the fruit- and vegetable-growing Mecca at the side of a roundabout in Waterford, showcases its garden bounty in the on-site restaurant, led by head chef JB Dubois. Each week a hero platter takes one seasonal vegetable and prepares it in five ways, but every dish is designed to use what’s growing in the gardens, with everything available in a children’s portion. After lunch you can take a walk around the garden and look at golden raspberries, rhubarb and even lemons in the greenhouse, depending on the time of year. LC

Foyle Hotel
Main Street, Moville, Co Donegal, foylehotel.ie
Fish is the thing to have at this welcoming hotel and restaurant on the Co Donegal coast. Local Greencastle boats keep the kitchen stocked with all manner of shellfish and seafood, which its head chef, Derek Creagh, then works his magic on. Don’t leave without having a dessert made by the talented head pastry chef, Monto Mansour. There is a full lunch menu as well as a Peckish selection, for smaller appetites.

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LONG LUNCH

Etto
18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, etto.ie
Lunch at Etto is the cure for all ailments. Break-ups, a firing, getting soaked in the rain: whatever the problem, it’s nothing its ’nduja mussels, its squash risotto with chanterelles and Taleggio, and a carafe of wine can’t fix. The Italian-inspired menu, served by always-smiling staff, is €27 for three courses during the week – and considering what a special place it is, is some of the best value in Dublin. LC

Forest Avenue
8 Sussex Terrace, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, forestavenuerestaurant.ie
John and Sandy Wyer do a busy weekend-dinner trade in their impressive, slightly tucked-away restaurant. But block some time off on a weekday, because lunch here is worth pencilling in an afternoon for. John Wyer is a chef who lets the food dictate the menu, based on what’s great in farmers’ fields rather than the watered-down version of ingredient-led cooking that faker places do. CC

Le Perroquet
Le Perroquet

Le Perroquet
133 Leeson Street Upper, Dublin 4, leperroquet.ie
The sales pitch that got us through the door was Le Perroquet’s express lunch, but we turned it into a long, chatty one with very little difficulty. Chris Fulham is cooking from the French canon, with a barrage of small plates to be shared, family style, and more standard mains for the hungrier. Its upstairs room should be ready by now – and that, I predict, will be where long-lunchers settle in. CC

Host
13 Ranelagh, Dublin 6, hostrestaurant.ie
Arriving at Host feels like stepping into a city marginally more cosmopolitan than Dublin. Maybe it’s the chefs rolling fresh pasta at the counter; maybe it’s the white-shirted staff; maybe it’s the natural-wine list. Lunch is a Saturday-only affair, but the pumpkin cappellacci with walnuts, rump Bolognese tagliatelle, and Peter Hannan’s rib-eye are all there, with the added bonus of being able to go home for a nap afterwards. LC

Locks
Locks

Locks
1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin 8, locksrestaurant.ie
There must be few places as perfect to linger over lunch than the bright, multitextured dining room at Locks, with its roomy chairs, gallery-like walls and large windows overlooking the Grand Canal. A meal here never seems to miss the mark, with confident staff both front and back of house delivering exactly what you came for. A set-lunch menu of two or three courses is served from Friday to Sunday, but not ordering the home-made bread with sea trout and dulse butter as an extra would be an unforgivable mistake. LC

Michael’s
57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, michaels.ie
If you haven’t spent a lazy afternoon luxuriating over Michael’s butter-drenched, lobster-topped seafood platter, and sipping Californian chardonnay, what have you been doing with your life? Gaz Smith’s commitment to serving only the freshest seafood, much of which comes straight from the boats that morning, has earned him a following from far and wide, and a long lunch here is guaranteed to make the world feel like a nicer place. LC

Farmgate Cafe
English Market, Princes Street, Cork, farmgatecork.ie
The market space is not the only enviable aspect of Cork’s English Market. Its 25-year-old cafe and restaurant is a thing of rare beauty, too, and well worth spending a long lunchtime in. Kay Harte, and now her daughter Rebecca, have been feeding hungry marketgoers for a generation. Combine the oysters starter with the lamb stew for a timelessly delicious Irish lunch experience that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the country. CC

Kai
22 Sea Road, Galway, kaicaferestaurant.com
There’s a large window table in this Galway restaurant where it would be possible (and utterly pleasurable) to fritter away an afternoon in the blink of an eye. We use the words heartfelt and homely to describe the cooking of women chefs, but Jess Murphy’s food is all that and more. Kai is always evolving as something new or someone new comes through the door and is welcomed into this very special place. CC

Campagne
5 the Arches, Gas House Lane, Kilkenny, campagne.ie
If there is one argument for downsizing your working week, it’s to create the time to lunch at restaurants like Campagne while the rest of the world is hard at work. Garrett Byrne does a Friday lunch that is made for easing yourself luxuriously into the weekend, with deftly classical French cooking that does not stint on the butter and cream. It helps that Campagne is tucked under a bridge for the joyful escape from reality that a long lunch can provide. CC

Dooks Fine Foods
Kerry Street, Fethard, Co Tipperary, dooksfinefoods.ie
The comfortable armed chairs at Richard Gleeson’s restaurant are just the thing to settle into for a long excavation of the menu in this wonderful place. The food is deceptively simple, with the kitchen focus on getting the best out of every ingredient, and working it into a better version of itself. CC

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MAKE A DAY OF IT

Bun Cha
11 Moore Street, Dublin 1, buncha.ie
If you’re planning a trip to the capital any time soon, make the most of its flying food scene by eating something you can’t find anywhere else. There are, to the best of my knowledge, only three Vietnamese-owned and -run restaurants in Ireland – all in Dublin – and Bun Cha seems to be the current favourite. You’ll still be thinking of the bun cha with smoky barbecued pork, rice noodles and handfuls of fresh herbs long after you’ve eaten it, and its blisteringly crispy spring rolls put most Chinese takeaways to shame. LC

The Happy Pear
15 Tower Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, thehappypear.ie
No, not the Bray to Greystones walk (although feel free to make a day of that) but a pedal with the family along the canal path from Inchicore to Clondalkin will bring you to the west Dublin outlet of the brothers’ empire. It’s set in the beautiful Round Tower Centre and garden, which explains the history of this old Dublin area – which has gone from monks to Vikings to vegans over the centuries. CC

Mamó
Mamó

Mamó
Harbour House, Harbour Road, Howth, Co Dublin, mamorestaurant.ie
The cliff walk at Howth is one of the most spectacular city walks around. And (don’t tell the southsiders) the view of Dublin Bay from the north end is more sweeping and dramatic than the view from the other side. After your summit (with or without Sherpa) you can rest up back at sea level with Mamó. The pet word for grandmother is the name of this restaurant by the newly-weds Jess D’Arcy, who works front of house, and Killian Durkin, its chef. It’s a delicious marriage of place and ingredients. Snack on soused herring and the unmissable curried butter (trust me). The clams are a day out in themselves. If it’s on the menu finish with the Howth honey tart with sea-salt ice cream to bring together waves and heathery hills absolutely deliciously. CC

Arán Bakery
8 the Arches, Barrack Street, Kilkenny, arankilkenny.ie
Nicole Server and Bart Pawlukojc met while interning at Noma, in Copenhagen, and, after a few more years working their way around some of Denmark’s most highly regarded restaurants, made the decision to move to Ireland and settle in Kilkenny, where Pawlukojc had lived as a teenager. They bake through the night to have fresh sourdough, baguettes and country loaves each morning, and the cafe never seems to have a lull – it’s hard to imagine where all of their customers went before they opened. The all-day menu uses the best of local produce, such as Goatsbridge trout, Dizzy Farm wild pig sausage, and wild Kilkenny mushrooms. Give it a go after a tour of the castle and its grounds. LC

Fisherman’s Catch
Unit 4, Port Oriel, Clogherhead Harbour, Co Louth, fishermanscatch.ie
Not many fish-and-chip vans catch their own fish, but that’s what you get at the Fisherman’s Catch. The fish shop the van is attached to opened in 2009, but it was only last summer that the Kirwan family decided to expand into hot food, and whatever has been caught that day is what’s on the menu. Go for a walk on Clogherhead beach, or over the headland, and reward yourself with some crispy hake, sea-salted chips and freshly shucked local oysters. LC

Burren Storehouse
Kincora Road, Rathbaun, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, roadsidetavern.ie
A pilgrimage to Father Ted’s house, a surf at Lahinch or a walk on the Burren: there are so many memorable things to do before ending up at the Burren Storehouse, Birgitta Curtin’s roomy barn of a cafe. Its centrepiece is a Heath Robinson-style iron oven designed by Peter, Birgitta’s part-time-inventor husband. It sits alongside a wood-fired pizza oven, where the best of local ingredients top the excellent dough. CC

Vaughan’s Anchor Inn
Main Street, Liscannor, Co Clare, vaughans.ie
Stumbling across Vaughan’s Anchor Inn after a death-defying walk along the Cliffs of Moher feels like winning the food lottery – particularly as you seem never to be more than a few millimetres from a busload of tourists, who tend not to go hand in hand with the country’s best food. Digging into its roasted Galway langoustine crumble with wild garlic and herb crumb, trio of local oysters, or Liscannor Bay lobster, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of pride that visitors to Ireland’s second-most-visited tourist destination have the opportunity to eat this well. LC

Double 8
5 Village Gate Arcade, Bray, Co Wicklow, double8.online
Hidden away just off Bray’s main street, down a quiet alley optimistically named Village Gate Arcade, Double 8 is where Emma Luk makes her dumplings by hand each day, filling them with local meats and vegetables. Double 8’s short menu consists of four dumplings, available in portions of six or 12, as well as weekly specials, and adding copious amounts of Chinese black vinegar takes them to the next level. Don’t miss the banoffee dessert dumplings, filled with warm banana and caramel and topped with crispy flakes of sea salt. The ideal reward after a Greystones-to-Bray cliff walk. LC

Batch
Main Street, Falcarragh, Co Donegal, batch.ie
We hired our surf boards in a very Donegal fashion the last time we were here. A phone call told us where to find them. We picked them up from the dune, put them back there and then dropped into Dunfanaghy to pay for the rental. In the nearby Gaeltacht village of Falcarragh, Batch is the perfect postbeach treat for hearty soup and sandwiches made with excellent local ingredients. CC

Harbour Bar, home of Fisk Seafood Bar
Harbour Bar, home of Fisk Seafood Bar

Fisk Seafood Bar
Harbour Bar, Downings, Co Donegal, fiskseafoodbar.com
At the top of a hill in Downings, in a shack-like structure connected to the Harbour Bar, Fisk serves local seafood, inspired by owners Tony and Lina’s travels around the world. The excellent-value menu changes depending on what’s available, but local crab claws, prawns, mussels and mackerel pâté on toasted Scarpello & Co sourdough usually feature. The outdoor table, with perfect views over north Donegal beaches, is worth putting up with some inclement weather for, but the seats inside have a particular cosiness about them. Lunch on Saturdays and Sundays only, and they don’t take bookings. LC

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SUNDAY LUNCH

The Old Spot
The Old Spot

The Old Spot
14 Bath Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4, theoldspot.ie
Sundays and roast dinners are inseparable, but when you want something a bit more special than what comes out of your own oven, head for the Old Spot. Its weekly roasts include beer-roasted free-range chicken with sausage, sage and onion stuffing, or Pat McLoughlin’s dry-aged sirloin of beef, both with duck-fat roasties and cauliflower cheese, or take your Sunday dining up a notch with Gloucester Old Spot pork belly, mustard mousseline, York cabbage and Puy lentils. LC

The Legal Eagle
1-2 Chancery Place, Dublin 7, thelegaleagle.ie
The Seriously Seventies Sunday-lunch menu is shamelessly 1970s. Prawn cocktail? Yep. Deep-fried Brie? You betcha. Chicken cordon bleu? Check. But like everything the restaurateur Elaine Murphy does, the ingredients in these food cliches are the best she can get her hands on. A generation can relive childhood Sunday dinners deliciously. CC

Bastible
111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8, bastible.com
Bastible has always been one of Dublin’s most sought-after Sunday-lunch destinations for those in the know, but the arrival home of the former Noma chef Cúán Greene, now Bastible’s head chef, has had the food world in something of a spin. Sunday lunch here is a journey through foraging, fermentation and maximum flavour, with plates of food often so breathtakingly beautiful that you may struggle to eat them and ruin the picture. LC

Old Street
Old Street, Malahide, Co Dublin, oldstreet.ie
Old Street’s Sunday roast rib of beef with giant Yorkshire puddings has been a permanent fixture on the menu since it opened, in 2017, and for good reason: if it ever took it off there would probably be a riot. The menu’s not actually roast heavy, with seafood pie, pasta and grilled sea trout also featuring, for example, and on Sundays children eat free (one for each adult). Along with its lovingly composed wine list, these are all more reasons to visit. A walk along the seafront after lunch is yet another. LC

The Tannery
The Tannery

The Tannery
10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, tannery.ie
Sunday lunch tends to be a family affair, and it would be easy to assume that Paul and Máire Flynn’s white-tableclothed first-floor restaurant in a Dungarvan town house isn’t an ideal place to take younger members of the family, but that would be a mistake. Despite the fine-dining appearance, the Tannery happily welcomes all ages for its crab creme brulee and rib-eye steak with Coolea cauliflower cheese, and if ordering from the children’s menu, rest assured it comes presented with all the panache of the adult food. The perfect place to take a budding gourmet. LC

Snaffles Restaurant
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan, castleleslie.com
A proper big-house school of cooking is in place here, with inspiration for some of the recipes having been taken from the estate cookbook of this Monaghan castle in the village of Glaslough. Your wild-meat Sunday lunch doesn’t get much better than a plate of venison from the estate or rare-breed pork with kitchen-garden vegetables. CC

1826 Adare
Main Street, Adare, Co Limerick, 1826adare.ie
Wade Murphy understands the leisurely nature of a Sunday lunch. So the chef’s Adare version is a late lunch where service starts at 3pm with sittings until 5pm. The menu is the simplest of ideas, with two choices for each course, so your decision-making brain can put its feet up after a long week’s work. Yorkshire puddings and duck-fat roasties are a must. CC

St George’s Terrace (NOW CLOSED)
St George’s Terrace, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, stgeorgesterrace.com
If you thought beef Wellington for Sunday lunch was a lost tradition, then we’re here to tell you different. All the roasts are under the roof of this former bank building on the banks of the Shannon: chicken, pork and that Wellington, with great vegetables from gardens nearby and an elegant room in which to enjoy it all. CC

The Courthouse Restaurant
1 Monaghan Street, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, courthouserestaurant.ie
At €28 for three courses, the Sunday lunch at this Carrickmacross restaurant is a proper steal. There are plenty of other offerings in this price bracket, but chef-owner Conor Mee is cooking at a different level from the carvery cavalcade. I loved how they cooked the vegetables here on my last visit, and, along with roasted meats, they’re regularly roasting celeriac for the non-meat-eaters’ Sunday lunch. CC

The Olde Post Inn
Cloverhill, Co Cavan, theoldepostinn.com
The Cavan chef Gearóid Lynch and his wife, Tara, have maintained a lovely piece of social history in Cloverhill as a different kind of hub for nearly two decades, after taking over a restaurant in the former post office. Their diners come from both sides of the Border, and Lynch is a champion of great Irish food, which makes Sunday lunch here a real joy. CC

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PIT STOP

The Duck
Courtown Road, Gorey, Co Wexford, marlfieldhouse.com
If you’re beach- or ferry-bound, the Duck, at Marlfield House, near Gorey, is worth making some extra time to visit. In a converted stone outhouse next to the big house, this is a casual-dining spot that benefits from a high-end kitchen garden in the grounds and a real sense of what makes a good lunch. CC

The Fatted Calf
Church Street, Athlone, Co Westmeath, thefattedcalf.ie
When next in the midlands, take whatever route leads through Athlone so you have an excuse for lunch at the Fatted Calf. Dee Adamson’s plates of food are surprising in the best possible way, with dishes such as pickled Irish silver darlings (pickled herrings) with dill, chive sour cream and anise-poached beets as lovely to look at as they are to eat. LC

Brownes
Brownes

Brownes
The Square, Tuam, Co Galway, brownestuam.ie
They only serve lunch on a Friday here, but it’s based on the farmers’ market, so it’s worth putting on your itinerary if heading west or east as an above-average lunch on the road. Stevie Lane is the grandson chef of the original owner of Brownes, and he and his wife, Amanda, have reinvented the place with a focus on excellent food. CC

The Twelve
Barna, Galway, thetwelvehotel.ie
This hotel is a destination in itself, but if you’re travelling farther up or down the coast, make time to stop here for lunch. The Pins Gastro Bar does friendly casual eating with high-end ingredients, with snacks such as Doon Castle oysters. Or try the in-house Pizza Dozzina, where a wood-fired Connemara taco with chilli-spiced lamb awaits. CC

Sweet Beat Cafe
Bridge Street, Sligo, sweetbeat.ie
The best kind of vegetarian restaurant is one where you don’t miss the meat. Carolanne Rushe grew this lovely cafe from a market stall in Strandhill, and it has been our regular pit stop in Sligo town on the way to Donegal or farther west. Flavour-filled salads, soups and sandwiches are all here, and the hummus, made in house, is some of the best in Ireland. Bring at least one tub with you when you leave.

Strandfield Cafe
Ballymascanlon, Dundalk, Co Louth, facebook.com/strandfield
Yes, it will take you off the conveyor belt that is the M1 but I guarantee the extra time will be worth your while. On the grounds of a farm, this is a shop and garden centre too, without the bewildering too-muchness that can come with that particular food and retail experience. There’s wood-fired pizza, brilliant baking from scratch and lots more to make a trip up north or a spin down south a proper pleasure. CC

Hunter’s Hotel
Newrath Bridge, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, hunters.ie
It’s probably one of the oldest pit stops in the country, an inn where once your horses might have been watered while you took a turn around the garden to take the kinks out of your legs after a long, bumpy carriage ride. The food at Hunter’s is the definition of timeless cooking, but that’s what its customers love about it, and this place still does it with style. CC

Cafe Hans
Moor Lane, Cashel, Co Tipperary, facebook.com
There are plenty of people who aren’t passing through taking up the seats in this lovely little cafe. When I visited they didn’t take cards, so they are not visibly catering for the passing motorway crowd. As a second-generation restaurant family (father Hans-Peter Matthiae once had a Michelin star at Chez Hans), they know food. The good stuff, home cooked and served with a lot of charm. CC

Ubh Cafe
Ubh Cafe

Ubh Cafe
2 George’s Street, Piercetown, Newbridge, Co Kildare, ubh.ie
Ubh’s owner, Emma Spain, worked as a pastry chef in fine-dining restaurants before deciding she needed a more balanced lifestyle. Simultaneously, she decided that Newbridge, not far from where she grew up, needed somewhere to get “a banging lunch”, and so Ubh (Irish for egg) was born. The plates burst with colour and flavour, they roast their own coffee, and the loft-like upstairs feels more New York than Newbridge. LC

360 Cookhouse
Castle Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, 360cookhouse.ie
Nothing at 360 Cookhouse is ordinary, not the bountiful food, and not the covered, greenery-filled secret garden at the back. Whatever the weather, you can comfortably retire here – the roof will keep the rain off, and the heaters will keep the cold at bay – leaving you to enjoy the 360 fish pie with salmon, smoked haddock, cod and prawns so large you didn’t know they made them that way, or the Castle Street fish and chips with buttermilk and panko-coated cod, cucumber, mint and radish salad, preserved lemon yogurt and fries. LC

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SPEEDY

Only – Oriental Bakery & Tea
66 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1, facebook.com/onlybakeryandtea
Only Oriental only does a few things – Taiwanese chicken, home-made egg tarts and bubble tea – but it does them very well. The Chinese-American food writer Mei Chin said earlier this year that it’s the only place in Ireland making Taiwanese chicken properly, and the plates of butter-soft chicken, in their light batter sprinkled with chilli, has Asian students lining up throughout the day. LC

Bread 41
41 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, breadnation.ie/eatery
The cafe attached to Eoin Cluskey’s Bread Nation bakery is understandably built on bread, with sandwiches, toasties and salads all served with its organic sourdoughs, oat porridge and malt loaves. Earlier this year they added sourdough pizzas to the mix. They believe food should be simple, made with as few ingredients as possible (such as the three in their bread, compared with 37 in the average industrial loaf), and there’s a no-wifi, no-outlets rule, so leave the technology at the door and focus on the food. LC

Chimac
76 Aungier Street, Dublin 2, chimac.ie
Its Korean fried free-range chicken caused something of a stampede after Chimac opened, last May, but thankfully things have calmed down, leaving a steady flow of Korean barbecue burgers, sriracha caramel nugs and KimCheese fries making their way out of the kitchen seven days a week. Fifteen euro will get you an excellent burger, the crispiest fries and a soft drink, but if it has been a tough week, a mug of frosé (frozen rose) is recommended. LC

Cloud Picker
Cloud Picker

Cloud Picker
42 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, cloudpickercoffee.ie
Cloud Picker Coffee owners (and partners) Frank Kavanagh and Peter Sztal moved their cafe from Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery, directly across the street, into their own space earlier this year, and with it unleashed a new level of culinary creativity. The salad counter is a temple to grains and vegetables, and Sztal, who’s Polish, has even brought in some family recipes, with his mum’s goulash, sauerkraut and blueberry yeast buns appearing on the menu. And the Coffee is excellent, obviously. LC

The Market Kitchen
Temple Bar Food Market, Meeting House Square, Dublin 2, themarketkitchen.org
Started by McNally Family Farm progeny Sarah (daughter of Jenny and Patrick) and friend Liadain Kaminska, the Market Kitchen uses produce from the surrounding Temple Bar Food Market to serve up flavour-bursting combinations each Saturday. Their understanding of flavour is nothing short of remarkable, and every weekend they manage to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary, with dishes such as fried egg on sourdough toast with beans, beet hummus, dukkah, zhoug, pink pickles, rhubarb ketchup, pea shoots and leaves. LC

Tiller + Grain
23 Frederick Street South, Dublin 2, tillerandgrain.ie
The former Ottolenghi chef Clair Dowling moved home to Dublin earlier this year to open Tiller + Grain, and the books lining the walls (including those of her mentors) give some idea of where she gets her stunning flavour inspiration from. Meat and fish are cooked on an indoor barbecue, bread comes from Bread 41 (see previous entry), vegetables are predominantly from Dublin, and it’s the type of place that will redefine what you think of “salad”. LC

Fish Shop
Fish Shop

Fish Shop
76 Benburb Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7, fish-shop.ie
Casual fish-and-chip shop turned natural-wine bar, Fish Shop is open for lunch six days a week, and it’s just the place to slip away to when you want an impressive lunch outside of the (occasional) chaos of the city centre. There are few better places in Dublin for fresh seafood, and apart from the always-on beer-battered catch of the day, you’ll find dishes such as Russian salad and anchovy on toast, Lambay Island crab croquettes and palourde clams with Dublin chard – all of which pair perfectly with its extensive sherry list. LC

Miyazaki
1a Evergreen Street, Ballyphehane, Cork, facebook.com/miyazakicork
Looking for directions in Cork recently, a woman told me to take a left “at the Chinese place on the corner”. Miyazaki is Japanese, rather than Chinese, and this small corner place was for a while the only Cork location where you could taste the exquisite cooking of Takashi Miyazaki. He has moved on to create the fine-dining restaurant Ichigo Ichie, but Miyazaki continues to put more craft into takeaway or eat-in-perched-on-a-stool food than many people do in spendier, more sit-down kinds of places. CC

Bia Rebel
409 Ormeau Road, Belfast, biarebel.com
You can eat it quickly, but Brian Donnelly puts lots of slow work into his Belfast ramen. There’s 40 hours cooking in a bowl. His partner, Jenny Holland, has been determined to make sure every ingredient in there is exquisite since they first opened their doors, generating a whole new audience for the loveliness that is beautifully made ramen. CC

Flipside
Unit 2, Embankment, Rockwood Parade, Sligo, flipside.ie
Sligo is not the easiest town to navigate by car. It is seizing up with traffic and overloaded car parks, but once you find your way to its pedestrianised riverside walk everything feels Zen again. Flipside is a burger place where the veggie options (halloumi poppers are still talked about in our house) are as good as if not better than the foods with a face. The condiments, such as house pickles and slices of beefy tomato, are as carefully curated as the main events. CC

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SPECIAL OCCASION

Chapter One
18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin 1, chapteronerestaurant.com
Yes, there are people in suits here. But over a long lunch at Chapter One you get the impression that ties get loosened and windows are cracked open in busy schedules to make the most of the parade of delicious dishes that come at you from Ross Lewis’s kitchen. Whether for a celebration, a gossipy catch-up or the marking of some life landmark, Chapter One is the place. CC

The GreenHouse
21 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, thegreenhouserestaurant.ie
The second Michelin star finally arrived, so tables will get rarer and, presumably, pricier. Until then we should all enjoy Mickael Viljanen’s cooking as often as we can. It has long been at two-star level, with the dial flickering towards three on some dishes. Lunch here is truly memorable. CC

Uno Mas
Uno Mas

Uno Mas
6 Aungier Street, Dublin 2, unomas.ie
Like its sibling, Etto, this Spanish-inspired restaurant has one of the best lunch menus in the city, with dishes such as rabbit and mushroom rice, ajo blanco with fresh crab and cucumber, and flan de queso as part of a €28 three-course menu. And, also like Etto, the food, staff and wine never disappoint. LC

Shouk
40 Drumcondra Road Lower, Dublin 9, facebook.com/shoukdublin
This Middle Eastern hot spot is my go-to celebration location: it’s BYOB with €7 corkage (and proper wine glasses), so you can crack out the really good bottles, and they’ll let you bring your own cake at no extra charge. The staff are sunny, the food is joyful, and the space is always buzzing. Don’t miss the arayes – deep-fried pockets of beef and lamb mince with tzatziki – and the very generous meze. LC

Liath
Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin, liathrestaurant.com
Damien Grey’s cooking, in his little corner of Blackrock Market, is world class, and the only downside to Liath is that it’s so small, with the 22 seats so sought after that only a small percentage of people will ever get to try it – those who are most persistent when each month’s bookings are released. The introduction this year of a Saturday lunch service was a very welcome one. LC

Potager
7 Church Street, Skerries, Co Dublin, potager.ie
The former Chapter One head chef Cathal Leonard and his partner, Sarah Ryan, opened Potager in May of this year, in the old Red Bank building in Skerries, and within weeks were being credited with making the town a food destination. Their innovative cooking and respectful but exciting use of north Co Dublin’s best produce (for such dishes as potato bread with lovage butter, and red mullet with Rush tomatoes, basil and frozen buttermilk) are reason enough to go. That the five-course tasting menu (including a lot of extras), available for dinner or Sunday lunch, is only €55 is another. LC

Ox
1 Oxford Street, Belfast, oxbelfast.com
I’ve seen first (singed-fingered) hand the meticulous effort that goes into Stephen Toman’s cooking in this beautiful Belfast restaurant. A lot of chefs at this level save their energy for evening sittings only, but Ox is a rare combination of brilliance and sheer hard graft where all stops are pulled out at every sitting. Lunch here, with light spilling in from the Lagan, is a lesson in flavour, texture and temperature. CC

Sage
Sage

Sage
The Courtyard, 8 Main Street, Midleton, Co Cork, sagerestaurant.ie
Kevin Aherne and his wife, Réidín, are doers. They run two restaurants in a courtyard off Midleton’s main street, and host fEast, aka East Cork Food & Drink Festival, each year. Lunch here is just at weekends but worth booking ahead for. Aherne’s 12-mile menu – everything on it comes from within a 12-mile, or just under 20km, radius – teamed with an ambitious kitchen with a lot of talent, makes lunch at Sage a true treat. CC

Gregans Castle
Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, gregans.ie
The fine-dining restaurant is only open for dinner, but the hotel’s Corkscrew Bar offers lunch that’s several notches up from most bar bites. Flaggy Shore oysters feature regularly, along with Burren smoked salmon and house-made brown bread. There aren’t many bars where you can order a whole roast grouse with mash, but that’s on the menu here, too. CC

The Cook & Gardener
Rathmullan House, Rathmullan, Co Donegal, rathmullanhouse.com
The shores of Donegal are teeming with seafood – something the Cook & Gardener restaurant takes full advantage of. The menu is flooded with local scallops, Mulroy Bay mussels and Greencastle-landed cod, and if you ever get the chance to order the whole locally caught lobster, don’t pass it up. Many of the menu’s other ingredients come from the walled garden behind the restaurant. LC