Cliff at Lyons, Lyons Road, Celbridge, Co Kildare
The Michelin Guide says: "Start with a cocktail in the lounge overlooking the garden, then head past hanging meats and jars of preserved produce to a wonderfully intimate dining room with just a handful of tables. Here, Jordan Bailey calmly leads the chefs in the open kitchen, while his wife heads the delightful service team – and their infectious pride radiates through all who work for them. Having worked as Head Chef at Three-Starred Maaemo in Norway, Jordan brings together overwhelming passion, supreme craftsmanship and a great understanding of Nordic flavours, resulting in superbly balanced, original dishes which have real depth. The 18+ labour-intensive courses are all very different and make good use of preserved and fermented ingredients, with produce sourced from their raised beds and polytunnels, as well as from across Ireland. "
Chapter One by Mikael Viljanen
18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin 1
"In the most exciting development in Dublin's restaurant scene in years, Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen moved from the south of the Liffey to the north, to take over as Head Chef and co-owner of Chapter One, an address made famous by Ross Lewis. Set beneath the Writers Museum, the basement restaurant is elegant and stylish with some eye-catching art; ask for a seat at the chef's table in the kitchen for the best view of the team at work. Cooking focuses on prime luxury ingredients; Irish where possible, but sourced from further afield when needed to ensure the best quality. Mickael uses classical French techniques combined with a subtle modernity as well as plenty of creativity and personality. Sophisticated, beautifully presented dishes are perfectly balanced, with striking natural flavours. Mickael takes an active role in serving his guests, while Danny Desmond – the hands-on manager – is charm personified. An Irish coffee makes for a memorable finish."
Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin
"Lockdown gave many people time to pause and reflect and, here at Liath, it prompted the team time to come up with something new. The room now sports a stylish, contemporary look – and when entering via the rustic market you'll feel like Alice in Wonderland, as the place has a cosy, magical feel. With just a handful of tables, it makes for a personal dining experience, with Damien Grey and his small team explaining the dishes personally to their guests. There's an early evening sitting of 3 courses (the 'Preview') and a later sitting where they serve the full surprise tasting menu; both showcase Liath favourites from across the years, which have been continually reworked and perfected. Bold, original dishes are centred around the five tastes – salty, savoury, sweet, bitter and sour – which come together in perfect harmony, and excellent wine pairings further enhance the experience."
21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
"This iconic Irish restaurant celebrated 40 years in 2021 and, while a large part of its success is down to the eponymous chef himself – who has certainly earned his place in Irish culinary history – it is also due to the team Patrick Guilbaud has built around him over the years, each of whom elegantly plays their part in creating an extra special experience for each and every guest. The restaurant is hidden within a Georgian townhouse, and oozes sumptuousness and sophistication thanks to features such as a gilt barrel ceiling and hand-crafted marquetry. The accomplished cooking remains French at heart yet has evolved to show a restrained modernity and some bold yet superbly balanced flavours. Dishes showcase luxury Irish ingredients and the wine cellar and wine list are works of art."
53 Lower Dominick Street, Galway
"Both the décor and the cooking at this stylish, laid-back restaurant follow a 'back-to-nature' ethos, with wood and stone setting the scene and menus championing ingredients from Ireland's Atlantic Coast. Aniar means 'From the West' and the majority of the ingredients come from the land and shores around Galway. Chef JP McMahon's passion for the local larder and the changing seasons is well-known, and his micro-seasonal, multi-course set menus are only confirmed once the day's ingredients have arrived. Cooking cleverly blends traditional and modern techniques, and contrasts in texture, temperature and acidity all play their part. With just 2 or 3 components, the delicate, well-balanced dishes have a certain purity to them; many are delivered to the tables by the chefs themselves; some with accompanying poems. There are great wine matches for every menu."
111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8
"'Bastible' is the name of the cast iron pot which once sat on the hearth of every family home, and they still use it here to make the fabulous bread – but don't let that give you the impression that this neighbourhood bistro is in any way old-fashioned; it is, in fact, a vibrant little spot with a lively spirit. Owner Barry Fitzgerald confidently takes the lead in the open kitchen, where you'll find the chefs engaging with guests and delivering some of the dishes themselves. The modern set menu features top class Irish ingredients at the height of season and each main ingredient is given the space to shine. Dishes are stripped-back, flavours are bold, and servings are generous: this is cooking that comes from the heart. Start with an aperitif while you enjoy the delicate snacks – and look forward to dessert, which is always a highlight."
Main Street, Kinsale, Co Cork
"Set in the very centre of town, Bastion is a contemporary restaurant owned and run by a talented couple: Paul cooks, while his wife Helen looks after the service. A large bar splits the room in two and while its dark décor might give it a moody feel, twinkling candles add a welcoming touch. Chef-owner Paul McDonald is Scottish born but the cooking here has a strong Irish base, with regional ingredients leading the way – although Paul's happy to search further afield if the quality of the produce dictates. Natural flavours are kept to the fore and local seafood is a highlight. The skilfully prepared, exacting dishes take on a modern style and often exhibit a playful, innovative element, while at the same time showing depth in their flavours and textures."
5 The Arches, Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny
"This long-standing restaurant is owned and run by experienced chef Garrett Byre – who really knows his craft – alongside his partner, Brid Hannon, who provides relaxed, friendly service. The modern interior is sleek, with curved banquettes, spot lit dark wood tables and striking local artwork hanging on the walls – and you can watch Garrett hard at work in the open kitchen. Top quality Irish ingredients are showcased in richly flavoured, classic dishes: you won't find foams or smears on your plate here – just confidently cooked, skilfully balanced dishes, with proper plating, saucing and seasoning. The early bird menu is a steal, the wine list has something to suit every purse and it's no surprise to know that they have a loyal following of local diners."
Staball Hill, Ballydehob, Co Cork
"Having travelled the world, locally born Rob Krawczyk (son of famous charcutier Frank) returned to his roots and, along with his partner Elaine, transformed this run-down old pub in the heart of West Cork into a sweet, intimate restaurant with a laid-back feel. It's a small place, seating just 18, with the bar counter at the front hinting at its past, and shelves laden with wine, mead and all manner of jars, inside which produce which is marinating, curing or fermenting. Rob has a great understanding of textures and flavours and his dishes are skilfully prepared yet pleasingly understated, with a focus on pure, natural flavours. The constantly evolving tasting menu champions County Cork and, from the turf-smoked butter right through to the desserts, dishes reflect the local region. Chatty, amiable service – led by Elaine – fits perfectly with the food."
Customs House, Baltimore, Co Cork
"Turkish-born chef Ahmet Dede has made himself at home in the coastal town of Baltimore – and the town and its people have in turn taken him to their hearts. A recent move saw him travel three doors up from the now closed Mews restaurant to open dede at the Customs House, and this talented chef has a trusted network of local suppliers, foragers and friends. It comes as no surprise then that the seasonal tasting menu celebrates the produce of West Cork. Cooking uses a minimal waste approach and the original dishes are refined, elegant and beautifully composed with plenty of personality and a subtle hint at Dede's Turkish heritage. The room is calm and contemporary, with candles and fresh flowers in abundance, and there's a lovely rear terrace too, complete with a dedicated area for barbecuing. Engaging service comes from the charming and omnipresent co-owner, Maria."
28-40 Howard Street, Belfast
"Eipic is the flagship restaurant of Michael Deane's mini-empire. You enter through one of his other restaurants, Love Fish, and into this rather exclusive room with a silver-grey colour theme and large illuminated discs on the walls. An impressive glass-walled wine cellar separates this and the lounge-bar, and the atmosphere is intimate and relaxed in equal measure. It's all about tasting menus here, with flavours building as you progress through the courses. Top quality seasonal ingredients are sourced or foraged as locally as possible and cooking takes on an assured modern style, with a creative edge and some original flavour combinations. Service is charming and, in an interesting twist to the wine pairings, you are presented with the choice of either a glass or a shot."
127-128 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2
"Set in a prime spot on the second floor of The Fitzwilliam Hotel, overlooking St Stephen's Green, is this chic, elegant restaurant named in honour of the city's glove-makers, who once occupied the neighbouring alleyway. The room has a largely contemporary feel but with subtle 1930s overtones, and pink and green hues and pretty flower arrangements bring a certain softness to it. In contrast to the surroundings, Andy McFadden's cooking is characterised by boldness – both in its flavours and textures – and his experience shines through in creative, modern dishes which are skilfully prepared and artfully presented. Dishes arrive at a smooth pace, brought to the table by a team who are detailed in their approach but refreshingly lacking in pomposity."
Cliff House Hotel, Middle Road, Ardmore, Co Waterford
"Its décor is unfussy, but this allows the focus to remain on what's important at this hotel restaurant: the food. Not forgetting the view, of course, for its position set into a cliff makes for a stunning sea panorama through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The tasting menu serves as a celebration of top quality produce available locally, including many ingredients – like wild herbs – foraged by the team. Dishes are pure, elegant and confidently delivered; concentrating on just a few main ingredients and treating these with the utmost respect in order to bring out their natural flavours. Start with several snacks, followed by eight courses of sublime, sophisticated cooking. The Guinness and treacle bread alone is worth a return trip."
5 Fenns Quay, Sheares Street, Cork
"Chef-owner Takashi Miyazaki spent three years tempting the taste buds of the diners of Cork with his small Japanese takeaway before eventually opening this smart restaurant in the heart of the city. It's a dark, moody place with something of an industrial feel; a lucky few get seats at the small five-seater counter to watch the deft preparation close up. The interesting omakase menu changes every 6 weeks and mixes long-standing Japanese traditions with more modern touches. Irish ingredients – including supreme quality fish and shellfish – are cleverly balanced with time-honoured Japanese techniques. Colourfully presented dishes are artfully arranged on handmade crockery and are brought to the table by the chef and his knowledgeable team – they are also paired with sakes chosen by Takashi himself."
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny
"This impressive country house sits on a 1,500 acre estate and is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in Ireland; it still boasts its original stuccowork and hand-carved marble fireplaces, and its well-appointed bedrooms follow the period style. The luxurious restaurant comprises two high-ceilinged rooms which look out over the estate towards the River Nore – be sure to ask for a seat by the window to take in the view. While the grand room comes with all the comfort and elegance one would expect from such a historic place, refreshingly, the service is smooth, relaxed and free of pomposity. Boldly flavoured, visually impressive dishes are skilfully prepared and ingredients come from the estate, the county and the coast. Playful desserts make a memorable finish to the meal. For the full experience go for the tasting menu."
Geata na Cathrach, Fairgreen Road, Galway
"Chef-owner Enda McEvoy was one of the first chefs to embrace the sustainability ethos and he continues to make green strides to this day. Every ingredient is 100% Irish and sourced from local farmers and fishermen, with whom the chef has developed strong relationships, and the kitchen takes a nose-to-tail and leaf-to-root approach to this highly seasonal produce. The resulting dishes on the set tasting menu are creative, modern and well-balanced with a lightness of touch and a well-judged simplicity that lets the natural flavours shine through. The open kitchen allows diners to see the intense focus from both Enda and his team and their pride is palpable as they deliver the dishes to the table. With its concrete walls and stark metal ceiling, the restaurant has a spartan, industrial feel, but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, thanks to the natural charm of the chatty team."
The Muddlers Club
1 Warehouse Lane, Belfast
"Hidden away in the Cathedral Quarter is this modern, industrial-style restaurant named after a 200-year-old secret society. It's a simply furnished place with a dark colour scheme and an open kitchen, and the enthusiasm of the young team who run it is palpable. Chef Gareth McCaughey's cooking has a modern touch with a nod to the occasional classic, like duck with ponzu or cod with sauce Américaine. His philosophy is to source top ingredients, mainly from Ireland, prepare them well, and not overcomplicate things. His Antrim beef with carrot, short rib and bone marrow is a case in point: the beef is perfectly cooked, the well-crafted sauce is delicious and the accompaniments are suitably unfussy. Gareth started out as a pastry chef, so it's no surprise to find that the desserts are a highlight."
The Oak Room
Adare Manor, Adare, Co Limerick
"The dining room of the impressive 1830s Adare Manor exhibits all the comfort and grandeur you would expect – and the great Irish hospitality makes you feel like the most important person in the room. Named after the fine wood-panelled walls commissioned by architect Augustus Pugin, it comes with a dark green colour scheme, period artwork and lavish chandeliers; in summer, ask for a table on the small glass-enclosed terrace for wonderful views over the 850 acre grounds. Michael Tweedie's assured, refreshingly understated cooking champions top ingredients from Ireland's artisan producers, with dishes comprising just 3 or 4 components, allowing each the room to make an impression. Combinations are refined and well-balanced, and great attention to detail is in evidence. The wine list is a labour of love and offers a superb range by the glass."
1 Oxford Street, Belfast
"Stephen Toman likes to keep things moving at his appealing modern restaurant, where the atmosphere is relaxed and the understated design wouldn't feel out of place in Copenhagen. Kick things off with an aperitif in their next door wine cave, where they also serve snack boards throughout the day. Top quality produce guides the constantly evolving menus, which are a mix of set-priced (lunchtime only) and tasting selections created from a list of around 30 or so of the best seasonal ingredients. Skilfully prepared modern dishes capture the true flavours of this produce and Stephen's passion for vegetables is clear to see. Cooking has a refined, sophisticated style and there's a great balance of different tastes and textures. The well-matched wines also have a seasonal element and warm service complete the picture."
78 Thomas Street, Dublin 8
"This tiny restaurant sits sandwiched between other properties and there's no sign above the door, but that all adds to the anticipation. The long, narrow room has a funky, modern style and the cool, relaxed atmosphere is helped along by the laid-back team. At the back you'll find charming chef-owner Keelan Higgs working calmly in the open kitchen, while his brother Aaron keeps things running smoothly out front. Highly original, refined yet unfussy dishes burst with freshness and flavour, and many are cooked over the open fire; Keelan loves this concept, as it means no two dishes will ever be exactly the same. The menu is divided into the headings Snacks, Cold, Warm, Pasta, Family Style (for sharing) and After (one dessert and one cheese). The monthly changing, mostly organic wine list is equally passionately compiled."
Wild Honey Inn
Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
"This personally run inn set in the heart of The Burren started life as an 1860s hotel serving those visiting the town's spas. For this reason, it doesn't look much like a pub, but once inside it's warm, cosy and full of pubby character. Tables are arranged around a central bar, all manner of bric-a–brac hangs on the walls and there's a welcoming open fire for colder nights. Aidan McGrath is an experienced chef and his fixed price menu changes weekly – and sometimes daily – in line with which produce is at its best. Dishes have a classical French base and showcase the county's produce in carefully prepared combinations which are beautifully balanced and packed with bold flavours. Comfy bedrooms have a fittingly traditional feel; the breakfast room overlooks the pretty garden; and the whole place champions sustainable tourism."