Select: pub grub for the craft beer generation
Our unquenchable love affair with craft beer is helping to raise the standard of pub grub all over the country
Citroën pretty: Camden Exchange, on Camden Street, Dublin 2. Top-notch street food from the back of a truck
The seemingly unstoppable thirst for craft beer will be somewhat sated at the Irish Craft Beer Festival this week, which takes place at the RDS from August 27th to 29th. The three-day festival will host more than 50 craft breweries and cider makers for tastings, talks and a chance to meet the brewers.
There will be a number of panel events, with guests including Grainne Walsh, owner of Metalman Brewing Co, DJ and beer blogger Rick O’Shea and Cormac O’Dwyer, owner and head brewer of Dungarvan Brewing Company - these events are free but you must register online in advance.
And of course there’ll be beer. Lots and lots of beer. There’ll be food to help soak it up, with stalls and food trucks from Jane Russell Sausages, Say Fish (try their handcut seaweed salted chips and sustainable haddock €8), Cillian the Pie Man, Dave’s Wood Fired Pizza, the Bitchin Kitchen and others. The festival runs from 5pm to 11.30pm (12.30am on Friday). Tickets from €10.
Wort from the mash
Beyond the festival, our love affair with craft beer has helped to raise the standard of pub grub around the country. We’ve separated the wort from the mash (yes, we had to look that up) and found a few that rise to the top.
In Dublin, Camden Exchange (72 Camden Street, Dublin 2) has turned pub grub on its head by parking an old Citroën truck in the centre of the pub and cooking up street food in it. There are sharing plates (€6 each or three for €15) that include some oozing Spanish-style smoked Gubbeen cheese and chive croquettes, and garlic shrimp skewers with a bloody mary dip. Mains (all €8, or €10 with fries) include an FX Buckley board with six-hour brisket, chilli sauce, blue cheese dip, crispy onions and celeriac remoulade.
There’s a great buttermilk brined crispy chicken salad - or you can have it served on a Bretzel Bap. And the chips with old-school curry sauce and cheese are perfect stodge to eat with the 50+ craft beers on offer.
Further south Gleeson’s (44 Booterstown Ave, Blackrock, Co Dublin) serves excellent steaks (fillet with pepper or garlic sauce and potatoes, chips, rice or salad, 6 oz €22.95, 10oz €28.95), plus a good beef and Guinness pie (€15.95) with mushrooms and rosemary, or some decent lemon sole goujons with tartar sauce (€16.95)
Over on Dublin's northside, L Mulligan Grocer (18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7) brought pub grub kicking and screaming away from the carvery and toastie when it opened up in 2010. There’s a large selection of craft beers, plus a huge range of whiskies. Menus, wedged into old books, include some really good Scotch eggs – a soft-centred free-range egg surrounded by rare-breed pork and crumbs and served with mustard mayo and relish (€6.50). And its take on the much maligned and abused chicken kiev is delicious. A free-range breast stuffed with Inishowen Whiskey butter and covered in hazelnut crumbs is served with thick twice-cooked chips, red cabbage and bacon slaw and corn puree (€16.50). Conveniently they also suggest beer pairings with each dish, but the food menu often sells out, so order early.
Nearby in Glasnevin, John Kavanagh ‘The Gravediggers’ (1 Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin 9), which sadly lost its proprietor Eugene Kavanagh last week, has maintained its spit-and-sawdust bar while introducing some good food to the lounge area. There’s a tapas-style feel to the menu, cooked by another of the Kavanaghs, chef Ciaran.
Try crostini, with toppings such as Parma ham, aubergine and gorgonzola (€5.90) or a slow cooked pork and bean bake. Head back next door to the bar for a really good pint of Guinness.
From the tank
In Co Louth, Paul O’Neill’s Glyde Inn (Main Street, Annagassan) dates back to the late 1700s. These days it has a restaurant, Linn Duachaill (named for the Viking long port, or harbour, across the road) that also cooks up good pub grub that’s served in the bar.
Fish comes from a few kilometres down the road, so it’s worth trying the proper fried scampi with Togher chips and tartar sauce €19.95 or the fried Clogherhead fish catch of the day with chips and tartar sauce, €13.95. If you’re feeling flaithulach, there’s fresh lobster sold by weight – you choose your own from the tank.
Aside from the slightly hairy parking situation on a narrow winding road, the location of Deasy’s Harbour Bar and Restaurant (Ring Village, Clonakilty, Co Cork, 023-883 5741) couldn’t be better. It’s perched on the side of the harbour in the village of Ring, just outside Clonakilty.
Serving fantastic seafood landed daily in nearby Union Hall and cooked by head chef Caitlin Ruth, this old-fashioned pub also has excellent service. The menu changes with the catch, but you can expect dishes such as Korean fish cakes (€8.95), with fat lumps of fish, sweet and delicious, with a spicy carrot salad and Asian dip, or slow-cooked squid in red wine and pecorino (€8.95).
Last time we visited, we had monkfish with celeriac puree and chilli and anchovy dressing (€28.95) and fried hake with a creamy leek risotto and smoked pepper oil. Worth the trip.
In the west, O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar in Roundstone (095-35809) serves barfood from midday until 9.30pm daily (9pm in low season). There’s a solid selection of craft beers and whiskies, plus a cracking view over Roundstone Bay.
You’d be crazy to come to a bar like this and not order local seafood – there are steaming hot bowls of chowder with prawns, mussels and large chunks of fish (€6.50), plus some interesting hummus made with local Carrageen seaweed with Nori bread and olive oil (€6.95). Michael Kelly’s local Galway Bay oysters are €10.95 for a half-dozen, shucked to order. It’s hard to beat for atmosphere in this part of the country
Aherne’s in Youghal (Main Street) is another place to get some good seafood. The bar food isn’t cheap but the quality is generally good. There’s lots of local catch on the menu: Helvic Head monkfish, hot buttered Youghal Bay lobster (both around the €25 mark), plaice and prawns.
The open seafood sandwich is good, on crumbly brown bread and served with salads (€8.15) and a decent chowder (€8.90). And if you over-imbibe on those craft beers, you can always stay upstairs in the townhouse rooms, from €60 per person sharing, with breakfast.
Finally in Donegal, the The Village Tavern (Lower Main St, Mountcharles, Co Donegal) sits on the tip of the Wild Atlantic Way, on the road from Donegal town to Slieve League. The building dates back to the 1798 Rebellion, and while life is quieter these days, chef Peter Campbell is keeping things exciting in the kitchen.
Sit at the seafood bar – with clear Perspex covering seabed dioramas – and try the local seafood tasting board (€8.95) or a cream- and garlic-flavoured prawn and monkfish gratin served with wheaten bread (€9.95).
Mains come with recommended pairings from the lengthy craft beer menu, such as Paddy Boyle’s Blue Stack lamb plate (€18.95) served with Donegal Brewing Company’s Atlantic Amber Ale.