The 100 best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland 2018

The Irish Times’s guide to the best foodie destinations across Ireland

It started with a meeting, then a rough draft, then a series of tussles, between us and also in our own heads. Who belongs on our list of the 100 most delicious places to eat in Ireland? It’s the second time we’ve put it together, and one of the most exciting things was the number of new places we wanted to add. We went back and forth, weighed up each candidate, typed things on documents in different-coloured fonts and finally agreed the 100 that made the cut.

Nowhere gets on this list through anything other than a commitment to great food. These are the places we have loved, the restaurants and cafes that made us swoon, grin, relax, and feel hopeful, awed and, above all else, happy. It is, as Aoife McElwain said in one of our many email exchanges, a delicious list. In fact we’d like to claim it as the Definitive Delicious List.


We've marked this year's newcomers and used a to flag everywhere that serves a main course for less than €15.

Storyboard € NEW
It takes a dogged attitude to deliciousness to do what chef Laura Caulwell does. On a Saturday morning someone collects the vegetables from the McNally Family Farm stall at Temple Bar Food Market and brings them through the busy cafe into the kitchen. They do this because McNally vegetables are spectacularly good. They're the foundation stone for this brilliant place, along with produce from others who go the extra mile. Storyboard is the place you go to remind yourself how food should taste. CC
Storyboard, Camden Block, Clancy Quay, Islandbridge, Dublin 8,


Hatch & Sons €
A seven-day-a-week operation is where food ambition goes stale, right? Well, yes, but, as with all rules of thumb, there are exceptions. The beef and Guinness stew is on the menu here every day, and vouchers for it should be handed out at arrivals gates on dire days in Dublin. "Yes, the weather is awful," the voucher will read, "so go eat this." CC
Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, 01-6610075,

The Fumbally
If Luca D'Alfonso and Aisling Rogerson were serious about money they'd have franchised out the Fumbally, battered junk-shop furniture and all, and be running it remotely from a warmer island somewhere. Luckily, they're serious about food. Born in the downturn, with falafel and Gubbeen cheesy eggs, the Fumbally became the blueprint for how a new generation of cafes should feel. CC
The Fumbally, 8 Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, 01-5298732,

The Pepper Pot €
Sometimes it's all about the bagels, such as when you get a freshly baked one early in the morning and people-watch from this cafe in the country's most beautiful shopping mall. Then you go back and it's all about the scones, big falling-over wedges of freshly baked dough with juicy sultanas, cream, jam and butter. Afternoon tea can keep its fancy-pants sandwiches: a Pepper Pot scone and a cuppa is therapy on granny delph. CC
The Pepper Pot, Powerscourt Centre, 60 South William Street, Dublin 2, 01-7071610,

Two Pups €
Francis Street has needed a linchpin like Two Pups for a long time. It's a neighbourhood favourite that helped create a different feeling on a stretch where a weird mix of posh antique places and down-at-heel dereliction was threatening to take hold. The coffee shop is part of a collective, and the food philosophy is all about wholesome tasty cooking with great ingredients at cafe prices. CC
Two Pups Coffee, 74 Francis Street, Dublin 8,

Meet Me in the Morning €
With luck, by the time you're reading this we'll be settling into the rhythm of a long, hot summer. That's when the seats on the footpath in front of this small cafe will be one of the best lunch-in-the-sun spots in Dublin. South-facing and sheltered, this cafe will make you glad to be alive and eating some of the most creative cafe cooking in the city. CC
Meet Me in the Morning, 50 Pleasants Street, Dublin 8,

Strandfield Cafe € NEW
Unless you know it's there you might not trundle down the avenue to see if it's worth a visit – but if you do you've found a gem. Strandfield House sits sternly looking out over lovely countryside, but in its farmyard a shed has grown into a beautiful cafe and bakery. The cake is worth a detour in itself. Pizzas come out of the belly of a huge wood-fired oven. It reminds me of the cafe in a greenhouse Marc Michel used to have on his organic farm in Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, that special feeling of eating food in a place from where food comes. CC
Strandfield House, Ballymascanlon, Co Louth, 042-9371856,

Pudding Row €
I get tingles when I look through Dervla James's pictures from her eerie in Easkey with all that westerly Sligo light slanting in from the Atlantic. Pudding Row houses memories of very happy times and of all the big weather on that cloud-blown edge of the world. It's no easy task to keep a seasonal food business ticking over in the winter. They do it with, among other things, a bread-making course, which sounds life-changingly positive if the comments are anything to go by. CC
Pudding Row, Main Street, Easkey, Co Sligo, 096-49794,

Bang Bang € NEW
A magic byproduct of people marching to the bang of their own drum is authenticity. Cookie-cutter cafes pop up countrywide, but Bang Bang is refreshingly self-determining in style. It is owned and run by the brother-and-sister team of Grace and Daniel Lambert, whose ethos is independence and a thriving community, which is reflected in the produce stocked in their pantry store and the vintage clothes hung on their rails. They're a beating heart of a neighbourhood tucked away on a red-terraced street. Don't leave without trying the Brunch Burger. AMcE
Bang Bang, 59a North Leinster Street, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, 086-8576054,

Five Points Coffee €
Five Points Coffee is an offspring of Colin Harmon's 3FE family: Five Points's manager, Adam Sheridan, cut his teeth at 3FE's Grand Canal Street cafe. It was here he met executive head chef Hilary O'Hagan-Brennan. Along with Harmon, the pair launched Five Points last year – and, boy, have they settled well into the neighbourhood. Yes, the coffee is great. Hell yes, the food is good. Top it off with a beautiful royal-blue colour theme and oodles of natural light and you've got yourself a damn near perfect brunch spot. AMcE
Five Points Coffee, 288a Harold's Cross Road, Dublin 6,

Camerino €
It's not just the award-winning raspberry-cheesecake brownies that make Caryna Camerino's bakery special. It's the love that goes into her triple-tiered cakes; into the cranberry-and-white-chocolate cookies; into the home-baked challah bread and home-baked focaccia that serve as vessels for daily sambos. Grab one of the window seats and watch the world go by through the lens of a sweet-smelling bakery. AMcE
Camerino, 158 Capel Street, Dublin 1, 01-5377755,

Cafe Rua €
Aran and Colleen McMahon continue to make their mother, Ann, proud by blazing a trail of delicious deli food in their cafe, deli and shop in Castlebar. For breakfast try the Cafe Rua Fry, featuring Kelly's black and white pudding and Andarl Farm bacon. Stay local with Achill Island smoked salmon for lunch, and finish with something sweet from the daily selection of freshly baked goodies. AMcE
Cafe Rua, New Antrim Street and Spencer Street, Castlebar, Co Mayo, 094-9023376 (New Antrim Street), 094-9286072 (Spencer Street),

Established Coffee €
Established Coffee serves some of the best speciality brews in Ireland, north or south, and its owners, Bridgeen Barbour and Mark Ashbridge, delight with their food menu, too. Come for one of their coveted sweet or savoury waffles, stay for the chocolate ganache with pistachio crumb. AMcE
Established Coffee, 54 Hill Street, Belfast, 048-90319416;

Two Boys Brew €
Kevin Roche and Taurean Coughlan took what they loved from the Melbourne coffee scene and made it their own in their Phibsborough cafe. These boys serve brunch and lunch realness to match exceedingly excellent coffee and truly scrumptious cakes. AMcE
Two Boys Brew, 375 North Circular Road, Dublin 7,

My Boy Blue € NEW
Stephen Brennan, a Dubliner, packed in his job in finance to pursue a love of coffee. His partner, Amy, is from Dingle, so the pair moved back to her Co Kerry hometown and opened the doors of My Boy Blue in June 2017. Word soon spread beyond the Kingdom of its delicious fish tacos, heavenly grilled-cheese sambos made with Bácús Bakery sourdough, and cups of 3FE coffee. Brunch favourites include harissa eggs and buttermilk pancakes. AMcE
My Boy Blue, Holyground, Dingle, Co Kerry,

Rocketman HQ €
Whether it's the falafels at East, in Cork's Winthrop Arcade, or the healthy fast food of the Rocketman, Jack Crotty always has something delicious up his sleeve. Find him this summer at Body&Soul festival's Food on Board area, where food-waste and packaging awareness is top of the menu. AMcE
Rocketman HQ, 38 Princes Street, Cork, 021-4278550,

Ali's Kitchen € NEW
Ali Honour is a chef and baker originally from Oxfordshire. Her grandfather reared award-winning beef and had his own butchery and pub in Oxford, so she learned from an early age the importance of respecting local ingredients. Having relocated to Cork, she makes the best of the English Market and highlights ingredients such as Tom Durcan's ham and Fingal Ferguson's Gubbeen chorizo on her cafe menu. It's her doughnuts that got her noticed, though. The enriched dough is proved for 20 hours before being hand-rolled by Honour and her team of bakers. They make them in small batches to ensure peak freshness, and all the fillings and toppings are made in house, from the velvety custards to the honeycomb and brandy-snap toppings. AMcE
Ali's Kitchen, Rory Gallagher Place, Cork, 021-2390680,

Farmgate Cafe €
On a recent visit to the Farmgate Cafe, in the English Market in Cork, the pastry lid of a home-made apple pie was so evocatively golden that a gasp of delight passed my lips. And, boy, did that apple pie live up to first impressions. Farmgate is a family affair: Kay Harte opened in the cafe in 1994, following in the footsteps of her sister Maróg O'Brien, proprietor of the restaurant and country store in Midleton, also known as Farmgate, since 1984. Today Kay's daughter Rebecca manages the city-centre cafe and continues to shine a spotlight on ingredients sourced from the renowned market downstairs. Farmgate Cafe is living proof that Irish food is something to be truly proud of. CC
Farmgate Cafe, English Market, Princes Street, Cork, 021-4278134,

Shells Cafe and Little Shop €
Myles and Jane Lamberth are in the business of making people happy through food. An outpost of deliciousness and creativity on the west coast, it warms the cockles of my heart to step into their world. Great coffee and comfort food served within a stone's throw of the sea. AMcE
Shells Cafe and Little Shop, Strandhill, Co Sligo, 071-9122938,

Wine & Brine € (lunch) NEW
Chris McGowan could easily have joined Belfast's growing crowd of great restaurants when he returned home to Northern Ireland, but instead he brought his cooking talent to the small town of Moira. This way he gets to put spectacular dishes on plates at less than big-city prices. Wine & Brine combines tasty gastropub snacks with the kind of skilful restaurant cooking that is getting him noticed and deserves to bring a whole new crowd to a quiet country corner. CC
Wine & Brine, 59 Main Street, Moira, Co Armagh, 048-92610500,

4 Vicars NEW
You can see why this place was once a tea room tucked in behind St Patrick's Cathedral and the steep tumbling streets of Armagh. But the cooking here is more than preserves and scones. It takes a flavour fiend like Gareth Reid to make a game broth as memorable as the one I enjoyed on an icy November day. He and his wife, Kasia, have turned this lovely old house into a really good restaurant. There's a plan to turn Armagh into the Kinsale of the North. With restaurants like 4 Vicars they're well on the way to getting there. CC
4 Vicars, 4 Vicars Hill, Armagh, 048-37527772,

Cleneghans € (early bird) NEW
Danni Barry won a Michelin star at Eipic, in Belfast, then decamped to the countryside at the end of last year. She took over the kitchen at Cleneghans, outside Craigavon, giving a 250-year-old business a fresh start. The old inn used to be known as Winnies, after Winnie Cleneghan, according to the Lurgan Mail. Barry has brought years of hard graft in high-end kitchens to this simple old place with a superb menu. If she keeps up these standards, in years to come they'll be calling it Danni's. CC
Cleneghans, 48 Soldierstown Road, Craigavon, Co Armagh, 048-92652952,

St George's Terrace NEW
Between bailouts and trackers, banks haven't earned any soft spots in our hearts. But one legacy is a handsome stock of buildings in towns around Ireland. One of these became St George's Terrace Restaurant in Carrick-on-Shannon, a town better known for its hens and stags than its fine dining. Chef Dave Fitzgibbon is paddling a more ambitious canoe, putting beautiful food into a beautiful room in style, with country portions and at country prices. CC
St George's Terrace Restaurant, St George's Terrace, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, 071-9616546,

Brownes NEW
Reopened by the grandson of Gay Browne, the original owner, this was a pub that put heart back into Tuam. The chef Stevie Lane and his wife, Amanda Fahy, kept the front bar pretty much the same, with its Formica counter and small open fire, but out back they turned Brownes into a gastropub. Not in the soulless pulled-pork-from-a-freezer and jam-jars-for-glasses kind of fashion but by pulling together a delicious menu from local cheesemakers, farmers and growers. It's a parlour trick that other struggling country pubs could look to learn. CC
Brownes, the Square, Tuam, Co Galway, 093-60700,

1826 Adare NEW
Thatched cottages were probably never as cosy as 1826 Adare, in the Co Limerick town, manages to be. Wade Murphy's cooking teams traditional hearty ingredients such as ham hocks and chicken livers with the kinds of vegetables and condiments that take old favourites to a different level. Seaweed butter, anyone? It's relaxed, friendly and as unpretentious as pub food, but with a chef's take that takes it from fine dining to damn fine dining. CC
1826 Adare, Main Street, Adare, Co Limerick, 061-396004,

Hazel Mountain Chocolate €
John and Kasha Connolly have created a haven for sweet-toothed chocolate lovers with their bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the Burren hills, which features an organic cafe. If you can't make it out to the wilds of Co Clare, you can visit their Galway chocolate shop and cacao brew bar for their bars, hot chocolate, hazelnut-and-dark-chocolate spread and cacao tea. AMcE
Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory and Organic Cafe, Oughtmama, Bell Harbour, Co Clare, 065-7078847; Hazel Mountain Chocolate Shop & Cacao Brew Bar, Middle Street, Galway;

Firehouse Bakery & Cafe €
When you visit Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore's bakery, in Delgany, you're getting four businesses for the price of one. The bakery is part of a complex of independent businesses that includes Roasted Brown's coffee roastery, the Pigeon House restaurant and the Delgany Grocer. Come for the loaves of Firehouse Bakery sourdough, stay for the wood-fired-oven pizza and sweet treats. AMcE
Firehouse Bakery & Cafe, Delgany, Co Wicklow, 086-1561984,

Teach an Tae €
The moment I set foot on Inis Oírr, weary from ferry travel, I crave the home-grown and home-made food of Alissa and Micheál Donoghue's Teach an Tae. Expect local fish, Aran goat cheese from Inis Mór, and greens from the garden on the menu. AMcE
Teach an Tae Aran Cafe & Tea Rooms, Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, Co Galway, 099-75092,

Grow HQ € NEW
It's astonishing what the writer, broadcaster, gardener and garlic enthusiast Michael Kelly has built, and is building, with his full-time horticulturists and green-fingered volunteers in Waterford. Grow HQ is the real-world home of GIY, Kelly's movement to encourage people to grow it yourself. It's a place to inspire people to grow their own food and provide them with the skills to do it. The cafe at the heart of this gardening complex seeks to reconnect visitors with where their food comes from. Visit the gardens, get your hands dirty in the soil while learning about GIY's community projects, then rest over a Garden Patch quiche, Seagull sourdough toasted sandwich or HQ blaa. AMcE
Grow HQ, Farronshoneen, Dunmore Road, Waterford, 051-584422,

Hugo's NEW
It's worth giving yourself a bit more time before a show if you're actually going to the theatre after Hugo's pretheatre menu. It puts Irish ingredients, especially cheese and yogurt, centre stage. Service and decor are old school, and dinner arrives at a smart lick without making you feel as if the place is turning tables with an eye to the arrival of some deeper-pocketed eaters. Hugo's decor feels old, but the food approach feels very nicely new. CC
Hugo's, 6 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, 01-6765955,

The Legal Eagle € NEW
A menu for all seasons and all budgets is what the restaurateur Elaine Murphy has put together in this revamped old pub beside the Four Courts. You can put together a crisp sandwich with house-made crisps, sourdough and "too much butter" for €5, nibble on the ice-cream-coloured pickled eggs or go full frontal with a kilo of steak for €75. As with all her other proudly northside restaurants, Murphy has made the Legal Eagle a showcase for some of the best food on the island. CC
The Legal Eagle, 1-2 Chancery Place, Inns Quay, Dublin 1, 01-5552971,

L Mulligan Grocer NEW
You have to take your hat off to anyone who offers a plate of perfectly cooked Irish asparagus with Béarnaise sauce at a beautiful old Irish pub. The owners of this city bar broke new ground when they turned it into a place to eat and drink. The Scotch eggs, both meat and veggie versions, served with the pub's own "Mulligaloe" relish, are the stuff of legend. The upstairs flat is a hit with Airbnb-ers who find that sleeping above a pub is one of the most authentic ways to experience Dublin. CC
L Mulligan Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, 01-6709889,

Old Street NEW
The owners of Old Street have done a beautiful job reinventing two old town houses as a great new restaurant. The cooking teams Spanish, Italian and French ideas with Scandi minimalism, using largely Irish ingredients. As befits a place by the beach, the seafood is a proper treat, and the building makes you feel as if this is the best combination of casual dining in a special setting. CC
Old Street Restaurant, Old Street, Malahide, Co Dublin, 01-8455614,

Gaillot et Gray €
We trekked through a blizzard during the big snow to this bakery and pizzeria, when Gaillot et Gray put the neighbour into neighbourhood restaurant. The wood-fired oven kept burning and the always-long bread queue became epic as they kept the lights on in the middle of a citywide shutdown and a national bread panic. They make one of Dublin's best pizzas here, although you won't persuade my kids of that. They believe Emmental has no place on a pizza. CC
Gaillot et Gray, 59 Lower Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8, 01-4547781,

Barry Fitzgerald has kept up the stellar food in his small neighbourhood restaurant. He was rewarded with a Bib Gourmand the week he opened a sister restaurant, Clanbrassil House. Deliciousness is at the heart of Bastible, and as prices elsewhere leapfrog in the postboom reboot, they've stayed keen here, making the food some of the best value in the city. CC
Bastible, 111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8, 01-4737409,

Bresson NEW
Being cartoonishly French used to be the thing in restaurants out to capture posh cash. You were nobody if you didn't have an à la something on the menu. Temple Garner has put the best of French food back on the menu in this reinvention of the old Seapoint restaurant. Bouillabaisse and tarte Tatin are here, not reinvented, deconstructed or otherwise tweaked. But just themselves, excellently executed in a smart French restaurant in Monkstown-sur-Mer. CC
Bresson, 4a the Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin, 01-2844286,

Las Tapas de Lola €
One of my favourite restaurants to bring friends to, not just because of the food but also for the welcome. It's all the best tapas bars you've ever visited under one roof and a footpath awning. Top of my favourites are the puntillitas, or deep-fried baby-squid tentacles; the Galician octopus, with its smoky dusting of paprika and waxy potato slices; the carrillada de cerdo, or marinated pig cheek, also with a side of charred Pádron peppers. CC
Las Tapas de Lola, 12 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, 01-4244100,

Who'da thunk the old Gigs Place would be proud owner of a Bib Gourmand? In what is probably Dublin's most radical reinvention, Russell Wilde and chef David O'Byrne polished a greasy spoon into a little gem a couple of years back, and Richmond quickly became a badly kept secret. Bistro staples, only much better done than in most bistros, form the bulk of the menu; on Tuesdays they let fly with a €36 tasting menu. CC
Richmond, 43 Richmond Street South, Dublin 8, 01-4788783,

Eastern Seaboard €
Your 10th year in business is not the one when you expect to tip things on their head, but that's what happened to Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz as they tried to take their restaurant in a more creative direction and opened their door to dogs. The ship has been steadied, they told the Irish Times food writer Marie-Claire Digby recently. And this bar and grill continues to be a terrific place to enjoy ingredients for which you'd pay a lot more at some other restaurants. CC
Eastern Seaboard, Bryanstown Cross Route, Bryanstown, Drogheda, Co Louth, 041-9802570,

Forest & Marcy
The food has to be as good as Ciaran Sweeney's cooking to tempt diners on to a bar stool in a tiny joint like this for dinner. But you'll be glad you hauled yourself up on to it. Ingredients reflect the weather and the season outside, apart from one evergreen dish: the fermented potato bread with bacon and cabbage. This has earned its perennial spot on the menu by being spoon-lickingly delicious. CC
Forest & Marcy, 126 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4, 01-6602480,

Feast NEW
They still don't do lunch, but they've stretched things out to a pretheatre menu that is available generously late on weekday nights. Feast is a cosy neighbourhood restaurant in a stretch of street where all the trade seems to die in the evening. The cooking is heartfelt and inventive. It would be difficult to eat this well for these prices at most restaurants. If an accountant were running the place it would be a sandwich bar, but thankfully it's not. CC
Feast, 1a Lower George's Street, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, 01-4446546,

Tartare Cafe + Wine Bar € NEW
Small plates work best when they bring big flavours, and that's the approach here. Squeamish about the idea of eating raw beef? The dish for which the place is named could convert you. You could also try a first oyster here, sweetened with sea lettuce to soften its briny wallop and served in a smart place with an interesting selection of wine. CC
Tartare Cafe + Wine Bar, 56 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 091-567803,

Assassination Custard € NEW
When Ken Doherty bought ray cheeks on Meath Street he was told he was their youngest ever customer. It's those old Dublin favourites, as well as newly invented ones, that make the menu in this tiny, quirky place such fun. It's as much an exercise in meeting people as it is an introduction to inventive cooking. Gwen McGrath and her husband take what's best from around them and turn them into a daily feast. CC
Assassination Custard, 19a Lower Kevin Street, Dublin 8,

Terra Madre Cafe € NEW
"How could you?" a friend texted when I brought the spotlight of a glowing review down on his favourite basement place, tucked away on Bachelors Walk in Dublin. Terra Madre feels like your own very corner of an Italian kitchen. This is the best of hearty country cooking with humble ingredients, where time and skill turns them into something very special. CC
Terra Madre Cafe, 13a Bachelors Walk, Dublin 1, 01-8735300,

Da Mimmo €
A move out of the mom-and-pop pizza-and-pasta shop into a bigger premises a few doors along North Strand didn't wreck the much-loved vibe Da Mimmo brought to north inner-city Dublin. The spaghetti with clams and pistachio nuts is typical of the crowd-pleasers they do here. The takeaway trade is the money-spinner. It helps keep prices low for the more rustic country-restaurant-style cooking being done in seasonal risottos and sit-in dinners. CC
Da Mimmo, 148 North Strand Road, Dublin 3, 01-8561714,

The Wild Honey Inn
This lovely old inn on the outskirts of Lisdoonvarna appeared on the map for a new group of diners when it became the first Irish pub to win a Michelin star. The accolade hasn't changed Aidan McGrath's food, which is grounded in the beauty of the Burren and the amazing larder of seafood, meat and fruit and vegetables on his doorstep. CC
The Wild Honey Inn, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, 065-7074300,

Dooks Fine Foods € (lunch) NEW
Tourism bosses would do well to visit this restaurant to see how great food can put the heart back into an out-of-the-way place. Dooks is a hard-working breakfast, lunch and coffee place during the week, but on Saturday nights its chef-owner, Richard Gleeson, cooks a tasting menu that puts Fethard squarely on the list of destinations to put on your food map of Ireland. CC
Dooks Fine Foods, Kerry Street, Fethard, Co Tipperary, 052-6130828,

Ard Bia at Nimmos
Aoibheann McNamara and her right-hand woman, Amelia Colleran, run a tight ship of food-loving loveens on the banks of the Corrib. Visit them for their vegan Wellington, west Cork baby monkfish with sorrel yogurt, or Gubbeen-chorizo-and-sweet-potato hash served with excellent coffee and your choice of fine wines and craft beers. Pick up a Tweed Project scarf or a jar of Katie Sanderson's peanut rayu from the shop while you're there. AMcE
Ard Bia at Nimmos, Spanish Arch, Long Walk, Galway, 091-561114,

Kasbah Wine Bar @ Tigh Neachtain
Head chef Sarah Croffey and her sous chef, Claire Conway, continue a tradition of great food at Galway's iconic Tigh Neachtain pub, with tapas-style small plates served in the upstairs wine bar, Kasbah, and not-your-average pub lunch served downstairs. Try the vegan board with cashew cheese and queso, or half a dozen Flaggy Shore oysters, or the cauliflower steak with pink peppercorns, lovage and oat cream. Finish with skillet cookie and unicorn tears ice cream. That's right, unicorn tears. AMcE
Kasbah Wine Bar @ Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross Street, Galway, 091-568820,

Mikey Ryan's Bar & Kitchen NEW
Mikey Ryan's is a beautifully dark pub. Follow the signs for the restaurant and you'll soon find yourself in the light-filled diningroom to its rear. This pub has been in Cashel for more than a century, but a recent refurbishment has dusted it off, painted it blue and given its menu an overhaul. It's an exercise in elegant simplicity. A clue to its pedigree is in the logo, a stallion in mid-gallop, etched on the crockery and peppered throughout the dining room. The owner, the business magnate John Magnier, is also developing a sister property, the Cashel Palace Hotel, next door. Try the Crozier Blue and mushrooms on toast in the restaurant, or the DIY chip butty in the bar. AMcE
Mikey Ryan's Bar & Kitchen, 26 Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary, 062-62007,

America Village Apothecary Tasting Room NEW
Claire Davey is a modern-day apothecary who creates syrups, tinctures and bitters using locally foraged ingredients. She opened her Tasting Rooms this spring to introduce her concoctions to visitors. Sit in and taste a Gather Forth, a cocktail of white port, house tonic, lemon zest and rosemary, or sip on a delicately booze-free wild-rose Martini. The food is limited to tasting plates and sharing platters, but we're not talking a few slivers of good local cheese and a couple of crackers. Davey's plant-based tasting platter features dehydrated apples topped with quince jelly, paired with shards of seeded crackers and piles of beetroot crisps. There are almond feta cubes flavoured with sumac and cumin, and soft almond cheese with turmeric and chilli. Even the gold-plated cutlery is beautiful. AMcE
America Village Apothecary Tasting Room, 31 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 085-2249304,

Dela NEW
Margaret and Joe Bohan are the husband-and-wife team behind Dela. On the surface it's an unassuming brunch, lunch and dinner spot, a real favourite with Galwegians. What makes it especially special is that the food relies on their family farm, in Moycullen, and their hope is to become increasingly self-sufficient and sustainable. At the bottom of their menus you can see what they're currently harvesting from the farm and bringing to your fork. AMcE
Dela, 51 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 091-449252,

Clanbrassil House and Coffee Shop NEW
Barry Fitzgerald and Claire-Marie Thomas have been quietly building something of a culinary empire on Leonard's Corner in Dublin. After the success of their restaurant Bastible they opened Clanbrassil House last year to bring a slice of small-plate heaven and grill-cooking magic to their hood. A recent meal included a divine monkfish tail cooked in miso and served with a rich butter-bean stew cooked by head chef Grainne O'Keefe. Earlier this year the family added Clanbrassil Coffee Shop, right next door to Clanbrassil House, to their clan, with pastry chef Zia Burke at the helm. Their bacon sarnie, made with Le Levain bread, comes complete with tangy home-made brown sauce, and their kimchi-and-blue-cheese toastie is a zinger. Get a Paris-Brest pastry and a 3FE coffee made by barista Dave Fox. AMcE
Clanbrassil House and Coffee Shop, 6 Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 6, 01-4539786,

This is a restaurant that does the conjuring trick that all restaurants should. Locks underpromises and then overdelivers. The menu reads like a set of fairly familiar ideas, but the dishes are much more creative in the flesh. Always a lovely room, Locks now has a seriously impressive kitchen, taking it into the league of the best unstarred cooking in the capital. CC
Locks, 1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin 8, 01-4163655,

Five years since it opened in what everyone saw as one of the lowest points in Belfast's restaurant fortunes, Ox was the start of the upturn. Inspired by the French three-star chef Alain Passard, a mentor to chef Stephen Toman and front-of-house maestro Alain Kerloc'h, Ox has developed a distinct personality. When Passard came to celebrate their birthday earlier this year there was no noticeable difference between the three-star chef's dishes and Ox's own. CC
Ox, 1 Oxford Street, Belfast, 048-90314121,

The Lady Helen
Mount Juliet has added a new casual-eating restaurant to its stable on the estate with The Hound restaurant in its new Hunter's Yard area. Executive chef Ken Harker continues what he does beautifully in the older sister operation, elegant old-world dining, where great ingredients are teased into exquisite creations with taste always the bottom line. CC
The Lady Helen Restaurant, Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, 056-7773000,

Chapter One
Visitors might notice things getting a bit wilder in the basement restaurant in the coming months, according to chef-owner Ross Lewis. Wild plants such as gorse will replace tamer flower arrangements to bring the Irish landscape into the rooms, resonating with an Irish food scene that Lewis believes is better than ever. They're also planning an earlier pretheatre sitting, to accommodate those 7.30pm curtain-ups. CC
Chapter One, 18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin 1, 01-8732266,

Kilkenny has the cultural life of a city and the feel of friendly town. Garrett Byrne's 10-year-old restaurant has become part of that happy blend. Upending classics is not his shtick, but there's nothing staid about Campagne. It's one of the few restaurants in this range with a small vegetarian menu, possibly to balance Byrne's "another day in paradise" tweet last year when asked for a free meal by a vegan blogger. CC
Campagne, 5 The Arches, Gas House Lane, Kilkenny, 056-7772858,

Dax Restaurant
This basement restaurant was a reliable workhorse of the expense-account lunch and postwork crowd. Then, last year, Graham Neville arrived from the kitchen of the now-closed Restaurant 41 at Residence, the St Stephen's Green club, and things got more creative. By now the summer ingredients should be on its plates. The courgette flower stuffed with prawns is a dish that marks the seasonal shift as delightfully as the first sound of swifts in a summer sky. CC
Dax Restaurant, 23 Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, 01-6761494,

Running their Dungarvan restaurant, cookery school, West Waterford Festival of Food and lively social-media accounts make Paul and Máire Flynn the power couple of Irish food. The heart of it all remains the restaurant, where cheffing finesse is only ever used to dial up the tastiness of what's on the plate. If it looks beautiful, too, then so be it. CC
Tannery, 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, 058-45420,

The Greenhouse
The Greenhouse is a restaurant that has made others up their game, a halo effect that improves the restaurant culture of a city. Mickael Viljanen has a restless approach to food and cooking, which means the menu never gets old and each visit is a new adventure. CC
The Greenhouse, 21 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, 01-6767015,

Enda McEvoy is itching to go out with a fisherman who's catching sea urchins, spider crabs and pollock off Inishbofin. His seafood is so brilliant that the chef-owner would like to see him at work. Loam's tasting menu follows the rhythm of the seasons with fresh, dried and preserved elements. Last month they harvested nettle tips to be dried for the tea that goes into their house-made kombucha. CC
Loam, Geata na Cathrach, Fairgreen, Galway, 091-569 727,

Etto € (lunch)
The trickiest challenge at Etto is picking just one starter and one main. So you should bring a crowd of adventurous (and generous) eaters. That way you can get to snaffle from everyone's plate to see if they all taste as good as they sound. And they will. CC
Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, 01-6788872,

Canteen Celbridge NEW
Some people assume small town means small ideas. James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert's elegant take on a small restaurant does none of that. Surprising and delicious things are sprinkled through their menus, such as cured goose ham, smoked sheep cheese and "crushed Queens", the world's best potatoes at this time of the year. CC
Canteen Celbridge, Main Street, Celbridge, Co Kildare, 01-6274967,

Heron & Grey
When your room is tiny and demand is enormous, things can get hairy, so chef Damien Grey and front of house Andrew Heron now take bookings a month at a time. At 10am on Saturday the list will open online for July. Instead of a menu, diners get an exhaustive list of that month's ingredients. The kitchen will turn this into a memorable night. It all looks very serious, but Heron & Grey is a place where big food fun happens. CC
Heron & Gray, Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin, 01-2123676,

The Muddler's Club €
Head chef and owner Gareth McCaughey brought some Michelin skills from his former job at Ox to his city-centre restaurant, delicately handling great local produce without any pretence. This is food for a special occasion served in a gloriously laid-back setting. AMcE
The Muddler's Club, Warehouse Lane, Belfast, 048-90313199,

The Seafood Cafe € NEW
The third and biggest fish in Niall Sabongi's Klaw empire, this brings the best of the crab shack on nearby Crown Lane and PoKe on Capel Street together under a slightly more roomy roof. Your fish and chips will be made with sustainable fish from Irish waters. The When I Was Six cold-water prawns fried in butter on a skewer might convert more of us islanders to the magic of our watery larder. CC
The Seafood Cafe, 11 Sprangers Yard, Upper Fownes Street, Dublin 2, 01-5153717,

Fish Shop Benburb Street € NEW
Last year's list had the Queen Street Fish Shop on it. This year I've swapped my allegiance to the Fish Shop around the corner, on Benburb Street. Both are owned by Peter and Jumoke Hogan. One is a restaurant with a brilliant tasting menu, the other is a posh fish-and-chip shop with a menu that tastes brilliant. Juicy scallops roasted with seaweed butter were a memorable snack, with fish toasts made with house-smoked mackerel, anchovies and oysters in feathery tempura batter. CC
Fish Shop, 76 Benburb Street, Dublin 7, 01-5571473,

Two Cooks
They don't only cook fish, but they do it particularly well in this canalside restaurant, where the two cooks are the husband-and-wife team of Josef Zammit and Nicola Curran. Turning cod skin into something as moreish as a Pringle and sousing mackerel so the skin sweetens to a beautiful shimmering silver are at least two of the beautiful things they do to fish and seafood here. CC
Two Cooks, 5 Canal View, Sallins, Co Kildare, 045-853768,

The Global Village NEW
Nuala Cassidy and her husband, head chef Martin Bealin, handle their beloved local produce with the utmost care and attention. You'll find Dingle brown crab and west Kerry lamb on the menu alongside turbot with Glenbeigh mussels and black sole served with garden vegetables. The Global Village garden is on Mount Eagle, the most westerly mountain on the Dingle Peninsula. Vegetables grown on this sandstone bedrock are watered by the rain coming in from the Atlantic and served up in Cassidy and Bealin's restaurant. Bealin's classic cooking is a real-life lesson in seafood cooked to perfection. AMcE
The Global Village, Main Street, Dingle, Co Kerry, 066-9152325,

Reel Dingle Fish Co NEW
Waiting in the queue at the Reel Dingle Fish Co – and there's always a queue – can be an exercise in Zen patience. These fish and chips are so flipping delicious that even a few minutes' wait can feel unbearably long. The chips are golden and crisp on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. The fish ranges from cod to hake to smoked haddock to monkfish, not to mention the calamari, cooked in a golden batter. Grab a can of Cidona to go and eat straight from the bag. AMcE
Reel Dingle Fish Co, Bridge Street, Dingle, Co Kerry, 066-9151713,

Ichigo Ichie NEW
There isn't another restaurant like it on the island. Takashi Miyazaki's exquisite take on ingredients is an amazing eating experience. The name means Once in a Lifetime, and that's what it feels like as you sit in a room more like a black-box theatre than a restaurant and enjoy the performance. This is not look-at-me cheffing, but look at the food with fresh eyes and then taste what a truly creative chef can do with it. CC
Ichigo Ichie, 5 Fenns Quay, Sheares Street, Cork, 021-4279997,

Nightmarket NEW
It started with one floor and quickly expanded to two. Nightmarket is Thai street food in a friendly neighbourhood restaurant. Chef Jutarat Suwankeeree brings the childhood experience of helping her grandmother to cook for her market stall in Chiang Mai to the streets of Ranelagh. Lightly fried soft-shell crab and duck skin crisped to a form of scratchings were memorable moments in a great meal full of fire and freshness. CC
Nightmarket, 120 Ranelagh, Dublin 6, 01-5385200,

Kopitiam € NEW
Authentic is an overused word. Kopitiam is a Capel Street restaurant serving Malaysian food as it is served in Malaysia, such as squid with sambal or chilli paste with peanuts and tender greens and rice cooked in coconut milk. Don't miss out on the roti canai, some of the best buttery flatbread I've had. Desserts are a very typical mix of sweet things with vegetables and beans that you'll find deeply weird or deeply comforting, depending on where your food heart and history lie. CC
Kopitiam, 53 Capel Street, Dublin, 01-8734659,

Restaurants that start out great and get better are worth shouting about. Sunil Ghai's food is all about the flavours of northern India, cooked with the kind of finesse that typically comes in a much more formal package. The Khatti fish curry is a phenomenal dish, and don't miss the Dingle-crab-dumpling starter. To kick it all off, start with the lentil-and-rice crisps with shrimp pickle and gooseberry chutney. CC
Pickle, 43 Camden Street, Dublin 2, 01-5557755,

Nisheeth Tak was the first restaurateur to wean the Irish eating public off generic brown curries and introduce us to the spectrum of Indian flavours, textures and nuances. At Rasam he continues to feed fanatically loyal customers. The children of his regulars are now becoming regulars in their own right, along with any lucky folk who discover it for the first time. CC
Rasam, 18-19 Glasthule Road, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, 01-2300600,

Hang Dai
The duck is still there, but the rest of the menu has been reinvented to keep up the pioneering standard of this restaurant's mission. Hang Dai puts the diversity and deliciousness of Chinese food as you would eat it in China on to plates in Dublin, taking us away from the takeaway staples into much more delicious territory. CC
Hang Dai, 20 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2, 01-5458888,

3 Leaves € NEW
Surroundings are frill-free, but the food in this small Indian restaurant that grew from a market stall makes up for it. We ate Santosh Thomas's dishes in the teeth of winter and came away properly warmed up. The name comes from the three leaves used in Indian cooking: mint, coriander and curry. The menu changes with the weather outside and the ingredients that those seasons bring to the kitchen. Take Milie's advice and smell your food before you dive in. CC
3 Leaves, 30 Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin, 087-7691361,

M&L Chinese Restaurant €
The service at M&L can be charmingly curt, but the traditional Sichuan food here is so good that it doesn't even register. It's all about the green beans fried in mountains of garlic and Sichuan chillies, or the moment when the lid of a bamboo steamer is lifted to reveal squidgy dumplings. If you let owner Angie Wang order for you, you're in good hands. AMcE
M&L Chinese Restaurant, 13-14 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1, 01-8748038,

Wa Cafe €
This simple noodle bar is home to chef and owner Yoshimi Hayakawa. She takes full advantage of the marvellous produce from Gannet's Fishmonger in her carefully prepared sushi, and her Toyota City ramen tastes of Hayakawa's hometown. AMcE
Wa Cafe, 13 New Dock Street, Galway, 091-895850,

Miyazaki €
Sometimes I dream of Miyazaki's ramen; I've even considered the logistics of getting ramen on the train from Cork to Dublin. But Takashi Miyazaki's food is best enjoyed in situ, on one of the six seats in his unassuming takeaway, while watching his team of chefs quietly working away through the kitchen pass. Whether you go harmoniously formal at Ichigo Ichie, Miyazaki's new fine-dining venture (which is also an entry in this list's World Food section), or stick with simple splendour at the original Miyazaki, this man's food is the stuff of dreams. AMcE
Miyazaki, 1a Evergreen Street, Cork, 021-4312716,

Kimchi Hophouse €
Kimchi Hophouse – it's part of Hop-House bar, in Dublin's old Shakespeare pub – has been the place for bulgogi, bibimbap, doenang zigae and gochujung since 2006. Its owner, Kyoung Hee Lee, and her team are still serving the best Korean food in Ireland. AMcE
Kimchi Hophouse, 160 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, 01-8728318,

The Ramen Bar €
Time is something we're all short of when it comes to making food – but it's what they put loads of into the tonkotsu, or pork-bone broth, here. After a 14-hour simmer for the stock they add miso, which makes a liquid the colour of pale milky tea. With pork shoulder, seaweed, bamboo shoots and fried onion, it makes for a truly hearty soup. CC
The Ramen Bar, 51 South William Street, Dublin 2, 01-5470658,

Ely Wine Bar NEW
The message of less but better meat makes absolute sense the more you learn about intensively reared beef. Much of the beef and pork served at this wine bar and restaurant is farmed by the father of its owner Eric Robson, on the Burren, in Co Clare. Cattle there graze one of the most biodiverse diets on the planet – and in doing so over the winter help to maintain a magical landscape. An infinitely better burger. CC
Ely Wine Bar, 22 Ely Place, Dublin 2, 01-6768986,

Hey Donna € NEW
Most restaurants are either one or the other: meatheads or veggie fondlers. Joe Macken's newest outlet in the reinvented Jo'Burger in Rathmines is a mix of the two. The menu reads veg heavy at the start, then gets into more than well-executed carnivorousness. The short ribs with red-pepper sauce are a treat, and there aren't many casual restaurants brave enough to put seared lambs' liver on the menu. CC
Hey Donna, 137 Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6, 01-4913731,

Chameleon €
It amazes me when "passionate about food" operations slap battery chicken on their menus. Chameleon has been on a side street off the busy drag of Temple Bar for almost a quarter of a century. It uses free-range chicken thighs in its satay and coconut and lemon grass dishes, and the Javanese short-rib beef comes to the table after a 10-hour cook in a sticky star-anise marinade. CC
Chameleon, 1 Lower Fownes Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, 01-6710362,

Oxmantown €
Jack McCarthy is one of the few butchers left in the country with his own abattoir, and his meat is a reminder of how things used to taste. Alongside the Luas track off Capel Street in Dublin, Oxmantown puts the Kanturk butcher's black pudding and sausages into its breakfast sandwiches. The ruby, made with McCarthy's pastrami, sauerkraut, pickles, Swiss cheese and horseradish on rye sourdough, is one of the city's best sandwiches. CC
Oxmantown, 16 Mary's Abbey, Dublin 7, 01-8047030,

Mr Fox
They do a mean tartare in this handsome basement restaurant on Parnell Square in Dublin. In game season it's venison dotted with redcurrants, all meaty softness finished with crunchy Jerusalem-artichoke crisps. At other times it's a beef tartare with salsify, quail egg and toast. Vegetarians are not forgotten, with a two-option vegetarian menu here too. CC
Mr Fox, 38 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1, 01-8747778,

Fowl Play € NEW
When it comes to cooking meat over heat, few in Ireland have mastered the art as well as Andy Noonan. You'll find his work at this no-frills barbecue joint at the back of the Square Ball sports bar. Its charcoal rotisserie and grill serves up Filipino pork-belly skewers and free-range chicken, while the wood-fired smoker produces cherrywood-smoked free-range chicken wings and turkey sausage. Noonan is also a founder of the Big Grill Festival, an annual celebration of barbecue, which returns to Herbert Park in Dublin from August 16th to19th. This is a guy you definitely want all up in your grill. AMcE
Fowl Play, 45 Hogan Place, Dublin 2, 01-5496055,

The Happy Pear Cafe NEW
The only Dublin branch of this Greystones-born operation, the Clondalkin Pear is a great spot. The cafe is the heart of the beautiful Round Tower visitor centre and garden. They're on a mission to beguile you into a more plant-based diet with an onslaught of cheerful optimism. But you won't notice any of that philosophy, because the food isn't just vegetarian (and a lot of it vegan); it's very tasty too. CC
The Happy Pear, Round Tower centre, Clondalkin, Dublin 22,

Iyer's €
The bad old days when vegetarian food tasted of brownness and denial are entirely absent in this wonderful Cork city cafe. Gautham Iyer posts pictures on social media of lush patches of wild garlic and then turns it into spinach masala in his brilliant vegan cafe. CC
Iyer's, 38 Popes Quay, Cork, 087-6409079,

Sometimes the rest of the world falls into step with the trailblazers, and Paradiso is a restaurant where that feels as if it's beginning to happen. When it opened, a quarter of a century ago, this vegetarian restaurant was an oddity. Now it's a veteran of an Irish food scene where the mark of a good place is becoming the ability to make vegetables feel like a treat. CC
Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay, Cork, 021-4277939,

Sweet Beat Cafe
You can eat a truly unhealthy vegan diet of processed crap or you can go down the Sweet Beat path, cooking food from scratch and bringing flavours and vegetables to a new level. This gorgeous cafe in Sligo town is an inspiring place to eat. It's vegan, but you could eat there quite happily and not notice that fact. CC
Sweet Beat Cafe, Bridge Street, Sligo, 071-9138795,

Overends Kitchen at Airfield NEW
It's taken a while, after a big investment in a new cafe building a few years back, but Airfield has managed to make a cafe on a farm taste as exciting as it sounds. Chef Luke Matthews brings a background in high-end restaurants and a proper feel for ingredients to this lovely place where hens cluck and cows moo. It's farm to fork with cow bells on. CC
Overends Kitchen at Airfield, Airfield Estate, Overend Way, Dundrum, Dublin 14, 01-9696666,

The Ballymore Inn
We tucked into a great lunch here after an autumn walk through a nearby forest and loved every mouthful. A lot of the fruit and vegetables come from Barry and Georgina O'Sullivan's vegetable garden, and they've added a vegan menu since we visited, so families with different diets can break (house-made) bread together under this cosy roof. CC
The Ballymore Inn, Main Street, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare, 045-864585,

The Oarsman
It's a happy marriage when a venerable old pub meets a commitment to putting the best local food on to plates. They've kept the best of what's old in this place, such as the mahogany signage for "Tackle, Waders, Fishing Rods". And they've added progressive ideas about the food, all in a relaxed friendly pub. CC
The Oarsman, Bridge Street, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, 071-962 1733,

Glebe Gardens NEW
A family runs Glebe Gardens in Baltimore, where the tea shop grew into a restaurant that became, as food writer Trish Deseine put it, a conversation between the garden, the kitchen, the team and the customers. Earlier this year they appointed the chef Bob Cairns to a second new branch of the gardens, in Skibbereen. The Glebe Cafe in Skib is in the former Good Things cafe run by the Irish Times food writer Carmel Somers. CC
Glebe Gardens, Baltimore, Co Cork, 028-20579,

Wilde NEW
Hotels are perfect for family gatherings. But what you gain in space, facilities and all those long, Shining-esque corridors, to keep kids occupied, you can sacrifice to the beef-or-salmon school of hotel cooking. Wilde, at the Westbury in Dublin, is that rare creature: a hotel restaurant where food ambitions have not been lost to mass-catering culture. CC
Wilde, The Westbury, Harry Street, Dublin 2, 01-6463352,

Kai Cafe + Restaurant
Kai could fit in any of this list's categories. But its cross-generational appeal struck us on a recent visit. The brunch queue and cake counter are such a phenomenon they could overshadow the cooking talent that chef Jess Murphy brings to her cafe on Sea Road. But don't ignore Kai's evening menu, where Murphy's feel for flavour and food that's rooted in place, friendships and fellow feeling come through in memorable style. CC
Kai Cafe + Restaurant, 22 Sea Road, Galway, 091-526003,

The Dough Bros €
In their own words, the Dough Bros went "from street stall to high street in one year". The pizza lovers behind this former pizza truck put down roots in their casual restaurant on Middle Street in Galway in 2016. The pizzas are made in full view of the customers, giving kids plenty to drool over while you order the Neapolitans. AMcE
Dough Bros, 1 Cathedral Buildings, Middle Street, Galway, 091-395238,