International tourism expert Prof Michael Hall has said he would never recommend Dublin to anyone for a short break as the city is a "rip-off".
The professor of marketing at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand said he was horrified when two months ago he went to book a hotel room for this Saturday night in Dublin and found that one night would cost him €400, a cost which was greater than two nights in Helsinki with the same hotel chain."I would never, ever recommend anyone to come to Dublin for a short break because I think it is an absolute rip off," he said.
He may be right, but if you know where to go, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Dublin at reasonable prices. Here, food critic Catherine Cleary finds places where you can eat great food in the city without being "ripped off". All have main courses for under €15.
Cow's Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. 01-7079786. www.facebook.com/PigletWineBar
Wine importer Enrico Fantasia named his new wine bar after a mezza luna knife with a piglet for a handle that was hanging over the door when he first walked into the former cafe. He brought a serious wine list and a food ambition that extended beyond the typical platters of cured meats and bowls of olives that wine bar folk assume will do. Small bites of big flavours packed onto sourdough toasts, such as bean puree with smoked eel and luscious shards of goat bacon, combine the best of Italian and Irish food under one simple, friendly roof.
Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8. 01-529 8732. thefumbally.ie
The magic in the Fumbally unfolded slowly when Aisling Rogerson and Luca D'Alfonso who had run the cafe in the nearby Dublin Food Co-op took over a corner building and started serving falafel. In better economic times the place would have been a convenience store. Good food times followed and Fumbally alumni have spread across the city, improving food in at least one college canteen and at market stalls, pop-ups and cafes. The Wednesday suppers from around the world are some of Dublin's best value dining.
1 Lower Fownes St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. 01-6710362. chameleonrestaurant.com
The chalkboard outside Indonesian restaurant Chameleon in Temple Bar boasts the "tastiest steamed buns in Dublin". This restaurant has been on the scene for more than 20 years and serves set menus or smaller bites from a tapas list. The Javanese short rib spiced with star anise is a master class in what slow cooking can do to the texture and flavour of meat. The chicken is free range and they serve the tastier brown meat that comes from the legs and thighs.
7-11 Terenure Road North, Dublin 6W. 01-4926830. mayfield.ie
Since two men, both called Kevin Byrne, arrived in Terenure, took over an old butcher shop and turned it into a tiny restaurant, the place has had itself a neighbourhood restaurant with real personality. If they fret about keeping up with trends it's not obvious in the quirky refurbed furniture and more is more approach to decor (flamingo wallpaper anyone?). The original Mayfield expanded into a bigger place with a yard next door. The old butchers shop is now a separate restaurant called Fragments. Mayfield favourites include brioche French toast for brunch and the evening dish of hake in coconut milk with squash, courgette and sweet potato. And it's BYOB.
162 Parnell St, Dublin 1. 01-8783165. phoviet.ie
The Vietnamese broth they serve in this friendly place by the huge steaming bowlful is a food antidote to squally spring weather. They start with spiced house made stock with onions, scallions, rice noodles and coriander. The Vietnamese for cow is bo, just like as gaeilge, so the €9.50 Pho bo comes with up to three cuts of meat: brisket, sirloin or flank. If you want to push the boat out you can add a fourth cut of meat for €1. Then it's up to you how much fresh mint, beansprouts, lemon wedges and birds eye chillies you add.
Moro Kitchen by Dada
The newest arrival on this list, Moro Kitchen is the son of Dada, the South William Street Moroccan restaurant. This is a more casual offering, with a takeaway at the front, but the same precision is being taken with cooking the food from scratch with great ingredients. The falafel are the best in town. The food can be eaten at shared tables with generous platters of tasty things that all combine together on top of a pitta toast for grin-inducing mouthfuls. Do climb the stars to the upstairs room which feels like an oasis on this busy street.
140 Baggot St, Dublin 2. 01-6766848. www.cirillos.ie
For a stretch there, it seemed that every new restaurant was an Italian and Cirillo's stood out from the crowd. They shipped their woodfired pizza oven from Naples along with a serious-minded attitude to pizza. The house dough is proved for 30 hours and their excellent pasta is made from scratch and combined with properly satisfying ingredients. If you like the dolce side of life, the lemon mousse with boozy Amaretto soaked cherries will hit the pleasure spot.
The Ramen Bar
At The Ramen Bar on South William Street they make ramen with that most precious of commodities in these busy days: time. A long slow simmer, of 14 hours, goes into the tonkotsu soup, a pork ramen that is the house speciality. The miso salmon is also good. Happy comforting base note flavours all served at a great price in a friendly place that feels like a secret for ramen fans. Half the fun is watching how other ramen eaters slurp theirs.