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Lucinda's 20 Best Gastro Stars

 Lucinda's 20 Best Gastro Stars

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Finding somewhere to eat on a family holiday can be stressful, but the answer to the dilemma good old fashioned pub grub, which nowadays runs the gamut from Michelin-worthy artworks, to high end bar food, to chicken nuggets, fries and a pint of the black stuff, so you're sure to find something to please the whole family. For the inside track on the best pub food this summer, check out my 20 Best gastropubs around the country for 2018.

Facing Christchurch Cathedral, and beside Dublin Castle, it’s all about great beef cooked to perfection at this retro hip gastropub. Featuring Josper charcoal ovens that burn at 350º, sealing in the flavour, as well as a fab wine list and a host of cocktails, you’re always in good hands with the butchering Buckley family.

There’s a touch of class about this legendary literary pub just off Grafton Street, which serves pheasant in season, and is a must-visit for tourists following the path of Joyce’s Ulysses. Nowadays it’s a gorgeous art-deco style gastropub with great food and tons of character.

Set in the pretty SoCoDu hub that is Dalkey, this long-standing bar and restaurant is a great spot for some al fresco eats with a fab outdoor space to the front that’s just perfect for people watching. So grab yourself a steak and a cocktail, sit back and watch the rock stars and arty theatrical types, who inhabit the village.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if the food and atmosphere are good enough, people will travel anywhere – and, though this fab inn in Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, is a little out of the way, it’s superbly popular with tourists and natives alike, offering really great grub in a chic setting.

The Kilkenny cats are loving the Rafter Dempsey’s, which serves food throughout the day from breakfast to dinner. With a beer garden, they’ve got grub coming from their sizzling stone and a reputation as a local go-to spot for live music and sports events. If you get the chance, check out their ‘legendary’ brunch – after you've visited Kilkenny Castle, and the 17thC Rothe House & Garden nearby.

A while back, young couple Emmet and Lisa Hall took over the reins this landmark country pub on the edge of New Ross, Co. Wexford, a while back and are making a name for themselves with good food and craft beers. It's very handy if on the Ancient East route south or taking the kids to the Dunbrody Famine Ship. Try potted Hook Head crab.

Established in the 1850's in true Irish style of the time as the whole shebang of pub, grocer, draper, hotel, restaurant, undertaker etc, McCarthy’s of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, has great grub and buckets of character. They'll wine you, dine you and even bury you!

After 28 years in New Jersey, Padraig Hennessy returned to his native Youghal, Co. Cork and set about transforming the Railway Bar of yore into a cool, contemporary gastrobar. With a large outdoor area for toasting your toes, it’s a perfect seaside pit-stop, or if on the N25.

With a fab outdoor boat bar and deck, Hamlets is a brilliant venue in the centre of Kinsale, Co. Cork, which offers great casual food from pizzas to pasta, seafood to salads, starters to smaller dishes, plus cracking cocktails and craft beers to beat the band – great music too to rock the night away.

A fab little oasis right on the water’s edge in Kinsale’s Summercove, it’s idyllic eating at its best, with some of the best grub going. The seafood here is great, with a tapas style bar menu being the modus operandi – but their delicious grilled half local lobster gets the biggest round of applause.

On the N22, between Cork and Killarney, you’ll find Macroom, and on Castle Street – there is a castle, Macroom Castle Demense – this family-run bar in a pretty stone building is the perfect pit stop. With lots of good steak and seafood, its eclectic casual lunch menu runs until pm.

A landmark, prominently set on the corner of Clonakilty’s Wolfe Tone Street, the menu here has a little bit of something for everyone both in palates and price. Think seafood pie, steak sambos or prime Hereford 10oz sirloins.

David and Julie Wine are now at the helm of Hayes’ Bar & Kitchen in Glandore, which just happens to rival Portofino when it comes to views. Grab a table outside, and enjoy David’s chunky chowder, Moroccan chicken, boeuf bourguignon or his curries - which are legendary in West Cork.

Overlooking the spectacular Valentia harbour, Co. Kerry, this eponymous gastropub, in the family since the 1800s, is everything you dream of ‘stumbling upon’ while trawling the Wild Atlantic Way. Moviesque location, crab claws the size of your fist, great pints, and friendly folk behind the bar.

Full of old world character and charm, this atmospheric inn at Liscannor, Co. Clare, nestled between the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, is a great example of the old meeting the new. John and Annette Vaughan run the bar and restaurant, while son Denis weaves his magic over the stove.

Named for his late mom, Clare woman, Teresa Duggan, the Bodytonic's Trev O’Shea’s hip pub by the river in Ennistymon, Co. Clare, is funky, about fun, board games if you want, music, weekly quizzes. The menu is limited, but new wave and very very good. Think ricotta dumplings; toasties; malted spelt risotto; and chocolate Guinness cake.

Overlooking the rushing Shannon waters, with a large outdoor dining area, and close to  St. Mary’s Cathedral, King John’s Castle and The Hunt Museum, The Locke Bar, is an historic Limerick gastropub known also for its seafood. You can also grab a casual cheeseburger in a brioche bun or some of O’Hara’s ale-battered market fish and chips.

The City of the Tribes has some really fantastic fine-dining and fashionably foraging Scandi eateries these days, but, with a lovely atmosphere, plenty of buzz, excellent service and some really good food, Brasserie on the Corner is tough to beat. Steak and seafood specialists, its all about quality local ingredients here. Don’t miss their ‘design your own steak’ option.

Wooden floors, snugs, syphons and stone jars to beat the band – This Sligo gastropub is a delightful step back in time, except when it comes to its great grub which is right on the nose. Think small or large plates including Killary Harbour crab salad; Lissadell seafood chowder; Jamaican jerk chicken and more.

Aptly located on The Diamond in Donegal Town centre, this contemporary gastropub, where you can also stay the night, promises food, cocktails and smiling service. Think Burtonport crab pancakes; pink duck breast; Dexter burger; and General Tso chicken!

First Published In The Sunday Independent