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Lucinda's 20 Best Dining Destinations

Lucinda's 20 Best Dining Destinations

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Ireland has some of the best destination dining in the world, from rising Michelin stars to dinners in railway cars, young blood chefs eager to make their mark, to the trusted old guard who continue to raise the bar. So, why not take a foodie road trip around Ireland, and see what’s out there, says Lucinda O’Sullivan, who has compiled her selection of the 20 Best Dining Destinations around Ireland.


Ross Lewis has never sat on the laurels of his Michelin-starred restaurant, set in the bowels of the former home of whiskey maker George Jameson on Dublin’s Northside, he is ever working with Irish food producers and craftspeople and artists, showcasing the very finest of what Ireland has to offer. Tasting menu €110.

This place impresses even top chefs, who can’t get enough of its casual Italian grub, served with panache, at great prices. It’s become the go-to place of media and PR types, who pack into this tiny spot for chit chat and gossip over perhaps deer carpaccio with artichoke pickled pear and juniper, and can’t live without the red wine prunes and vanilla mascarpone.

There was serious PR hype for the revival of Kevin Thornton’s old space in the Fitzwilliam Hotel by Chef Andy McFadden, who’d returned home after a decade in London. I previously described the decor and service as a bit like dining in the first class section of the ferry to France. However, McFadden’s French-style food deserves Michelin recognition, and maybe the floor staff have relaxed. Check out the Tasting Menu, €105.

Damien Grey and Andrew Heron’s tiny oasis in Blackrock Market is almost as famous for the difficulty in getting a table as it is for getting a Michelin star, launching them into an exclusive stratosphere. They only do 60 covers a week, you must book online, so, persevere and have your finger poised when they release their next block of bookings. It’s a 10-course seasonal no-choice Tasting Menu, €74+12.5% discretionary gratuity.

Based on the faded elegance of Bombay's old Irani cafes, Sunil Ghai and Benny Jacob’s Camden Street restaurant serves great North Indian food that you won’t see elsewhere. Samosas are filled with venison; slow braised shoulder of lamb for 2/3 (48 hours notice required) is with saffron sauce, and special tasting menus are also available at €50pp (whole table).

Ireland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant has to be on any foodie’s checklist. It’s French, sophisticated but not snooty, the food is faultless and it's great for people watching. You can book online, but you can also just pick up the phone and these modest Michelins will be happy to take your reservation.

The Greenhouse, which seats just 40, is Eamonn O’Reilly’s little city jewel. It's where Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen, having waited for too long, was awarded his first Michelin Star 3 years ago. It should be two-star. Dinner & Tasting Menus, €80–€115.                   


You'll find exquisite formal fine dining in the magnificent Mount Juliet Manor House under the baton of Executive Chef Ken Harker, who has retained the Michelin star that he and his team achieved a few years ago. Great selection of menus with 2/3 courses €70/€80 up to 7/9 courses €90/€110, including vegetarian menus.                                                                            

The Cavaliere family’s Italian restaurant has been opposite Kilkenny Castle for almost 30 years and remains one of the best restaurants in Ireland. Kilmore Quay seafood, and an amazing cellar of Italian wines. Try the ethereal silky ravioli ‘Gorgonzola e noci’, handmade by Antonio Cavaliere.

Peter Everett, ex-Residence, has returned to his native Waterford to open his own restaurant, with partner Keith Noonan, in the former Wine Vaults. Exquisite refined modern Irish cooking at great prices that will shortly see Everett’s as a hot dining destination. Dinner 3-course €40. Lunch/pre-theatre 3-course €25.

The second most hyped opening of the year was this 25-seater Japanese restaurant by Takashi Miyazaki in Cork. Serving a 12-course “once in a lifetime experience” tasting menu at €95, you can sit at the counter and watch the Maestro work or chill at a table. Worth the experience but online booking only, which is a pain.

Rob Krawczyk returned to West Cork to open a chic 18-seater restaurant in an atmospheric former pub in Ballydehob. An innovative fixed-price 3-course Dinner Menu at €50 includes snacks etc. Think salted celery root with duck.

In an old stone mews house on the edge of Baltimore village, this is a chilled sophisticated spot where the best of foraged and local produce is presented with impeccable restraint. Think Sherkin Island oyster, wakame and wood sorrel. Tasting Menu €69. Mr Michelin was there on our visit.

Set in the totally romantic Eccles Hotel (where Pippa Midleton stayed last summer) with its wrought iron balconies overlooking Bantry Bay, the arrival of Eddie Attwell as Head Chef made a statement. Attwell’s food is divine, he’s twice represented Northern Ireland in the Beeb’s Great British Menu.

“An Irish Country Inn, a place to eat, drink and sleep,” in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. Aidan McGrath’s cooking has always been superb – he just 'gets' flavour – while partner Kate Sweeney looks after the rest. Fixed price menus, €50/€60, might include duck and foie gras terrine, or Lough Neagh eel.

Set in two romantic Pullman carriages in the grounds of Galway’s Glenlo Abbey Hotel – one carraige was part of the original Orient Express, carrying famous people all over Europe, and was used in the 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express. Excellent food with a 2/3 course menu at €57/€65.

Jonathan Keane is the young blood at the Ashford Castle estate, delivering cutting edge imaginative food at The Lodge. Think scallop ceviche, lardo and seaweed crisp. 7-course Dinner Menu €65. 10-course Tasting menu, €95.

We’ve followed Neven Maguire’s Food Trails on TV through Italy and Spain – we can’t live without his books – but you must head for the village of Blacklion, Co. Cavan, to experience the real deal. Tasting Menu €85. Spin up for Sunday lunch, €45, or maybe stay the night.

Dutch chef Robert Groot Koerkamp has taken over the reins from Gary O’Hanlon at VM Restaurant in Longford’s gorgeous 17th Century Viewmount House. His food is sleek, sophisticated and definitely worth the trip. Stay overnight. Dinner €60. Sunday lunch €35.

Having achieved a Michelin star while at Michael Deane’s in Belfast, Danni Barry upped sticks for the countryside of Craigavon to the revamped Clenaghan’s, an old country inn with rooms, where she has been wowing people with her stunning food. Great for Sunday lunch, 2/3 courses £20/25.

First Published In The Sunday Independent