Where do chefs and restaurateurs eat on their days off?

From the Michelin-starred chef who opts for food-truck pizza to the wine bar owner who knows the best places in Cork

Ever wonder where chefs eat? Not the overseas, top-end places they jet off to for a few days with a long list of restaurant bookings, sometimes eating three meals a day. No, it’s the places at home that are of real interest, where they go for a casual bite. Their choices can be limited, because generally chefs are off on the same days of the week, Sunday-Tuesday, but there are still plenty of good places to be found.

Mickael Viljanen

Chef patron at Chapter One, Dublin 1

Plúr (at Behan’s Maxol in Clane, Co Kildare) is literally a trailer container, an empty shell, turned into a wood-fired-pizza place. I used to run in Clane, so that’s how I came across it. They’ve two outposts, one in Clane and one in Naas. It’s very simple, very good and very busy. They open Wednesday-Sunday, and they’re always sold out by the end of the night. I often get it on Sunday. It’s a really good dough, there’s the right amount of toppings and there are always options. It’s just great to have a wood-fired pizza like that around. My kids love it.

My favourite pizza used to be chorizo, artichoke and blue cheese, but that’s not on any more. They change the menu every now and then. But everything is good. They do an exceptionally good margherita, which is hard to get right.

And it’s always hot. They take your car reg and a time when you order, and then you park outside and they bring it out to your car. It’s always just out of the oven.


Hilary Quinn

Bakery manager at No Messin Bakery, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Occasionally I will head out to McNally Family Farm (Balrickard, Co Dublin). It’s not huge, but they have produce year-round and everything they grow is organic. There’s a gorgeous little farm shop with all their own produce and then a little cafe. It’s a converted stone cottage on the side of the barn; it’s very sweet and incredibly wholesome. Everything they grow, they use in the cafe. It’s actually vegetarian and vegan. They will always have a vegetarian bap and a vegan bap. The bread they use is Tartine, so it’s organic. One time they did a potato gratin in the sandwich, with their own leaves and a mustard dressing. They do salsas and chimichurri with their own herbs. Sarah McNally is a very good cook.

Provender & Family (27a Parkgate Street, Dublin 8) is run by Jenny Lyons, an old friend who I worked with a few years ago when I first started in kitchens. We both worked for Temple Garner (chef and co-owner of San Lorenzo’s), it was classic New York, big bold flavours done properly. So she kind of transforms that into sandwiches. Everything is just loaded in and it’s really tasty. She’s really good at sourcing as well: all her pork is free range, she gets the best. She did a really good bánh mi recently, and does a really good braised beef with what she calls New York cart onions; the sort you get on a hot dog in New York. The place is tiny, just down from the criminal courts. So it’s loaded with lawyers at lunchtime; you’ll see the queue going around the block.

Yoshimi Hayakawa

Head chef at Wa Sushi, Dock Road, Galway city

Chef Olive Yeoun Jung Nho used to work for us. She opened her own restaurant last year, Olive’s Seoul Food, in Claremorris in Co Mayo. It’s authentic Korean food, which is very hard to find in Ireland. It’s quite a big restaurant, over a pub. There’s sit down and takeaway. The decor is very Korean, you sit on the floor at the traditional tables with your shoes off. It’s a good menu. She does kimchi, bibimbap and Korean noodles. I love her kimchi and authentic Korean food, and of course her sushi is great as well.

When I have guests from Japan, I always bring them to the King’s Head Bistro (High Street, Galway city). It’s perfect. They can enjoy the Guinness and the music in the pub, and burgers or steak in the restaurant. And of course oysters as well. I’m very good friends with Paul and Mary Grealish who own it, they lived in Japan for two years. We’ve done a lot of events together in Galway university. This is the Galway community, we support each other.

I also love Rúibín, our neighbour restaurant on the docks. They have an Asian fusion menu, a nice selection of wine and a really nice atmosphere. Another favourite is Sheridan’s Cheesemongers wine bar on Churchyard Street. They have really nice wine and cheese and people there. It is another one of the places where I always bring my guests from Japan.

Kevin Hui

Owner of China Sichuan, Sandyford, Dublin 18

I don’t take that much time off, but when I do it tends to be Mondays or Tuesdays. Kirstin Batt and Sebastien Masi in Pearl Brasserie (Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2) are friends of mine for a long, long time. Pearl is a restaurant I go to with my mother because they’re open on Mondays and the food has always been good and solid. Chinese people are notoriously picky eaters, but my mother will always have her favourites in Pearl.

Every few months I take my chefs out, and in Dublin, Pearl is always one of their favourites. It’s classical French cooking. The last time I was there, I had a wonderful foie gras dish, it’s one of the staples on the menu, and a turbot dish. They change the menu frequently.

One of my original chefs, Mr Chen, who worked with me for over 25 years, now owns a sushi restaurant called Fujiyama on O’Connell Street. We brought him over a very long time ago, and he was our head chef in Stillorgan for many years. It’s very much a standard sushi restaurant, but now and then we go there, give Mr Chen a bit of notice, and he would prepare the old-school rustic Sichuan food, offal and all.

Mark Jennings and Sadie Pearce

Pilgrim’s, Rosscarbery, Co Cork

The Daily Dose is a normal looking cafe in Clonakilty, but they really know how to make a falafel. If you’re hungry and don’t want to spend too much on lunch, then you won’t be disappointed. There’s a good moisture-to-crunchiness ratio on the falafel because they’re the right shape. They’re not like dumplings, they’re kind of flat and cylindrical. They’re on good flatbread, with nice minty yoghurt and just enough sauce. They also do the full Madame, which is a vegan soup, with canned beans in it — it’s creamy, it has a salad on the side and pickles. They make their own Middle Eastern-style pickles and they’re really good.

The family who own the Lettercollum Kitchen Project (also in Clonakilty) have a beautiful walled garden outside Timoleague, 10 minutes from Clonakilty. They’re really good growers, and they serve lunch to take away in their deli. In the shop, it doesn’t say that the food is vegetarian, but the only meat thing they use is chorizo on the odd savoury tart and pizza slice. And they know how to bake. They make a plum clafoutis tart, and use summer fruit for strawberry custard tarts. They make sourdough bread too. You can just go in there and get proper homemade food and take it away to eat.

Jess and David Murphy

Kai, Galway city

Bierhaus (Henry Street) is a real neighbourhood bar in the west end of Galway, but it’s really forward thinking as well. They have a small menu on Sunday, and basically everybody who works in a restaurant in Galway will be there on a Sunday. It’s a wild-card mix of people having a hot dog, or smash burger or toasted cheese. There’s something really comforting about it. Dave always orders the grilled cheese toastie. The burger is spectacular; it’s a double patty which is my favourite. with cheese, pickled cucumber and fried onions. We head in at five or six o’clock, always early because we’re in our mid-40s and have the fear of the hangover; and also always have something to do on the Monday. So we try to be semi-sensible, not that it always works. We go home by half seven or eight. It’s a one minute walk down the road.

Wooza (Sea Road) which is two doors up from Kai, do absolutely amazing pizzas. Locals can be seen queuing up outside for these pies. The souped up margherita is absolutely stunning — they get their vegetables and fresh herbs from Ernie’s. Served up with an ice-cold San Pellegrino fizzy orange, it makes the Galway summer rain even sweeter.

Beverley Matthews

Owner of L’Atitude 51 wine bar, Cork city

Cork City is a really exciting place to be right now and a number of small, quirky, but brilliant eateries have recently opened. Sonflour on Castle Street is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant run by two passionate Italians, Eugenio Nobile and Lorenzo Barba. The menu is small — pasta, pizza and focaccia. It’s mostly vegan, but they do cheese for non-vegans. The pizza is thick, Roman style. They do a cacio e pepe pizza, which I love. They make the pasta themselves and simple sauces, mainly tomato based. All the ingredients they use are organic and mostly sourced locally.

Nell’s is a wine bar, newly opened on MacCurtain Street. The chef, Epi Rogan, is ex-Paradiso and brings with her that utmost respect for ingredients. She works with the seasons and has established a lot of contacts with the best local producers. The menu is short and changes quite a bit. One of my favourite dishes was a savoury eclair with beef brisket. The wine list is great too, lots of choice by the glass with a really good selection of natural wines, including two from Georgia.

I also like Camus Farm Field Kitchen near Clonakilty. The food is all about sharing platters — there’s a set menu of five or six courses, there’s no choice but it’s delicious. The dishes are all cooked simply using fresh ingredients from the farm. It’s very Mediterranean in style. It reminds me a lot of Sicilian food.

Andy Noonan

Cofounder of the Big Grill festival in Herbert Park (August 11th-14th)

We live close to Golden Olive Restaurant at the Clonskeagh Mosque in Dublin 14. There’s a shop on the left as you walk in, and there are some very good flatbreads made by a Moroccan woman, they’re like layers of filo. Sometimes they’re still warm. On the right is the cafeteria, school canteen style. There are always seats and it’s cheap and friendly. They’re lovely people. The lamb spinach is our favourite curry; it’s slow cooked lamb with rice and hummus on the side. The chilli chicken I’ve had there is quite good too.

Lee’s Charming Noodles on Parnell Street in central Dublin is a great little place. They’ve some interesting stuff on the menu; I like the way it’s somewhere you can go and eat offal. The beef and tripe salad is really good. So are the hand pulled noodles. There are not a lot of people doing them. It’s a good place to go for a quick affordable bite. I often go with some other chefs and we order a load of things. The cumin lamb is mouth-tingling and the dumplings are very good.

Aobaba on Capel Street also in central Dublin is my go-to for Vietnamese pho bo tai with fresh noodles, and bánh cuốn. It’s somewhere I often go to on my own. I love the hustle and bustle of it. It reminds me of Asia. Our four-year-old son, Max, loves the fried rice here so it’s always a winner.