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Ireland’s best restaurants: 18 top places to eat on a special occasion

Part of the Irish Times guide to 100 of the best places to eat in Ireland 2022


53 Dominick Street, Galway, H91 V4DP; 091-535947,

It’s hard to believe that Aniar, with its understated room and focus on the local terroir, is 10 years old. The €120, 19-course microseasonal tasting menu at this one-Michelin-star restaurant—headed by JP McMahon, who writes about food each week for The Irish Times—draws on culinary traditions such as foraging, pickling and fermenting. The focus is kept simple, with just two or three key components on a plate, such as Dooncastle oysters with sea lettuce, fermented barley with black garlic, and wild rabbit with lovage. Corinna Hardgrave


111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8; 01-4737409,

Good things come to those who wait, and a Michelin star finally landed for Barry FitzGerald and Claremarie Thomas’s Portobello restaurant—where, many would argue, they’ve been serving Michelin-quality food since day one. The €75, six-course tasting menu is balanced beautifully, and flavours build as the menu progresses. Dried carrots on ricotta and pumpkin seed bring sweet intensity, and the lacquered trout with buttermilk crumpet and fermented gooseberry is incredibly clever. There’s also an exceptionally good vegetarian menu and a slick wine list. CH


Main Street Kinsale, Co Cork; 021-4709696,

Co-owner Paul McDonald is now the sole chef in the kitchen at Bastion—perhaps the most intimate dining experience in Ireland. The €130 tasting menu is served twice a night to just 10 diners per seating. There’s a simplicity and purity to the food here; clams with chervil oil were pristine when I last visited. Helen Noonan, McDonald’s co-owner, is a top sommelier; her classic list has 40 wines available by the glass. CH

Big Fan Bao

16 Aungier Street, Dublin 2; 01-5388886,

Big Fan Bao could easily be renamed Big Fun Bao and no one would blink an eye. With a slick interior, buzzy, fun atmosphere and creative Asian food, it’s perfect for meeting friends or for a date night. Pencil in your order of snowflake jiaozi, Taiwanese spicy fried chicken, featherblade steak with Urfa pepper or barbecue corn ribs, while sipping on an Asian-inspired cocktail. Pet-friendly outdoor terrace. Joanne Cronin


Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen

18-19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1; 01-8732266,

The unforgettable €65 lunch menu at this two-Michelin-star restaurant is some of the best value to be had in the country—but the €170 evening tasting menu is like an out-of-body experience. It’s a roller coaster of flavour, texture, surprise and pure euphoria, with many dishes so complex your head will hurt trying to understand each element. Genius is at work within these basement walls, and although getting a table can feel like an Olympic sport, it’s a meal you will never forget. Despite the stars, the service is Irish to the core, and the dining room is a whirlwind of conversation and laughter. Lisa Cope

Dede at the Customs House

The Customs House, Baltimore, Co Cork; 028-48248,

The aromas of garlic, cumin and charred lamb are enough to have you dreaming of a return visit to this west Cork restaurant, where Ahmet Dede and his team of Turkish chefs are adding Michelin-star wizardry to everything that grows locally. Dishes on the €125, 12-course menu range from “Adana-style” lamb kebab to seriously cheffy monkfish in miso butter. The magical outdoor area is perfect for long summer evenings. CH


22 High Street, Waterford, X91 Y983; 051-325147,

Given that Russ Parsons, the Irish Times columnist and former food editor of the Los Angeles Times, lists Peter Everett’s restaurant as one of his favourites, it should be no surprise that it landed a coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand this year. The cooking is clever and delicious, and a combination such as Duncannon smoked haddock with Parmesan custard is just one of the many reasons you need to get here. CH

Liath and Bhonn Space

Blackrock Market, Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin; 01-2123676,

It’s been a good year for Damien Grey, who has secured a second Michelin star for his cooking at Liath and also launched the casual Bhonn Space. A mere 12 seats per service make Liath one of the hottest tickets in Dublin, but if a booking at Liath eludes, pay a visit next door for counter-top dining of pork schnitzel, tonkotsu ramen or smoked Ballymakenny potatoes with saffron mayo and a fun wine list. Bhonn Space is pet-friendly. JC


Slatefort House, Bullaun, Loughrea, Co Galway; 087-3300559,

Each morning, after the sourdough has been baked, embers from the wood-burning oven are moved to three Argentinian grills and the cooking for the tasting menu at this highly ambitious restaurant starts. Danny Africano has created one of the most wonderful restaurants in the country with dishes that will confuse and delight. Mackerel cooked on the grill is transcendent, and the Connemara lamb is the best you’re ever likely to eat. A Michelin star is surely on the way. CH


Fairgreen Road, Galway City; 091-569727,

If the term regenerative farming is familiar, it may well be that you first heard it from Enda McEvoy, the chef who has led the way in sustainability and worked closely with Leaf and Root farm since he first opened Loam. A truly inspirational chef, he cooks skilfully with a quiet restraint at his one-Michelin-star restaurant, where the seven-course tasting menu costs €85. The squid, shiitake and egg dish is a classic. CH


1 Windsor Terrace, Dublin 8; 01-4163655,

It’s no secret that this is where chefs go for Sunday lunch, a smart €45 menu in a delightful, recently refurbished room. Andy Roche, the former Aimsir chef who took over the kitchen less than a year ago, has been consistently knocking out great dishes: ox tongue on tiny waffles, a memorable beef tartare with smoked marrow, Castletownbere lobster, saddle of rabbit and brown-bread ice cream with toasted sesame and pear. CH


57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin; 01-2780377,

Have you been barred from Michael’s yet? This running joke from chef-patron Gareth “Gaz” Smith is typical of the joy that fills Michael’s and its sister Little Mikes. The combination of seafood platters fresh from the boat and swimming in butter sauce, aged steaks from Higgins Family Butcher and a self-proclaimed whopper wine list combine to ensure delight. This summer all eyes are on the opening of Gaz’s newest location, in neaby Blackrock. Pet-friendly. JC


27 Church Road, Holywood, Co Down, BT18 9BU; 048-90425655,

Noble’s intimate upstairs dining room, charming service and bistro-style food have had locals and visitors to Holywood enthralled for years. The menu lists top food producers in every direction, the wine list changes frequently, and the warmest welcome can be expected. LC


1 Oxford Street, Belfast, BT1 3LA; 028-90314121,

If you get on a train and head to Belfast you can pull up a seat at a Michelin-star restaurant and tuck into a three-course lunch for £35, or about €42. When you realise that the chef here, Stephen Toman, spent many years at Alain Passard’s three-Michelin-star L’Arpège, in Paris, it’s all the more extraordinary. It is an incredibly relaxing room, but there’s nothing casual about the finely honed dishes that come out of the kitchen. The six-course dinner menu costs £75. CH


6 South Square, Townlands, Rosscarbery, Co Cork; 023-8831796,

The cooking at Pilgrim’s is so delicate it’s almost ephemeral. A baby leek, grilled gently to bring out its sweetness, is topped with borlotti beans and dusted with Cáis na Tire cheese, asparagus is dressed in a sublime seaweed cream with cocoa praline, and cod is pearlescent in a sharp blood-orange sauce. Everything at Sarah-Jane Pearce and Mark Jennings’s beautiful restaurant is perfect, and the €58 five-course is a steal. CH


7 Church Street, Townparks, Skerries, Co Dublin, K34 V585; 01-8029486,

Special occasions by the sea don’t get much better than chef Cathal Leonard and partner Sarah Ryan’s Potager. With a menu of predominantly local ingredients, a chef whose plates surprise in the most delicious ways, a list wine-lovers will want to pore over, and the kind of convivial service in sophisticated surroundings that Leonard’s former stomping ground of Chapter One is famous for, there are so many reasons to head for the north Co Dublin town. LC

Restaurant Chestnut

The Chestnut Tree, Staball Hill, Ballydehob, Co Cork; 028-25766,

Robbie Krawczyk cooks with compelling restraint, his €140 tasting menu inspiring awe in the relaxed room. There is also the sense that the food here is nudging beyond one-Michelin-star level. Roaringwater Bay mussels with caviar in buttermilk, whiskey granita with damson, monkfish and Irish truffle in chicken and whey glaze, and a haunting meadowsweet dessert are as memorable as they are beautiful. CH

Variety Jones

78 Thomas Street, Dublin 8; 01-5162470,

Chef Keelan Higgs’s Variety Jones is still firing on all flames, and demand for tables hasn’t abated one bit since the Michelin men and women bestowed it with a star in the 2020 guide. His brother and co-owner, Aaron, leads front of house, while sommelier Vanda Ivancic provides one of the most fascinating wine pairings to be found anywhere. The six-course chef’s menu for €80 is a riot of flavour and fire. LC

Follow a link below to read the other sections of this guide

Corinna Hardgrave’s introduction
Fourteen new places to eat great food
Thirteen top tables by the sea
Seven top outdoor dining spots
Twenty places dishing up great local produce
Eight great places for vegetarian and vegan food
Ten places with wonderful wine lists
Ten great places to eat — and stay over afterwards