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Great-value Irish restaurants: 11 places to go for small plates

Part of the Irish Times guide to 100 great-value restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland 2022

Amy Austin

Unit 1, Drury Street car park, Drury Street, Dublin 2; 01-5486255, amyaustin.ie

There’s an argument to be had about whether restaurants should be located in car parks. You’d think not, yet little wine bar Amy Austin from restaurateur John Farrell sits buzzing at the bottom of Drury Street car park. The space is small, with low concrete ceilings, packed high tables and counter seats. Chef Victor Lara’s food shines (super fresh oysters, black cod fritters, charred leeks and Korean pork belly) and wines by the glass go down easily. Joanne Cronin

Big Fan Bao

16 Aungier Street, Dublin 2; 01-5388886, bigfan.ie

Dublin can be dead on Mondays, unless you know to head into Big Fan for Alex Zhang’s Chinese tapas. Dumplings are made in-house, and the unlikely sounding Wagyu cheeseburger dumpling is a must-order dish. While you’re at it, tick the boxes for the enoki mushrooms, dong po style pork bao, and featherblade steak. Seeing producers such as Andarl Farm and Glenmar fish listed on the menu gives an indication of how seriously owner Robert Hayes takes the food in this casual, buzzy restaurant. Corinna Hardgrave

Éan Bakery & Wine Bar

Druid Lane, Galway; 091-374154, eangalway.com

Christine Walsh has left our shores for London, hopefully to return, and Enda McEvoy has taken over the stove here, closing his other restaurant, Loam, for the winter season. Order all the small dishes from this clever menu, including the squid toast and the raw Dexter with smoked bone marrow, and then see how you’re fixed to share a larger plate. A great wine list and a beautiful room mean you’ll want to stay for quite a while. CH

Frae

93 High Street, Holywood, BT18 9AQ; +44-28-95788143, fraedining.com

Frae definitely falls into the category of “small but mighty”. With just two tables and a scattering of high seats plus a short menu, it might feel sparse. But the room lights up when the food of Shaun Tinman hits the table. It’s truly modern cooking, not often found in small towns. Think warm potato and skate wing salad or cured dollaghan (brown trout native to Lough Neagh) with chopped eggs and potato crisps. An equally tight but good wine list completes the picture. JC

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Frank’s

22 Camden Street Lower, Dublin, D02 TW89; 089-2083056, franksdublin.com

David Bradshaw cooks some of the most original small plates in the city on a two-plate hob at the far end of an 18-seater Corian high table. Having worked in Lyle’s in London, he has the confidence to be restrained in how he assembles dishes, always leading with the quality of the produce, seasonality and flavour. Work your way through the dishes with a few glasses of natural wine and be sure to try the Hegarty’s cheddar crumpet and desserts. Reservations are now possible, but there is still plenty of space for walk-ins. CH

Hilan

45 Capel Street, Dublin 1; 01-8748677, hilan.ie

Hilan Chinese and Korean restaurant often flies under the radar but has consistently delivered excellent Asian food for many years. Regardless of the time of day, it’s often full, with tables covered in platters and bowls. Many of the traditional Chinese dishes are Sichuan or Hunan in style, so think little barbecued lamb skewers flavoured with cumin and chilli, spicy Chongquing chicken or dan dan noodles. The prices are good, so order a few plates to share and find a new favourite dish. JC

Ka Shing

12a Wicklow Street, Dublin 2; 01-6772580

Whereas the previously mentioned Hilan is warm and cosy, Ka Shing is the glamorous and sophisticated model, complete with large tables and carved chairs. The cuisine here is Cantonese but their dim sum menu is what they’ve become best known for. With multiple options to choose from, the menu pictures can prove helpful in deciding between prawn and chive dumplings, glutinous rice rolls, deep fried sesame balls or xialongbao. JC

L’Atitude 51

1 Union Quay, Cork; 021-2390219, latitude51.ie

You know you have landed on something special the minute you walk into this atmospheric room, where Beverley Matthews’ French caves-à-manger model (a shop by day, wine bar by night) means that the cellar boasts some 300 bottles of organic or biodynamic wines. Of these, 25 are served by the glass, with a few interesting bottles from the top shelf. Blackboard specials change weekly; snacks start at €6.50 and the more substantial dishes range from €14 to €18. CH

Lucky’s & Coke Lane Pizza

78 Meath Street, Dublin 8; 01-5562397, luckys.ie

Pubs and shipping containers seem to go hand in hand these days, but one of the originals is to be found on Meath Street, in the back yard of Lucky’s pub. Here, the guys from Coke Lane Pizza churn out perfect individually-sized sourdough pizzas that are best enjoyed with friends. Try the Frankie, named after the Coke Lane beagle, or the Magnum Pi with glazed ham-hock and pineapple flambéed in Teeling’s whiskey (perhaps the only time pineapple is acceptable on a pizza). JC

Note

26 Fenian Street, Dublin 1; 01-2447344, notedublin.com

Paris, London, Copenhagen – Note could be in any of these cities, but luckily it’s in Dublin, on the pointy corner of Fenian Street. Katy Seward, one of the country’s top sommeliers, has an impressive list of natural wines, and by-the-glass options change frequently. This makes running up a bill a potential hazard, but one you might justify by the considerably smaller margins on the more expensive wines and grower Champagnes. Essa Fakhry’s tasty small plates pair nicely; the crab crumpet with sea urchin has become a bit of a signature dish. CH

The Universal

9 William Street West, Galway; 091-728271, theuniversal.business.site

The Universal is where off-duty chefs hang out on a Sunday, tucking into Mark Gunnip’s small plates while working their way through the list of skin contact, organic, and biodynamic wines. What’s on the menu is dictated by the seasons, so it may be wild mushrooms piled on toast, heirloom tomatoes with bagna cauda, Aran Island crab, or sole on the bone with caper brown butter. CH

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

Corinna Hardgrave’s introduction
Twenty-three new places to eat
Fifteen places to go for a quick bite
Fourteen places to go for lunch
Thirteen places to go for dinner
Eight places to go for seafood
Seven places to go for takeaway
Nine places to eat sustainably