There are two things that don’t come to mind when planning a trip to Ireland: food and sunshine. Even in July, the temperatures don’t regularly go above 70 degrees, and the sun, though bright and shining well past 9 o’clock at night, is usually tucked behind a blanket of clouds. And the food? The first thing that comes to mind for most people is the great potato famine.
Lucky for us, that was not our experience. The sun was bright, and more importantly, the food was an equally shining surprise.
The best way to experience any city is through it’s food. True, globalization has brought Starbucks to every corner and fusion to every restaurant. But if you look for them, the unique threads of environment, history, culture, and even politics are still woven into every bite and taste you experience in a city. I planned to experience it all on our first trip to Ireland — from pints of Guinness to Irish Cheddar, Kerry cows and briny oysters.
photo by jenn kosar
So here we go — the foodie highlights of our journey through Ireland.
Best Breakfast in Ireland
Queen of Tarts, Cow’s Lane, Dame Street, Dublin
Irish smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and brown bread ⋅ poached eggs over leek and bacon potato pancakes ⋅ blueberry scone with Irish butter and raspberry jam
I usually refuse to eat scrambled eggs outside of the United States. Americans have perfected them, and whatever other countries are doing is both literally and figuratively pale in comparison. Not at Queen of Tarts. The eggs were fluffy and perfectly salted. The fresh and not too sweet jam was the perfect complement to our first tastes of warm Irish brown bread and scones.
photo by jenn kosar
Favorite pubs in Dublin
Porterhouse, 16 Parliament Street, Dublin ⋅ Mulligan’s, 8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin
mussels in whiskey and cream ⋅ Guinness and Porterhouse craft brews ⋅ cheese and onion crisps
Brew pubs have made their way to Dublin, and Porterhouse is a local favorite for its “made by man not machines” selection of craft brews. Gastro pubs are also starting to make their way into local fare, especially in Temple Bar, the center of food, nightlife, and entertainment in Dublin. Porterhouse’s food choices are a touch more sophisticated and varied than average for an Irish pub, and the mussels in Irish whiskey and cream were a perfect midday snack.
Mulligan’s is often touted as the “best Guinness in Dublin”, and while it’s possible that we are a bit biased by the fact that it was our “first”, we had to agree. We visited multiple pubs throughout our visit, and this one had the best of everything: natural mix of locals and tourists, friendly service, and the perfect traditional pub pairing of cheese and onion crisps.
photo via pixabay
Worth the trip outside central Dublin
Camden Kitchen, 3A Camden Market, Grantham Street, Dublin
courgette and parmesan soup ⋅ chicken liver parfait with golden raisin chutney and sourdough toast ⋅ Galway salmon with parmesan risotto and sea samphire ⋅ slow-cooked duck leg with glazed carrots, lentils and smoked bacon ⋅ apple crumble with vanilla ice cream
Although Camden Kitchen is in Dublin, it was our first taste of Galway salmon. Both the salmon and the crispy slow-cooked duck were perfectly executed entrees. The starters were excellent as well — flavorful chicken livers with just the right amount of seasoning and a fresh and bright zucchini soup. The accompanying side dishes were adequate but not stand outs. The apple crumble reminded me of the stuff in a jar I used to serve my kids. Skip it and go find a Murphy’s Ice Cream.
It’s wasn’t perfect, but still worth the trip. The atmosphere and service were among the best we experienced, perhaps influenced by a playlist I swear was stolen from my iPhone.
photo by jenn kosar
1837 Bar and Brasserie at the Guinness Storehouse in St. James Gate
local oysters with lemon ⋅ mushrooms on toast with Guinness garlic butter, truffle oil, rocket and parmesan ⋅ roasted cauliflower with truffle cream and Mount Leister cheddar
My post on the magic of Guinness says it all — the highlight of my trip was discovering my apparent love for this beer and its magical food pairing abilities. 1837 Bar and Brasserie also features other Guinness varietals and allowed us to compare and contrast how they paired with each of the food options. While all are designed to pair well with Guinness flavor palate, the best combinations were the mushrooms with the West Indies Porter and the oysters with a simple squeeze of lemon and the Golden Ale.
Worth the money in Ireland
Chapter One, 18-19 Parnell Square North, Dublin
Chapter One is a Michelin starred restaurant, one we chose because unlike most restaurants in the world graced with this honor, it actually featured and highlighted the bounty of local cuisine (and not just the joy of French cooking). The team at Chapter One takes profiling the Irish culinary experience a step further, with a dedication to working with local suppliers to bring the best ingredients to the table.
It’s hard to find the words to describe all the flavors and combinations we experienced. I’ll keep it simple with a description of that evening’s tasting menu. The unexpected surprises abounded. In particular, the unique wine pairings that ranged from the elegant to the (no kidding) strawberry wine variety. What mattered was the taste, not the snob appeal.
- Japanese pearl tapioca with St. Tola goat’s cheese, organic spinach, Irish shiitake mushrooms, and truffles [2014 Gewurztraminer]
- Cured mackerel with smoked mackerel gillette and warm potato pancake served with buttermilk dill cream [2015 Gruner Veltliner]
- Rose Veal Terrine with fermented and pickled cherries, foie gras parfait and brioche [2014 Italian Rose, Sangiovese and Barbera blend]
- Molloy’s Smoked Haddock with fermented horseradish and cauliflower, lindi black pepper, pickled red pulse and langoustines; what stood out here was the wine pairing. The white blend was from a vineyard on an active volcano, imparting smoke and sulfur into each sip. Strange, but necessary to stand up to the haddock. It was a lovely pairing. [2013 Canary Islands white]
- Pig’s tail stuffed with Fingal Ferguson’s bacon and Dublin Bay prawns, basil purée and mustard fruits [2013 Austrian Syrah]
- Dry aged lamb with pressed shoulder and roasted heirloom carrot, anchovy and rosemary potato galette, and broad beans [2012 Ribera del Duero Cabernet/Merlot blend]
- Fresh condensed milk (14ml down to 2) with cucumber and mint
- Salted butter ice cream with soda bread mousse and sour buttermilk [County Wicklow Strawberry Wine]
photo by christian birkholz via pixabay
Favorite Foodie Stops in Ireland
I promise we did see a few historical sites, churches, and amazing Irish landscapes in between all the eating. To highlight a few of our favorite “breaks” along the way:
- Butlers Chocolates (multiple locations). Ireland’s favorite chocolate brand, and an excellent coffee stop as well.
- Murphy’s Ice Cream (multiple locations). Hand-made ice cream from Kerry cows, who produce richer-than-average cream that makes a sinful ice cream. Even more sinful when you consider Murphy’s boasts two flavors you must be of age to purchase — Dingle Gin, with a strong gin and mild citrus flavor, and Irish Coffee, made with — you guessed it — Jameson. The flavors rotate and the lovely folks that work there will literally let you try all of them (more like insist you try all of them). The Caramelized Brown Bread was my personal and unexpected favorite.
- Fallon & Byrne Food Hall and Wine Bar, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin. I’m a grocery store fanatic, and in particular I long for the European-urban style of stores; smaller, more cultivated, and full of inspiration. Fallon & Byrne is Dublin’s favorite, and now I know why — it has a lovely wine bar in the cellar for a pre-, post-, or mid-shopping break.
- Sheridan’s Cheese, 14 Church Yard Street, Galway. The best cheese in Ireland, and again, a wine bar in-house. More like a “come inside my house and I’ll slice you some cheese and pour you a glass of wine” bar in its no-fuss, cozy feel, with a beautiful view of the historic St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in the Galway location. Seriously, why is this not a thing in America?
- Roasted Brown, FilmBase, 2 Curved Street, Dublin. This is what happens when someone who lives and loves coffee since the age of 3 decides to open a coffee shop. Fergus Brown’s story is worth a read on his site, and his coffee is more than worth a try.
Favorite Irish Foods
A traditional Irish menu will feature a few staples — beef stew, seafood chowder, mussels, lamb. We tried them all throughout our visit, and these were the best of the bunch.
- The seafood chowder at the Powerscourt Hotel in Enniskerry, Ireland. Local seafood touched with bacon, and so warm and soothing with fresh-baked bread.
- The mussels meuniere with toasted and buttered soda bread at the Oak Cellar Bar in the Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Kentfield Bushy Park, Galway City. I love mussels, and these were full of wine and garlic flavor.
- The beef and mushroom crostini and the lamb shank at Quay Street Kitchen in Galway. Both classic and simple dishes made special with a clear focus on flavor in every layer of the dish.
photo by Nick Karvounis via unsplash
When you’re tired of Irish food
Bear, 34-35 South William Street, Dublin
pumpkin hummus with black kale crisps ⋅ smoked haddock and cheese bites with sweet pickle mustard ⋅ onglet cut steak with a sauce trio of horseradish béchamel, roast chili, and pink peppercorn whiskey thyme butter ⋅ million dollar fries ⋅ buttered leeks
Technically Bear is not a complete departure from Irish cuisine; the influences are felt in places like the haddock and cheese bites, a twist on the Spanish croquette, and in the “how do you want your potato” array of side dishes. Bear has all the trappings of a contemporary food-forward restaurant in a major international city: craft cocktail list, a kale-based appetizer, and a stylish modern-rustic decor with an open kitchen.
The service was a little grumpy, but you got the feeling that was part of the ambience. Overall the menu was compelling and the food was satisfying, but the quality in the execution of individual dishes was inconsistent. The pumpkin hummus was an inspired creation, but there was nothing million dollar about the fries. The whiskey thyme butter was a simple addition that magically added complex flavor to an already interesting cut of steak, but the béchamel seemed to be missing its horseradish.
As for drinks, the Jaime Bear cocktail was a nice break from all the Guinness. A refreshing “vodka margarita”, it was bright with flavors of lime juice, muddled mint and ginger spiced syrup.
You’d think that would have been enough. Like the time I ate at Chutney Mary immediately upon arrival in London after a week in India, my first stop when I arrived home was St. James Gate in Maplewood for Guinness and Galway salmon. Sometimes you just want the experience to last a little longer.
Have you visited Ireland? What’s your favorite foodie stop?