With a rich native supply of fine meat and seafood, Ireland has made the very most of the boom years and revolutionized its restaurant scene.
The Celtic Tiger has seen Dublin transformed from a culinary backwater to a gourmand’s paradise, and the capital now boasts some of Europe’s best dining. Here are some hotspots.
RESTAURANT PATRICK GUILBAUD
Cuisine: Contemporary French
Style / Ambiance: Arguably the most respected restaurant in Ireland, the legendary Patrick Guilbaud’s opened in 1981 and since then has won every major food award going.
Currently in the hands of chef Guillaume Lebrun, the restaurant has held two Michelin stars for a number of years, and has long set the standard to which others aspire. It remains the only two-star restaurant in the country and with a wine list every bit as impressive as the food, you’ll be talking about this place for some time after. Highlights include the Blue lobster ravioli, caramelized veal sweetbreads and the contemporary dark chocolate tart. Beside the main dining room, a heated terrace looks over the 16th century garden of The Merrion Hotel and offers a charming spot for a digestif.
Cuisine: American-style steakhouse
Style / Ambiance: A pleasure for the discerning carnivore, Shanahan’s serves some of the best beef in Ireland.
The steaks are all certified Irish Angus and cooked in a special broiler at 1,600-1,800 degrees fahrenheit to sear the outside while keeping the inside tender and juicy. The menu also offers fresh native seafood, excellent pork and lamb dishes and a truly indulgent Oreo cookie cheesecake. Patrons enjoy all this in a majestic Georgian townhouse on St. Stephens Green, designed by Dublin’s leading 18th century architect, Richard Cassels. Complete with marble fireplaces and gilded chandeliers, the classically-proportioned dining rooms drip with history, and the attached Oval Office bar provides a splendid setting for a post-supper liqueur.
THE WINDING STAIR
Style / Ambiance: This buzzy little eatery has long been a favorite for bohemian types flocking to the bookshop below, and a renovation in recent years extended its fan base well beyond that.
There are now few better places in Dublin for a traditional Irish meal, and the chef always keeps you guessing with some brilliant modern twists. All ingredients are locally sourced and organic, with some delicious seafood and a superb selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses and cured meats. Add to this an excellent wine list and friendly service and you’ll find the Winding Stair’s charms hard to resist. The bookcase-lined walls make a happy home for both books and wine, and the dark wood floorboards and big windows lend a bistro feel that bland chain cafés would love to imitate. On a sunny day, get yourself a table overlooking the river and tuck into some potted Dingle Bay crab on soda bread or roasted Blackstairs mountain lamb round with sweetbread, minted Jerusalem artichoke, crispy caperberries, sprouting broccoli, shallot and garlic purée. For the sweet tooth, it would be remiss not to try the famous bread and butter pudding with whiskey sauce.
Cuisine: Contemporary French
Style / Ambiance: On a quiet harbor in the village of Malahide, you’ll find one of the finest gourmet restaurants in the country.
Opened in 2006, Bon Appétit won a Michelin star less than two years later, the fastest star ever awarded to a restaurant in Ireland. Chef Oliver Dunne worked under Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes in London, before returning to his homeland to become the youngest Michelin-starred chef on Irish shores. He concocts extraordinary dishes from locally sourced seasonal produce, and sommelier, Jean Baptiste, helps find the perfect wine pairing from the restaurant’s copious wine cellar. The interior design melds traditional opulence and subtle modern chic, with plush grey carpets, coffee-colored silk wall covers and cream Victorian chairs. Bon Appétit is the top choice for Dublin’s suburban elite and a great excuse for visitors to discover this picturesque village just north of the city.
Cuisine: Modern French
Style / Ambiance: Tucked away on a small lane near St. Stephen’s Green, One Pico offers award-winning fine dining in a peaceful pocket of the city center.
The fresh white exterior leads into a dining room of gold and beige, peppered with plush purple furnishings that make it easy to linger here for a while. Chef-proprietor Eamonn O’Reilly and head chef Ciaran McGill create wonderfully inventive dishes using local seasonal produce, changing the menu every month and never failing to impress O’Reilly’s many loyal disciples. Particular delights are the seven-course surprise menu and the daily table d’hôte lunch menu. O’Reilly has an eye-catching CV—he cut his teeth alongside three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno at Le Meurice in Paris, and went on to top hotels in Boston and Casablanca before opening One Pico back on his home turf. A welcome return it was too.
Cuisine: Contemporary Irish
Style / Ambiance: Book worms will the love the literary location below the Dublin Writers Museum, but the real appeal here is the dazzling, Michelin-starred food.
With an emphasis on the very best of locally-sourced artisan produce, the menu at Dublin’s Chapter One has Ireland at its heart. Chef and co-owner Ross Lewis has set a tasting menu brimming with gastronomic treats. Notable mentions go to the cured Clare Island organic salmon with smoked salmon mousse, fresh peas and yuzu jelly and the Pig’s tail stuffed with Fingal Ferguson’s bacon and lobster. The menu selection changes regularly, so you are guaranteed the best seasonal ingredients. The building was once home to John Jameson—of Irish whiskey fame—and Chapter One makes beautiful use of the vaulted basement. Certainly one of Dublin’s most atmospheric and delicious dining spots.
Cuisine: Irish with French influence
Style / Ambiance: L’Ecrivain is one the capital’s most celebrated gourmet restaurants and can be found in a gorgeous Georgian neighborhood.
Chef-owner Derry Clarke and the head chef Tom Doyle create inventive, Michelin-starred dishes and change the menu regularly to keep the ingredients seasonal. Using small, local producers, they give traditional Irish flavors a piquant French twist and the results have won the affections of many regulars. Game dishes are a specialty in season, with a menu that changes according to the produce available throughout the year, and the superb wine list is updated frequently. With an airy, blond wood interior, the atmosphere is light and relaxed, and you’ll find the staff some of the friendliest in town.
Cuisine: Modern Irish-French
Style / Ambiance: Tucked away discreetly in the heart of Dublin’s historic Georgian Quarter, Dax is easily one of the best restaurants in Dublin.