Dublin in detail

Eating

The choice of restaurants in Dublin has never been better. Every cuisine and every trend – from doughnuts on the run to kale with absolutely everything – is catered for, as the city seeks to satisfy the discerning taste buds of its diners.

Local Specialities

It's a wonder the Irish retain their good humour amid the perpetual potato-baiting they endure. But, despite the stereotyping, potatoes are still paramount here and you'll see lots of them on Dublin menus. The mashed-potato dishes colcannon and champ (with cabbage and spring onion respectively) are two of the tastiest recipes you'll find.

Most meals are meat-based, with beef, lamb and pork common options. The most Dublin of dishes is coddle, a working-class concoction of bacon rashers, sausages, onions, potato and plenty of black pepper. More easily available is the national edible icon: Irish stew, the slow-simmered one-pot wonder of lamb, potatoes, onions, parsley and thyme (note no carrots).

The most famous Irish bread, and one of the signature tastes of Ireland, is soda bread. Irish flour is soft and doesn’t take well to yeast as a raising agent, so Irish bakers of the 19th century leavened their bread with bicarbonate of soda. Combined with buttermilk, it makes a superbly light-textured and tasty bread, and is often on the breakfast menus at B&Bs. Scones, tarts and biscuits are specialities too.

Irish seafood is considered to be some of the best in the world, with the waters surrounding the island fit to bursting with juicy mackerel, lobsters and oysters. Dublin Bay prawns are deliciously plump, and native oysters are best enjoyed with a pint of Guinness – the chocolate notes in the stout pair perfectly with the salinity of the oysters.

Veggie Bites

Vegetarians (and vegans) are finding it increasingly easier in Dublin, as the capital has veered away from the belief that food isn’t food until your incisors have ripped flesh from bone and towards an understanding that healthy eating leads to, well, longer lives.

There’s a selection of general restaurants that cater to vegetarians beyond the token dish of mixed greens and pulses – places such as M&L, Yamamori and Chameleon. The Wednesday night dinner at the Fumbally always includes a tasty vegetarian option, while Assassination Custard strikes an even balance between meat and vegetarian dishes.

Solidly vegetarian places include Blazing Salads, with organic breads, Californian-style salads and pizza; Cornucopia, Dublin's best-known vegetarian restaurant, serving wholesome salads, sandwiches and a selection of hot main courses; and Govinda’s, an authentic beans-and-pulses place run by the Hare Krishna.

Dynamic Dining in Dublin

It can be hard keeping up with the restaurant scene in Dublin – each week seems to see a spate of new openings (along with another restaurant closing its doors). December 2018 saw five new restaurants open, with one shutting up shop just six weeks after its launch. The government’s decision to increase VAT for hospitality services (it had been reduced from 13.5% to 9% in 2011) means that restaurants in particular are feeling the pinch, and it would be no surprise to see more bite the dust.

All of which means things can change in the blink of an eye – even the city’s most popular spots can be gone in a heartbeat. On the plus side, there is always a new place to check out, whether you’re in the mood for a hearty vegan salad bowl or a steaming bowl of dumplings.

When to Eat

  • Breakfast Usually eaten before 9am, although hotels and B&Bs will serve until 11am Monday to Friday, and to noon at weekends. Many cafes serve an all-day breakfast.
  • Lunch Usually a sandwich or a light meal between 12.30pm and 2pm. On weekends Dubliners have a big meal (called dinner) between 2pm and 4pm.
  • Tea No, not the drink, but the evening meal – also confusingly called dinner. A Dubliner’s main daily meal, usually eaten around 6.30pm.

Self-Catering

Dublin's choice of artisan street and covered markets continues to improve. If you're looking to self-cater, there are some excellent options for supplies, especially south of the river, including Fallon & Byrne, Dollard & Co and the Temple Bar Food Market – not to mention a fine selection of cheesemongers and bakeries. North of the river, the traditional Moore Street Market is the city's most famous, where the colour of the produce is matched by the language of the spruikers.

Need to Know

Opening Hours

  • Cafes 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
  • Restaurants Noon to 10pm (or midnight); food service generally ends around 9pm. Top-end restaurants often close between 3pm and 6pm; restaurants serving brunch open around 11am.

Booking Tables

You'll need to reserve a table for most city-centre restaurants Thursday to Saturday, and all week for the trendy spots. Most restaurants operate multiple sittings, which means 'Yes, you can have a table at 7pm, but we'll need it back by 9pm'. A recent trend is to adopt a no-reservations policy in favour of a get-on-the-list, get-in-line policy.

Tipping

It’s standard to tip between 10% and 12% of the bill, unless the waiter has dumped the dinner in your lap and given you the finger, while the gratuity for exceptional service is only limited by your generosity and/or level of inebriation. If you’re really unhappy, don’t be afraid to leave absolutely nothing, though it'll rarely come to that.