Ireland may not have the foodie reputation of some of its European neighbours, but times are changing. With an emphasis on local produce and access to the some of the world’s best dairy and meat, Irish cuisine has benefited from a recent renaissance, and the best creations are simpler meals with top quality ingredients. So if you’re looking for something traditional, here’s a few of our favourite places for proper Irish food.
The Winding Stair
Diners at the Winding Stair are in for a treat © Andrew Montgomery / Lonely Planet
The atmospheric Winding Stair sits above one of the oldest independent bookstores in Dublin. Have a browse before you ascend the 18th-century staircase to take a seat with an excellent view of the Ha’Penny Bridge. The menu itself is crammed with fresh ingredients, often coming with a geographical pinpoint or even the name of the producer. Seafood takes pride of place with potted crab from Dingle, mussels from Connemara and smoked salmon from the Burren. Potatoes make impressive appearances in all their most delicious forms; chips, mash, dumplings and even a potato terrine. Finish off with a darkly rich Guinness cake or melt-in-your-mouth shortbread drizzled with whiskey and honey cream. They also serve an excellent selection of wine by the glass that will complement your food selection.
Temple Bar Market
Wander the cobblestones of Temple Bar and you'll find, in a hidden plaza, an excellent one-stop shop for Irish produce. The Saturday Temple Bar Farmers Market is a small but well-stocked open-air market for food enthusiasts who gather to chat to producers at their heaving stalls. You can pick up gourmet delights such as the award-winning Corleggy Cheese from County Cavan, David Llewellyn's zesty apple juice (warm and spiced in the winter months), sustainable veal or goat from Broughgammon Farm, or a farmhouse breakfast with homemade rashers, sausages and free range eggs from Paddy Jack Farmers. If you want to nab one of Gourmet Grub Bakery’s beef and Guinness pies, you’ll have to get there early.
One of the biggest draws is the Temple Oyster Bar. Here you can grab a table and order freshly-opened oysters, harvested the day before in the Atlantic, with a slice of homemade brown soda bread and a glass of chilled white wine. End your feast with a fresh smoothie or something more sinful from Piece of Cake. There are also plenty of preserves to bring home as souvenirs, including a range of seasonal chutney, jams and marmalades from McNally’s Family Farm.
Follow your nose to the cheese heaven that is Sheridans © Sam Mellish / In Pictures / Getty Images
It's hard to pass by Sheridans Cheesemongers, off Grafton St, without getting intoxicated by the heady smell of cheese in all its glorious varieties, stacked in large wheels inside the door. This little Dublin shop feels like a proper artisan institution, where knowledgeable staff offer slivers of cheese to taste, knowing resistance is futile. They also offer a range of European cheeses and olive oils but this is the place to taste the wonderful produce of Irish farmhouses – Durrus, Coolea, Gubbeen or Milleen's from Cork, St Tola's creamy goat's cheese from Clare or a crumbly Cashel or Crozier Blue. Your gastronomic journey isn’t restricted to dairy either – you can create an entire picnic basket packed with chicken liver pate or country terrine from Cork producer On The Pig’s Back, black pudding from Kanturk or Sheridan’s very own chutney and crackers. Don’t go without trying some creamy Irish fudge or a box of Áine’s award-winning chocolate selection.
L Mulligan Grocer
You’d be forgiven for passing the unassuming exterior of L Mulligan Grocer, in the Northside neighbourhood of Stoneybatter, without a second thought. That would be a crime against your palate: inside you’ll find a comfortable bar with seats aplenty and one of the best gastropub menus you’re likely to encounter. This is hearty Irish food with a gourmet twist: try the black pudding combined with seasonal sweet fruit, local steak paired with strong whiskey sauce or the special Sunday roasts, which are such a joy we recommend wearing loose clothing to fit it all in.
They’ve recently improved their selection for vegetarians too, meaning you can tuck into a hearty nut roast or delightful vegetarian scotch egg. The extensive beer and whiskey selection, coupled with the staff’s trustworthy recommendations, means this is a great spot to check out even if you don’t fancy eating.
Good looks and great food at the Bakehouse © EyesWideOpen / Getty Images
If the cute facade doesn’t tempt you inside this quayside cafe, their bakery should. They make everything inhouse, from the crispy mini turnovers to the gooey toffee brownies. The main courses are a delightful treat on a chilly afternoon: baked potatoes with Dubliner cheese and homemade relish, rich beef stew to slurp from a bread bowl or even Dublin’s famous coddle. A dish traditionally made with leftovers, the combination of broth, boiled sausages and root vegetables may not be the most Instagram-worthy creation but it’s unique to the city and the Bakehouse does it perfectly. With an all-day brunch menu at the weekends and very reasonable city centre prices, this makes a great place for a hangover cure while still ticking off a truly Irish experience.