Archive for the Ireland Category

Grub in the Dub

Posted in Dublin, Ireland on September 1, 2011 by gannet39

Dublin is expensive. There are lots of great restaurants but I couldn’t afford to eat in most of them. Just a trip to the chippy costs €9 and you are looking at at least €20 for a main course at a mid-range eatery, especially in the touristy area around Temple Bar.

Dublin neon

However, I’ve been here several times in recent years and have managed to find a few good places, and I’m sure there are plenty more to be discovered away from the centre.

The Oliver St. John Gogarty
(Intermediate A), Temple Bar.

With its prominent location on the Temple Bar strip, this garishly painted live music pub might not seem an obvious choice for good food but in terms of traditional Irish fare I have had no better in the capital. The restaurant is on the second floor, best accessed by a door on the side street.


On this occasion I had the Bacon and Cabbage which came with a white béchamel sauce on the side (B+).

Cabbage & Bacon

My  companions had the Irish Stew, involving a huge lamb shank, which I can attest to being delicious (A) as I’ve had it myself on two previous visits.

Lamb Stew

To finish, the Guinness ice cream with blueberries had to be tried and it was actually very nice (A).

Guiness Ice Cream

The apple pie, with ice cream on the side is also excellent (A).

Apple Pie

The waiting staff are usually stretched but will give you good  friendly service when they finally get round to you. After eating you can go down to the next floor to catch the live band belting out the classics, with maybe a bit of Gaelic dancing too.

(Intermediate A), 13/14 Dame Court (near Temple Bar) , Tel. 01 670 7634

Not trad in the slightest, this is a very cool spot serving cocktails and a modern multi-cultural menu of world classics. It’s the kind of restaurant/bar/club I would love to open myself if I had the money.


In particular I like the retro modern decor and the comfortable stylish furniture, and the fact the building has five floors, each with a different feel. The second floor (entrance through a different door) is a good place to come for a Sunday Brunch (they open at 11.30) of Eggs Benedict washed down with a large Bloody Mary (both A).


On this visit though I joined the beautiful things in the main ground floor restaurant to feast on their ‘Soul Food’ menu with several choices for only €10. I liked the freshness of the Jerk Chicken with an orange, sweetcorn and bean salsa (B+).

Jerk Chicken

Also good was the Odessa Burger with tomato relish, dill pickle, smoked Applewood cheese and chunky chips, but my bun was over toasted and it was a bit too tall to fit in even my oversized gob (B-).

Odessa burger


Sadly a favourite lunch time place of mine, Gruel at 68a Dame St (cheap, popular, trendy, veggie options), seems to have become a victim of the recession as the building is for sale. Taxi drivers tell me the city has become much quieter since the boom times with fewer people going out.

(Intermediate A), 78/79 Grafton St

The most famous cafe in Dublin, it’s a good place to come for a tea and cake break when shopping Grafton St, but it can be very crowded. They do a pretty good Irish breakfast here (B), although next time I want to try the one at Avoca below. Both places only serve breakfast in the mornings before 11.30.


Avoca Cafe
, 11-13 Suffolk St (Intermediate A)

The second floor cafe in this home wares shop is a great place for lunch when you are around Grafton St and want an alternative to the overated Bewleys.

Avoca Cafe

Avoca interior

On this occasion I had the Duck Liver Pate with Pistachio and Apricot with charred bread, cornichons and apply chutney, which was fantastic to look at and very tasty (A), if a bit too much (share it), with a refreshing glass of Elderflower cordial. The surroundings are bright and modern and the service is excellent and very camp!

Duck Liver Pate

The other floors are full of kitschy homewares I wouldn’t let through my front door. However they do have a great deli in the basement which I’m sure I’d shop in all the time if I lived here. They have a good bread selection and as far as I’m concerned, Irish brown soda bread is some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Why can’t we make it like this in the UK?

Avoca bread
On the deli tip, you might want to put your head into Sheridan’s Cheesemongers which is also just off Grafton St at 11 South Anne St.


They have a big continental selection but lots of local cheeses that you could take home. All Irish dairy products are excellent as well.

Cheese for days

Burdocks Fish & Chips
, (Elementary C), two branches at Liffey St and Werberg St.

The Dub’s most famous, but not necessarily best chippy. According to the roll of honour on the wall, everyone from Mick Jagger to Edith Piaf have ‘sampled’ their chips.


Roll of Honour
Personally I think this means they probably sent a bag round to the stage door every time someone famous was in town because they aren’t particularly good in my opinion. I’ve had better in Sheffield which is as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK. I had a hangover lunch of Lemon Sole (B) & Chips (C) with a can of coke which cost a hefty €9 .

Lemon Sole & Chips

Irish ingredients are great but the food gets a bit bland for the more adventurous palate and after a few days of eating potatoes I personally could murder something completely different. Fortunately as a capital city, Dublin has a lot of ethnic restaurants where you can get a change from the norm, although none of these has scored more than a B with me.

Montys of Kathmandu (Intermediate B), 28 Eustace St, Tel. 01 670 4911

This Nepalese restaurant has had plenty of awards and rave reviews over the years, including being listed in 2002 as one of Ireland’s top 100 restaurants and best ethnic restaurant in Dublin.


The food is pretty good and seems authentic enough though I’ve never been to Nepal. It’s very similar to Indian cuisine but with a Chinese influence. On this occasion I had the regional speciality of Chicken Sashlick, a kebab served with a curry on the side (in my case Gorkhali, made with coriander, ginger, garlic and lots of chilli) which was pretty good (B+). With a raita, pilau rice and a lager, the bill came to about €30, which is a lot more than I’m used to paying.

Chicken Shaslick
Yamamori Noodles
(Intermediate B) 71-72 South Great Georges St

One of my favourite meals ever is a bowl of Kimchee Cha-Syu Ramen (noodle soup with slices of roast pork and fermented chilli cabbage) with a rack of fried Gyoza dumplings on the side and a cold beer.  I find it hard to resist whenever I see it on a menu because it brings back so many happy culinary memories from the time I lived in Japan. It’s a true fusion dish of Chinese noodles made in a Japanese style, topped with Korean pickled cabbage.


Seeing it here on the Yamamori Summer Menu as part of a €25 set, I found it impossible to keep walking. The Scallop & Prawn Gyoza which were delicious (B+).

Scallop & Prawn Gyoza

Sadly though the Ramen and its bitter tasting pork broth just did not cut it (C). The boiled egg was fridge cold and there was far too much bamboo shoot, one of my least favourite ingredients. After eating the pork and the noodles, there was very little to enjoy.

Kimchee Cha-Syu Ramen
The other stuff I got (Miso Siru beanpaste soup with kelp and diced tofu, a pint of Heineken and a slice of Bannofi Pie) was ok but nothing special (B) and brought the total bill to €30.

Banoffi Pie

The service is friendly but the whole set up feels very false with Chinese  waitresses dressing up in Kimonos and putting chopsticks in their hair. Two visits were enough. God I miss Japan!

They also have a sushi shop on Lower Ormond Quay, just by the Ha’penny Bridge (pictured below) but I have no idea if it’s any good.

Ha'penny BridgeLiffey to the Harp Bridge

Il Barccaro (Intermediate B), 9 Eustace St, in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

A slightly pricey but fairly authentic Italian with an atmospheric cellar with long rooms and some tables outside. There are lots of other Italian restaurants, probably all fairly decent as they have to cater for the hordes of Italian tourists who won’t eat anywhere else.

Overall then Dublin is a hard place to be eat well and get by on a budget. There are plenty of good restaurants serving up top-notch food (particularly modern cuisine) but you’ll need plenty of disposable to enjoy them. Good value-for-money places do exist but you have to hunt them out. Or you could just live on Guinness and oysters!

Here’s a more recent list from 2012 of places that do good Irish food, and another of dishes to try.

And finally some pics of a nice building I couldn’t put anywhere else!


Sunlight Chambers


Sunlight sculpture




Pubbing in Dublin

Posted in Dublin, Ireland with tags , , , on August 31, 2011 by gannet39

Where to start with good pubs? Dublin has hundreds of them. Some I like in the centre are The Palace Bar (Temple Bar), McDaids (3 Harry St, near Grafton St), The Long House (51 South St Georges St, near Yamamori), Mulligans (Poolbeg St, a backstreet off Tara St), The Stag’s Head (Dame Court, opposite Odessa). All classic old boozers with heaps of character.

After work temptation

The Porterhouse, Temple Bar (Intermediate A), 16-18 Parliament St, Tel. 01 6798847
The Porterhouse Brewing Co are very proud of the fact that they are Ireland’s largest independent brewer with the likes of Guiness and Murphy’s having been bought up by Diageo and Heinken. This is their flagship pub and it’s a great place to try international beers as well as their own ales. It’s a cosy warren of snugs, staircases and bars on three floors. Last time I was here it was rammed with office types who had all made reservations. Not as busy on this occasion though, perhaps a sign of the recession. The cost of a pint here is fairly typical for the area, around €4.30.

Plain Porter
The food is pretty good here too, with a menu of adventurous bar snacks. I went for the classic combination of oysters with a pint of the black stuff. Oysters are perhaps the only food item that is cheaper than in the UK; six Carlingford Rock oysters cost only €9 here, with a round of delicious Stout Soda Bread.

A marriage made in heaven

The logical accompaniment would be their Oyster Stout but I went for the Plain Porter which recently won the category for best stout at the 2011 Brewing Industry Interantional Awards (the brewing Oscars). The texture and taste of the stout combines perfectly with that of the oysters, absolute heaven (A+).

The Market Bar, 16 Fade St, off South Great Georges St, is located in a lovely old building.

Market Bar facade

Market bar entrance

It used to be a shoe factory as you can see from the impressive display of shoe lasts at one end of the huge room. It was too busy for me to try their tapas on the Friday night I went.Main room

Doheny & Nesbitt
, 5 Lower Baggot St

Located in the Georgian district, I especially like this old pub with its atmospheric warren of nooks and crannies, and no tourists.

Doheny & Nesbitt
I have a thing for Georgian architecture and this area has some impressive buildings, like the Taioseach’s crib. The residential bits remind me of my old flat off Dale St in Liverpool.

Department of the Taoiseach
A few beautiful old shop fronts still survive around here too.

Brooks & Co
Continuing my never-ending search for the perfect pint of Guinness I took the ‘self-guided’ brewery tour at the Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate. As Ireland’s number one tourist attraction it’s a bit like entering a  commercialised Willi Wonka land but the beer-making processes being ‘interactively’ explained aren’t anywhere near as exciting.

St. James's Gate
Stout is a stronger version of porter, originally introduced from London in the 1770’s, and perfected by Arthur Guinness. Jokingly known as Liffey Water, the black beer is actually brewed with water from a clear stream arising from the nearby hills of County Wicklow. It’s this pure ingredient which is probably the reason why Guinness doesn’t taste as good anywhere else (it’s brewed in nearly 50 countries, and drunk in over 150).

More on the way
I also learned a few interesting facts about the ancient art of cooperage  (did you know a barrel is actually a size of cask, as is the firkin, the butt and kilderkin), once a major industry, now virtually extinct. The old photos of the yard stacked up with mountains of wooden barrels are very impressive.

Old Brewery yard
At 50 acres, St. James’s Gate is the largest brewery in the world and at one time even had its own internal railway and fleet of boats. You can see exhibits like the steam engines and model ships on one of the floors.

Guiness train

There was also once a constant stream of Guinness barges going down the Liffey which had special fold-down chimneys to get under the bridges on their way to the port.

Another floor is dedicated to their famous publicity campaigns where you can see displays of, amongst others, the classic Guinness adverts by John Gilroy, which he drew from the 30’s to the 60’s. He was offered a job by Walt Disney but turned him down.

Classic posterJohn GilroyPoster2

Entrance is a rather steep €14.40 but that includes a free pint of draught Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top of the storehouse. This is the best bit of the tour because you get a 360 view of Dublin while supping on an excellent pint.

The view

If you fancy another either on the way to or coming from the brewery you could stop off at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub, founded in 1198.

Brazen Head

There is a nice yard where you can sit outside on a sunny day.

Local wisdom says that the Airport Bar has the best Guinness, because it’s either your first or your last!

Perfect pint

Getting fed and watered in Waterford

Posted in Ireland, Waterford on August 29, 2011 by gannet39

is the oldest city in Ireland, founded by the Vikings in 914AD. There are a few old buildings dotted about the place but the most atmospheric places are the pubs as you might expect. The first building you notice when you arrive is the huge ultra-modern Guiness brewery located on the river opposite the railway station which serves the south-east of Ireland.


The town was once famous for the huge Waterford crystal factory, which went into receivership in 2009, and procuction moved to Germany and the Czech Republic, where the tradition originally comes from anyway. The new owners have built a new visitors centre in town where you can see it being made. Personally I find their usual stuff to be quite clunky and ugly, although Jasper Conran did a few nice pieces. Apparently there’s a huge market for it in the States where there is still a big market for kitsch. The town is also famous for the tall ships race at the end of June year.

Just over the road from the bus station is a small modern museum housing the city’s treasures and tourist nformation centre, although it seems this will be moving soon. There is a nice cafe inside the museum too if you want somewhere to have lunch while you’re waiting for a bus.

Sadly the place I used to stay, the gourmet boutique hotel Arlington Lodge, burned down in 2009 due to an electrical fault. However their recommended substitute, the high end B&B Belmont House in Kings Channel, owned and run by the Tritschler family, is a great substitute.

It’s a little hard to find as the house has no number but if you ask the taxi to turn left at #58 Kings Channel and go up the side street you will see it at the end through the gateposts (there is no sign). The modern building you will be staying in (designed by Martin Tritschler who is an architect) is behind the first grey ivy-covered house. They didn’t answer the phone when I called but I just knocked and went in. A North Waterford taxi (086 405 5989) is just over €10 from the bus station.

Mary Tritchler and her family are very hospitable and did their utmost to make me feel at home, as well as giving me lots of suggestions for things to do and places to eat. There’s a bicycle you can borrow which may come in handy as the B&B is about 20 minutes from any facilities. However the house is very near the river and you can get a nice run or walk in along the bank. All the rooms have internet and there’s a small swimming pool in the garden. Mary is a well-known water colour painter and many of her works are on the walls. The bill she gave me was on the back of one of her beautiful prints.

The family are self-sufficient in many fruit and vegetables and nearly everything we ate from their garden was organic, except the potatoes which are sprayed for blight. Every morning we breakfasted like kings on wonderful brown and white bread, cooked hams, cheeses, stewed gooseberries, fresh blueberries, and my favourite, hot stewed plums with cinnamon. If Mary offers to cook for you in the evening, jump at the opportunity as her food is much better than anything the local restaurants can offer. On one night we had a wonderful rack of lamb with garden veg, and on another, a delicious vegetable paella.

The nearest restaurant to the Tritschlers is Bellissimo (at the roundabout by Waterford Hospital, opposite Lidl), belies its name by serving food which is neither beautiful nor particularly Italian. My chicken with grilled vegetables turned out to be chunks of chicken, veg and melted cheese on some circular bread they called focaccia which was edible(C) but not what I had hoped it would be. The nearby posh supermarket Ardkeen sells wine and has a cash point next door. The sprawling Uluru pub over the road serves a decent pint but the food is pretty bog-standard pub fare. The Cove pub opposite has a more pleasant but still modern atmosphere.

For good pubs and restaurants however you must take the forty minute walk into town:

Bodega (Intermediate A), 54 St John’s St, Tel. 051 844177

This nice little place has friendly service and a good atmosphere. It seems very popular so you should probably book. I had the Fish Chowder to start which was fine (B).

For my main, Mussels in a cream sauce (B) with some mediocre chips (C) on the side.

Mussels in Cream Sauce

My friends had the Fish Pie which tasted like the chowder but with added cheese. All this washed down with a couple of pints of my favourite Murphy’s stout. A basically okay if unspectacular meal.

Just over the road from Bodega at 8/9 St John’s St is Geoff’s, a legendary local pub which has been feeding and watering the locals for years.


I’ve not eaten there but it’s a great place for a pint with its dark woody atmosphere. This bit of town can get a bit rowdy on weekend nights so for a more peaceful evening out you could hop in a cab to Dunmore East (see previous post).

Dunmore Eats

Posted in Dunmore East, Ireland, Waterford on August 28, 2011 by gannet39

Dunmore East is a pretty fishing village about 20 minutes from Waterford (around €25 in a cab).


It’s a picturesque spot with thatched cottages , a small harbour and a pretty coastline of sandy coves cutting into stratified cliffs of grey and reddish rock. People come here from all over Ireland for a seaside escape.


I’ve eaten a couple of times at The Strand Inn, which describes itself as one of the best seafood restaurants in Ireland.

The Strand Inn

The window tables and outside terrace have nice views over the largest cove and the broad sandy beach.

The beach
Sadly the food was a bit of a letdown and in 2010 four of us scored our respective mains of (pre-shelled) prawns in garlic, monkfish, and lobster a rather sad C.

However the starters of steamed mussels (supposedly with ginger and black beans but more noticeably in stock with cream) were great and got an A from two of us.

Mussels in cream sauce
The three bottles of Chilean Villa Montes Cabernet Sauvignon we got through were also very nice. The bill came to about €45 each for two courses and wine.
In 2011 two of us had the Plaice, rolled and stuffed with minced prawn and crab, and scored it a B but three others had the fish pie which was obviously out of the freezer and quite watery and so only got a C.

These came with a huge overkill of good potatoes in various forms, the garlic and buttered versions being the best, and a tiny plate of mediocre steamed veg.


However, the service has always been pleasant, if overbusy as the pub is usually overun with locals and visitors. We had to wait 20 minutes as they’d mislaid our reservation.
The Guinness was a great consolation of course and a shot of Red Breast 12 year-old Irish Malt hit the spot.

Red Breast 12 year-old

I’d definitely come again but perhaps seek suggestions next time, or choose from the specials board which we noticed hanging below the bar on the way out, the waitress and manager having been too busy to point it out. A chaotic but lovely spot, which I’d be happy to go back to.

The gang

Making the most of Midleton

Posted in Ireland, Midleton with tags , , , , on September 11, 2010 by gannet39

The best place in town to eat is the Farmgate Restaurant on Broderick St (fairly soon on the right when you turn off Main St). Sadly however it was fully booked when I went on spec on a Saturday and is closed Sunday and Monday so I didn’t get to try it.  Tel. 021 427 8134

A bright modern alternative with friendly service is Raymond’s on Distillery walk (just before you get to the distillery), also just off Main St. Before the main event they give you some wonderfully dense brown bread and a tray of olive oil, butter and chilli sauce spread and, unusually, a lemon sorbet, presumably to cleanse the palate. I had the sirloin steak (overdone despite my request for rare, but still a good B) with caramelised onions, mash and seasonal veg, alongside an excellent half bottle of Rioja Crianza, which came to €38.50 in all. On Sunday night it loses the tablecloths and has a different menu but the food is still good. I had a Caesar’s salad with spicy succulent chicken with garlic bread and a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (both A) for €25. Closed Mondays.

There’s a decent Chinese called Majesty just a few doors down and on the same side as Farmgate on Broderick St.  The sauce on my Chicken Satay tasted of curry but the chicken was succulent and good quality. The Singapore noodles are pretty good too (B+). It came to €25 with a Tsing Tao beer.

To save money you could eat in the hotel carvery. For lunch on Saturday I had the roast lamb with all the trimmings which was fine (B) and on Sunday the beef (C), both of which cost around €13. The standard hotel fare was not as good on Sunday perhaps because it was so busy.

There are lots of other restaurants on Main St, and a chippy at #40, although many are closed on Mondays.

If you are in a car, the Woodside in the nearby village of Saleen looks very nice and gets great reviews.

Mc Daids near the end of Main St is an atmospheric pub in a beautiful building although given the crowds outside, Wallis’ bar over the road seems to have a better craic. It also seems to have other roles as an estate agents, auctioneers and undertakers!


As regards things to do, you could go on the distillery tour but I didn’t bother as it isn’t actually a working distillery.

Here are some reviews of the tour by other people.

On Saturdays there is also a farmer’s market near the hotel but it finishes at 3pm.

You can catch the bus to Cork right outside the hotel. If you are on the bus from Waterford (they leave once an hour on the hour from the bus station on the quay) to Cork, you can actually get off in Midleton, although this fact isn’t well advertised (I missed the stop). Otherwise a taxi from Cork bus station takes about 20 minutes and costs about €30, or you can get the bus.

The Midleton Park Hotel is the best place to stay in town. It has an excellent gym with plenty of jogging machines and other equipment, and also a large swimming pool, although it’s full of kids at the weekend. Breakfast is fairly comprehensive though the full Irish is fairly average with overdone eggs and mediocre black and white puddings and sausages. The bacon is great though and you get an acre of toast. The rooms all have free wi-fi.

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