Dublin’s healthy sprinkling of Michelin stars tends to attract most of the foodie headlines, but there’s far more than high-end restaurants to tempt visitors, with a creative range of cafés, delis, gastropubs and food markets all adding to the current appeal. Dublin expert Ben Lerwill reveals his favourite food spots in the Irish capital.
Markets and street food
For those who like their eating informal, inexpensive or on the move, Dublin has some excellent markets to explore. A good place to start is the CoCo Market (Peoples’ Park) in Dun Laoghaire, which runs from 11am until 4pm every Sunday. The mix of stalls, which encompasses Japanese, Pakistani, Greek, Polish and Lebanese, provides rich evidence of Dublin’s multicultural flavours.
Just as worth knowing about is the Irish Farmers’ Market (Howth Harbour) in the coastal suburb of Howth – it’s open on Saturdays and Sundays and gives the chance to pick up the likes of cheese, olives, cupcakes and handmade chocolates. Also running at weekends is the far more centrally located Temple Bar Food Market (Meeting House Square), where you’ll find everything from organic veg and artisan bread to Atlantic shellfish and wild flowers.
Other weekend options include the Marlay Park Market (Marlay Park) and the Red Stables Food Market (Red Stables Courtyard, St Anne’s Park). A few tips for specific stalls? The praise comes in thick and fast for Dabba, found at Howth at Sundays and wildly popular for its Irish meat tandooris and lemonade, Karuna’s Kitchen, which sells vegetarian ethnic food at Temple Bar on Saturdays and CoCo on Sundays, and the award-winning Dux & Co, dishing up beef meatballs in a tomato, vodka and mascarpone sauce on Carmanhall Road in Sandyford every Friday lunchtime.
Trails and schools
Why just walk when you can walk and eat? Fabulous Food Trails (44 Oakley Road, 01 497 1245) organise a range of food-themed walking tours around Dublin. Lasting two and a half hours, their trails visit bread shops, food markets and cheesemongers, highlighting the kind of tucked-away treasures that would otherwise remain off-radar. Their Howth-based trail, which runs over the summer months, is a great bet for seafood lovers.
For those who are at their happiest in the kitchen, there are various cookery schools of note: among them, Cooks Academy (19 South William Street, 01 611 1666) has weekend workshops on everything from chocolate to Thai cuisine; The Kitchen In The Castle Cookery School (Howth Castle, 01 839 6182) runs courses from the old Georgian kitchen at Howth Castle; and the aptly named Lovely Food Co (14 Terenure Road West, 01 492 7717) holds relaxed Monday evening courses at its restaurant. Book early.
Top lunch spots
Dublin has some genuinely great cafés. Vying for the title of the most colourful is Foam Cafe (24 Strand Street Great, 085 789 1180), a trinket-box of kitsch décor, creamy pastas and homemade breads. Just as notable is The Cake Café (Daintree Building, Pleasants Place, 01 478 9394), which as well as serving up all manner of buns, loaves and other sugared delicacies does a mean line in comfort lunches – the beans on toast (cannellini beans with tomato and chunks of sausage) is particularly renowned.
There’s also fast food with a difference at Jo’Burger (137 Rathmines Road, 01 491 3731), where the rightly lauded burgers are all made with organic beef and toppings range from goats’ cheese to harissa mint aioli. And if posh fish and chips sounds more your thing, Bite Dublin (29 South Frederick Street, 01 679 7000) serves lunches from midday on Fridays and Saturdays – variations include grilled sea bass with sweet potato and a “bite fish burger” with truffle and parmesan chips.
Away from the city centre, Salt Cafe (The Crescent, Monkstown, 01 202 0230) has a delicious seafood board and quality home cooking – try the Castletownbere crab salad. The café is located in a large food hall, so you can do a bit of browsing too.
An evening out
Currently almost drowning under local plaudits is the new Fade Street Social (Fade Street, 01 604 0066), a two-restaurant project from Irish MasterChef judge Dylan McGrath – choose from The Gastro Bar, which dishes up a pick ’n’ mix of inventive tapas including pumpkin macaroni, and The Restaurant, which showcases uncomplicated home-grown produce.
For good Mediterranean food and no-fuss service, Coppinger Row (off South William Street, 01 672 9884) has a menu featuring the likes of spiced lamb flatbread with sheep’s cheese and also prides itself on its largely self-created cocktails.
Still Dublin’s top dog, at least where the formal fine-dining accolades are concerned, is Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud (21 Upper Merrion Street, 01 676 4192), the only restaurant in Ireland with two Michelin stars and a place where a two-course meal of six Carlingford oysters followed by glazed Wicklow red deer will set you back €85.
Also keen on seasonal Irish produce is the excellent Winding Stair (40 Lower Ormond Quay, 01 872 7320). Part-bookshop, part-restaurant, it offers what it rather modestly refers to as “good old-fashioned homemade grub” and places an emphasis on food-matched ales and beers. A further new restaurant getting plenty of local recommendations is Rustic Stone (17 South George’s Street, 01 707 9596), another brainchild of the aforementioned Dylan McGrath. Specialities include halibut with walnut relish and rib-eye of beef with a prawn glaze – meat and fish dishes are cooked on hot stones at the table.
Elsewhere, for visitors in search of attractive fixed-price menus, The Pig’s Ear (4 Nassau Street, 01 670 3865) offers early evening deals from 5.30pm to 6.30pm, and there are also early-bird menus at Hugo’s (6 Merrion Row, 01 676 5955) and the very cool Odessa (14 Dame Court, 01 670 7634).