Where and what to eat and drink in Dublin

by Chloë King 10 November 2021

Temple Bar and the Guinness Storehouse might attract the majority of tourists, but for food-lovers in the know there’s a huge amount to see and taste during a trip to Dublin. Chloe King takes to the city streets and shares her top picks.

Writer and illustrator Chloe King is founder of the food lovers’ book club Cook the Books.

Writer and illustrator Chloe King is founder of the food lovers’ book club Cook the Books. A member of the Guild of Food Writers and a Royal College of Art graduate, Chloe is happiest working on projects that combine her love of food and cooking with her interest in art and culture, people and places. Based in East Sussex, Chloe's freelance portfolio spans graphic art, journalism, events management and lecturing.

Ask any Dubliner what they love most about their city and they’ll say the people, the character, the community, the pubs. The Stag’s Head, The Palace Bar and Brazen Head (along with, of course, the world-famous Temple Bar on Temple Lane) are some of a number to become icons in their own right, beloved for the comfiness, the music, the conversation. And if it’s snugs you’re after, then welcome. Walsh’s Stoneybatter is an award-winning contender, as is Toners on Baggot Street.

It’s possible to get a taste for the city in a day but remember there’s so much more to drink in than the Guinness Storehouse. A longer trip will reward with the chance to explore the suburbs. Each district has its own gems and an ever-growing list of amazing places to eat – from Mamo in Howth to the urban farm and gardens of Airfield Estate.

At the epicentre, the former distilling quarter The Liberties is undergoing revival and investment to develop creative and cultural business. The vibe is akin to parts of New York, with streets peppered with buzzy, arty cafes like The Fumbally, Hen’s Teeth and Two Pups. A visit should include a stop at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, now offering a visitor experience spanning centuries of history.

A large number of markets are held each week, with farmers’ markets in Stoneybatter, Balbriggan and Leopardstown. Eatyard is a bumper brand comprising a permanent food market in D9 and a bevy of other events and enterprises all over the city. Moore Street Market is a place to stock up on fresh produce and international ingredients. Temple Bar and Bushy Park Markets are the place to go for artisan goods or street food.

The area around Grafton Street, the original creative hub, still has a great number of owner-run eateries. A nostalgic trip to D2 should include a stop at Cornucopia, the original vegan and wholefoods store, and the historic Bewley’s.

Dublin food was for a long time dominated by French cuisine and there remains an abundance of high-end restaurants in this mould, notably Pichet, Dax or Mr Fox. Happily, a sea change has taken place and now every taste and craving can be catered to. A small selection includes Shouk for Middle Eastern food, Musashi for sushi, China Sichuan, or Ka Shing for delicious dim sum (the sister restaurant, Hong Kong Taste Bakery & Bubble Tea, is also worth a stop for moon cakes and egg tarts).

This great diversity of food and feeling makes Dublin an exciting city, but it also creates a harder job for anyone tasked with distilling it. The following, therefore, is merely a shot.

Spitalfields

Stephen McAllister and Andrea Hussey are quite a force on the Dublin food scene. Their original creation The Pig’s Ear has held a Michelin Bib Gourmand since 2009, and Spitalfields nabbed one too this year. Set in an historic pub, Spitalfields retains everything of the intrinsic character and adds exceptional food served from an open kitchen. ‘Our ethos is just to come in and enjoy yourself,’ explains Stephen. ‘Leave your troubles at the door, sit down and we’ll look after you.’ The menu makes quality local ingredients most homely. ‘Our starting point would have been from nostalgia,’ says Stephen. ‘What would granny cook for you?’ Unsurprising then, that popular dishes include cock-a-leekie pie – sister to the shepherd’s pie made famous at The Pig’s Ear – and pork schnitzel, which this autumn is served with wild mushrooms and redcurrants. All of this comes together to create ‘bottom line, tasty’ food in a cosy space. ‘You don’t want to leave,’ says Stephen. ‘Even for us working there, time just flies.’

Ananda

Since launching his first George’s Street restaurant in 1998, Asheesh Dewan has vastly contributed to Dublin’s transformation into a food lover’s destination city. Three of his four award-winning restaurants are listed in the Michelin Guide and Ananda, for the sake of choosing just one, has a prime spot in the plush suburb of Dundrum. The seasonal tasting menu changes every six weeks while the a la carte features traditional classics – think butter chicken and dal makhani – and innovations such as Irish Boer goat leg with wild moss masala rub. The best Irish produce is used wherever possible, to create a uniquely tempting interpretation of pan-Indian cuisine. As Dewan explains, ‘At the soul of each restaurant’s offering are traditional Indian flavours, just a tad more progressive and dynamic in style. If my mother walked into Ananda and tasted a dish, she would still understand its origins, roots, the provenance of the spices, or the flavours themselves. That’s always been a really important thing for me.’

Chapter One

Ross Lewis’s Michelin-starred restaurant is one of the jewels in Dublin’s crown and since Mickael Viljanen took over as chef-patron you will be lucky to get a table. Having held two stars at The Greenhouse, the move marks a new chapter for both restaurant and chef although Viljanen shuns the idea of ‘a journey’. ‘If I ever go to a restaurant and somebody calls my meal a journey, I leave,’ he says. ‘Sometimes people forget what restaurants are about. [They’re] about going out, eating and having a great night out. It’s not meant to be a temple of silence, I want people to have a good time and enjoy themselves.’ The experience at Chapter One, you might say, is as uncomplicated as it is finessed. Dishes based on classical technique are matched by knowledgeable and genial service. A highlight of the autumn menu is roasted saddle of hare, cooked on the bone and finished on the barbecue with celeriac and pear. ‘It’s proper cooking,’ says Viljanen. ‘It’s not smoke and mirrors, it’s really good produce, cooked with care and served with great, proper Irish hospitality.’

The Winding Stair

Elaine Murphy is proprietor of four outstanding yet accessible restaurants that includes The Winding Stair, overlooking the river Liffey and iconic Ha'penny bridge. Originally a bookshop and café beloved of writers and artists, The Winding Stair is named after the Yeats poem and indeed, its very own winding stair. Murphy, an academic, selected the venue for the special connection she formed there during her student days, and has retained the bookshop on the first floor. ‘My idea was that it should be a ‘grown up’ version of what it had been,’ she says. ‘Not too fussy and with a definite nod to its literary and cultural history.’ Like all of Murphy’s venues, The Winding Stair prioritises new and artisanal producers and puts care to match food with the perfect wine or glass of beer. ‘Ireland is a hotbed of innovative, small producers who are the real inspiration for our food and style,’ she says. ‘The Winding Stair is all about local, Irish, simple, honest food without too much ‘cheffiness’ or ego.’

The Pepper Pot

Owner Marian Kilcoyne and Dervla James, now of the popular Pudding Row in Sligo, opened The Pepper Pot in the Georgian Powerscourt Townhouse back in 2010. Kilcoyne’s training at Ballymaloe instilled a passion for quality home cooking, a field-to-fork ethos, and the inspiration to join the many entrepreneurial women working in food across Ireland. ‘People had become more interested in small producers and lots of little creative places were opening up,’ she explains. ‘We knew we wanted the backbone of the café to be the bakery. We wanted everything to be served on bread or with bread, and then we just made everything by hand.’ Over the years The Pepper Pot has retained its friendly neighbourhood vibe and handmade touch. You might enjoy their bestselling pear, bacon and cheddar sandwich, a bagel with Burren Smokehouse salmon, cream cheese and pickled cucumber or even a loaf of sourdough to go from their new hatch in Georges Street Arcade. ‘It’s like walking into your granny’s kitchen and having a cup of tea and a Victoria sponge,’ says Kilcoyne, ‘but a little bit fancy!’

Oliveto

Head chef Barry O’Neill worked at Andy McFadden’s L'Autre Pied in London and the celebrated Bastible in Dublin before taking on the restaurant at Haddington House about three years ago. Oliveto was originally a family pasta and pizza restaurant with a beer garden and O’Neill has helped to transform the offering, creating a modern Irish-Italian menu and stunning afternoon teas. The Oliveto terrace has beautiful sea views – a rare find in Dublin given the city’s proximity to the sea – and there is a strong emphasis on fresh seafood, some of which is cooked on a Japanese konro barbecue. Antipasti boards feature their own sourdough and focaccia as well as house-made venison bresaola, coppa and salt-cured Ardarl Farm pork. ‘I went in with a loose idea to refine what we were doing and improve everything across the board,’ says O’Neill. ‘The area is beautiful, influenced by the sea, with people swimming every morning, the mountains behind us… We use what Ireland has available, and present it in an Italian way that would be familiar, but not necessarily traditional.’

Forest Avenue

Inspired by neighbourhood eateries of Queens NYC, John and Sandy Wyer brought the trailblazing Forest Avenue to the pretty suburb of Dublin 4 in 2013. Designed to offer a blend of informal and high end, the restaurant ‘came from our soul’, says John. During the pandemic they made the bold decision to pivot completely, turning their main premises into an artisan deli and grocery, and their wine bar, Forest & Mercy, into a compact version of the original restaurant. John’s sourdough bread has since grown a cult following, scaling from six to 100 loaves a day since the shop opened, and is the perfect companion to their gourmet ready meals, condiments, and deli products. The restaurant brings together intimate counter-style dining and romantic touches such as a goodie bag containing flower seeds, sourdough starter and breakfast treats to go. Though not exclusively plant-based, their tasting menus embrace vegan dishes such as coal-baked beetroot tartare with plums and hawthorn vinegar. John’s favourite dish this autumn is Sandy’s Japanese milk bread made with her own-brand Dublin oat milk, pumpkin miso, ice cream and custard.