Map guide: the best restaurants, bars and food shops in Dublin

by Josh Barrie 22 Oct 2018

My first visit to Dublin was a long time ago. In an eating sense, I didn’t get very far – some fine fish and chips washed down with a few pints. And a visit to Chapter One, one of the city’s most celebrated and famous institutions. It was breathtaking. I hear it still is. The original trip proved a clichéd but healthy experience. It was also a little limited. Not that the city was astutely pared back all those years ago – it’s just now Dublin’s dining scene is blooming near-uncontrollably. You need far longer than a long weekend to even begin breathing it in.

It would be lazy to compare the eclectic nature of what’s happening in Dublin to the goings-on of London. And it would be boring to talk of its diversity and bustling nature. Sigh. The most exciting thing about Dublin, to me, is how juxtaposed it still is – London’s history, in part, is being washed away. Dublin doesn’t seem to be sacrificing quite as much. And despite its restaurants being progressive, I don’t think Ireland’s capital has any of the taxing pretentiousness pockets London has.

These are merely outside observations. In Dublin, I’m a slapdash tourist. But after my last two visits – for transparency, I should say one was fully funded by the Irish Tourist Board – I felt I had the beginnings of an understanding. Certainly, I’d have a few ideas for where to send someone if they asked me where to eat. These aren’t the locals’ hidden gems, but they’re a very good place to start.

1. The Hairy Lemon

I’m not sure how many books have been and could be written on Dublin’s pubs. I’m sure even those born and bred in the city haven’t visited every one. When I arrived, The Hairy Lemon – old, crooked and wooden – was the first pub I saw after dropping my bags off at the hotel. It has a great crowd – a strong blend of regulars, young professionals and a few willing but not unruly tourists. On Sundays through to Tuesdays there are free traditional music sessions which aren’t to be missed, and the beer list offers tradition and interesting newer styles. Rockshore Lager might not be your thing, but it’s definitely mine.

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Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

2. Mr Fox

North of the river, in Dublin 1, you’ll find Mr Fox, which is in an altogether more relaxed setting. It’s a neighbourhood sort of restaurant and all the better for it. The pasta, delicate and precise, is a must – a little taste of Italy, only better than a lot of the pasta over there. Meat is justified too – done simply and respectfully, perhaps straddling gloriously crisp potatoes and onions of some description. Mr Fox is relaxed fine dining, and it’s great fun. You might also want to check out the group’s sister restaurant, The Pig’s Ear, which came first. I’ve not managed to go, but it comes recommended by good people.

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38 Parnell Square W, Rotunda, Dublin, Ireland

3. Delahunt

Back down in the busier part of the city is Delahunt. It’s an upmarket restaurant and excellently presented, making good use of its history and original Victorian features. Actually, it’s probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Dinner is upmarket and undoubtedly worth trying. I’m afraid I only managed lunch. Not that I’m complaining – the fish finger sandwich delivers everything desired of such a dish, as does the potato soup, slap full of cheese and onion. You’ll probably want a cocktail if you stay a while. They’re class.

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39 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin's, Dublin

4. Gallagher’s Boxty House

Ideal for anyone with a hangover, or anyone totally sober but hungry, is Gallagher’s Boxty House. As well as elevating the potato to its required authority, you’ll find moreish onion rings, fresh mussels and bouncy oysters, as well as flavourful cabbage nuzzling sausages in pungent aroma. If you make it down, you’ll also need to order ham in parsley sauce with carrots and mash. This is one of the greatest dishes in the world. Gallagher’s does it pretty well.

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20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

5. Sheridans

Sheridans is a famous cheese shop in the centre of Dublin. It sells the best of Ireland and top picks from elsewhere, including British and French classics. Two of the most popular native cheeses are Cashel Blue and Milleens – if you’ve not heard of these, you’ve been hiding in the wrong cave, frankly. There are many more to discover. Wicklow Blue Brie would give any other of its band a run for its money. Another one to look out for is Cais na Tire, which is a very clean, earthy sheep’s milk cheese. I adore it. It’s a bit like walking through an orchard while chewing on a bit of creamy hay.

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11 Anne St S, Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

6. Klaw

I didn’t make it to Niall Sabongi’s Seafood Cafe but have been reliably informed of its reliability. I did catch the launch of Klaw, however, his other project which was – and still is – dishing up fresh oysters from Galway Bay, Waterford, Dooncastle and the Flaggy Shore. I had mine with homemade white wine vinegar, wispy strands of dill and tiny cubes of cucumber. Klaw does lobster rolls, crab and chowder too. Have any one or more of these after a few oysters.

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5A Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland

7. The Fish Shop

There are all manner of places to get satisfying fish and chips in Dublin. Flakes of hake, cod and plaice aren’t hard to find, nor are soft chips – proper ones, which welcome salt and vinegar and the shards of crumbly batter that escape their fishy bedding as if old friends. I went to the Fish Shop on Benburb Street. It serves more than the old classic, including succulent Kilkeel crab and fluffy pollock croquettes. But it’s hard to look past the catch of the day and its inviting tartare sauce. Don’t ignore the wine list, by the way.

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76 Benburb St, Smithfield, Dublin 7, Ireland

8. Mary's

Mary’s is a lively spot that lends itself unapologetically to late night revelry. Many bars do in Dublin, funnily enough. I found Mary’s, on buzzing Wicklow Street, charming and silly. To be clear, it will probably be raucous. It’s quite heavily contrived. But it’s historic too, and the booze selection is disastrous in its extensiveness. Sink a few poitín (a traditional Irish spirit) and try to remember where your hotel is.

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8 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

9. Bastible

You’ll have to travel down to south Dublin to reach Bastible, a charming, candlelit type of place which is simply done but doesn’t by any means serve simple food. The restaurant is expressive and fluid, with separate menus for weekdays and weekends, lunchtimes and evenings. Bastible is fiercely modern, though not experimental to the point of becoming challenging and fussy. Ingredients are really respected here – perhaps no more than at Sunday lunch, where snacks and four courses will set you back less than forty euros.

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111 South Circular Road, Wood Quay, Dublin, Ireland

10. EatYard

EatYard is Dublin’s outdoor homage to street trucks and vendors. There is a prolific selection of food on offer, which you’ll find thrust within iron and sitting under fairy lights – as is customary at venues such as this – north of the river. Think bao buns and big sausage rolls. EatYard, for clarity, is a recommendation from friends. I'll visit next time for sure.

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Richmond St S, Saint Kevin's, Dublin, Ireland

11. Murphy’s

You cannot visit Dublin and fail to pop into Murphy’s. The ice cream is nothing short of majestic. If you consider for a moment how good Irish dairy products are – milk is thick and creamy, butter is rich and flavourful – there’s no surprise to the quality bestowed. Also, the blends at the parlour are fun and unrestricted, which combines tradition and countryside Irishness with the modernity of the city. I had one made with Dingle gin, which was boozy and luscious, then had another one, and then tried the Caife, which is deep and rich with whiskey. It is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

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27 Wicklow St, Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland