Taste Dublin – Episode 1: My Favourite Restaurants
I am often asked for restaurant recommendations and this post aims to tell you a bit more about my favourite restaurants.
A few people can pique my interest when it comes to trying new places to eat. Two of these are food reviewer Joanne Cronin and Irish Times writer Marie Claire Digby. I am safe in the knowledge that what they like, I like, which means that I follow them both avidly and I suggest you do the same.
Some of the restaurants listed below come from recommendations I took from Joanne and Marie Claire. No regrets so far.
Eating out is or should always be a treat. A bad restaurant meal is one of the sorest let downs when it comes to food. It cuts me to the quick and bothers me greatly. This is maybe one of the reasons why I will always seek recommendations from someone I trust before trying somewhere new. I am very unlikely to just walk in somewhere random from the street.
If you are of a similar disposition, you might find the below list useful. I won’t go into which one is my favourite, all I will say is that I strongly encourage you try one or all. If (and when) you do, please let me know how you got on. I like to know I’m right.
I am a Dubliner, and even worse, I am a southsider so I have listed these restaurants from the closest to Liffey to the furthest.
Bread & Bones
Ok, ok, you caught me, they’re on the north side, but ain’t no river deep enough to keep me away from their fluffy clouds of happiness (aka baos) filled with their twice cooked pork belly with peanut sauce.
Klaw Seafood Cafe
Niall Sabongi is the man behind Klaw Seafood Cafe and he is primarily a seafood man, Klaw Seafood is a casual restaurant in the heart of temple bar. It looks like a hawaian diner, or what I think a hawaian diner would look like. The staff is warm and friendly and are well versed on the menu. Most dishes on the menu contain some kind of seafood sourced locally and sustainably. If you’re after a steak and chips or vegetarian food, this is probably not the place for you. A few things on the menu stand out for me: the oysters which are fresh and morish; the cod croquettes are salty and remind me of holidays in Portugal, the crab macaroni and cheese is comfort in a small dish and the irish whiskey plums are unreal.
You would walk passed this Vietnamese restaurant on Golden Lane and not look twice. It’s tucked on the side of the Radisson blue and doesn’t look like much. In tried it just before Christmas as I figured I would be able to get a last minute table to have dinner with friends. And I did. I’ve never seen that place too full and it’s a real shame. The food is absolutely gorgeous and the service really lovely if quite quirky. They serve all the starters together and then the mains are brought to the table one after the other. It’s not the quickest service so don’t go there if you’re in a hurry but the food is worth it. It’s fresh and fragrant. The menu is really varied and comes with pictures of each dish, which as you know is rarely a good sign. In this case, all is forgiven. The fried buttered banana for dessert are worth the trip alone.
The Lucky Tortoise Dumpling Company
This relatively new modern dimsum place is the labour of Thom Dawson, a London expat and a very welcome and enthusiastic addition to the Dublin restaurant scenes. This restaurant started as a pop up in the Hill Pub in Ranelagh but fast moved to an evening residency in the Hobarts Cafe further up the road. The Lucky Tortoise is currently on a reduced schedule so check their facebook page to make sure you don’t turn up to a closed door. The food is fanastic and is served family style. For 20 euro, you get a mountain of small plates covered in the most delicious dumplings. A firm favourite is the spring onion pancake. Simple but superb.
Thom tells me that he’s currently working on a second food business. I’m eagerly awaiting an update as the man sure can cook.
I was very sad to read that Joe Macken had put Bear, his meat restaurant, in hibernation but quite curious to see what Hey Donna would turn out to be. Tucked away discretely, on the main street in Rathmines, Hey Donna replaces Joe Burger. One thing I’ve learned from Joe Macken’s restaurants is that he knows good food and he is well versed in turning a simple menu into a meal you’ll remember. The other thing I like, is that none of his restaurants are expensive, which means they are an affordable treat.
Hey Donna celebrates vegetables like not many restaurants I know of. None of the dishes are complicated but each one is a revelation. The flavour combinations are bold and memorable. This is a restaurant I want to bring my meat loving friends to and watch them devour vegetables with meat as the side dish. I’m not being mean here, I know they will like it as much as I do. Hey Donna makes you think about meal planning differently. It’s also somewhere that inspires me to cook more which is a great thing in my book. Finally extra bonus points for using mainly irish products. It’s great to see a restaurant using Velvet Cloud sheep yoghurt. Having met the owners of the farm I know the effort and goodness that goes in that product and I’m so glad to see it on plates in the finest establishments.
When we were there recently, the maitre d’hotel explained that Ananda means joy or bliss in Hindee. The place, is indeed, very well named.
Every bite of every dish is exquisite and exciting. The colours, the smells, the textures and the tastes, everything is just perfect. In Ananda, you will get the type of meal that will stay with you for a very long time. At 50 euro per head, their tasting menu is incredible value (it will be 85 if you want the paired wine experience). The chef responsible for each dish comes to your table to explain the course. I was smiling for hours after having eaten there a couple of weeks ago. I simply cannot recommend it enough.
Michael’s Mount Merrion
I know what you’re saying, who in their right mind would find themselves in Mount Merrion for food? Well let me tell you about Michael’s.
Michael’s will give you great food but more importantly, Michael’s is all about the staff and the atmosphere. It’s a small venue, the second you walk in you see people eating happily and having a good time. If you’ve been there more than once, you will get the warmest of welcomes from Tahla (the manager) and the rest of the staff. Gaz, the head chef, is one of life’s great feeders. He just wants you to eat and be happy.
Although Gaz will cater for any diet on request (vegetarians, vegans, allergies and so on), the menu concentrates on the freshest of seafood (crab and lobsters are caugh daily around Lambay island) and the most tender of meats. And then there is butter, lots and lots of amazing butter.
Gaz set out to create a quality but affordable neighbourhood restaurant, and within the space of 6 months, he has done just that. He’s wildly passionate about Irish seafood and his community spirit is second to none. He puts his money where his mouth is. In November, if children ordered seafood, it was on the house. At christmas, he was handing out free goose fat. It’s the little things that counts, and every time you go there, you will get a little extra treat and you will feel taken care off and full of delicious food.
Chance is, if you go there, you’ll find me at one of the corner tables as I pop in fairly regularly for a Talhatini and some buttered everything.