A brand new year is always a great opportunity to start planning some catch ups, celebrations and just nice evenings out! Across Ireland there is a plethora of fantastic places to eat and drink, from fine dining restaurants and casual bistros, to gastro pubs and cafes.
This week, Ray Foley was joined by Corrina Hardgrave, restaurant critic for The Irish Times. He was fascinated by work done by food critics. From the fake names on bookings, to the differences of enjoying a meal when Corrina is on the job and when she is not. A really fascinating chat which you can listen back to by pressing play below.
As it's an exciting time to dine out around Ireland, Today FM have rounded up five restaurants across Ireland which have been getting plenty of food writers, journalists and influencers in print and online very excited. Here they are.
Ichigo Ichie Bistro & Natural Wine, Cork
Chef Takashi Miyazaki has been an integral part of Cork's dining scene for some years now. His casual Japanese take-away. Miyazaki is a favourite spot for many people visiting the city. In 2019, his fine dining restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, on Fenn's Quay was awarded a Michelin star. The restaurant combined traditional and modern Japanese techniques with top Irish ingredients and was a truly special experience. The name translates as "once in a lifetime" and it really felt like it. However, in late 2023, Takashi announced that the restaurant would be changing strategy, offering "local, casual style food, fun and sustainability, starting from small and sharing plates to rice bowl dishes and the first ever in Ireland “Teuchi soba” (handmade buckwheat noodles) dishes”. An exciting time for the dining scene in Cork.
Back in 2020, Allta opened it's doors in the space now occupied by Library St on Setanta Place. It got off to a flying start, then the pandemic hit. Some quick thinking and planning led to the launch of the infamous 'allta box" - a meal kit, delivered nationwide, featuring some restaurant quality food, expertly curated wines all coupled with instructions on how to prepare it in your own kitchen. Fast forward a year, and before the turn of Harry Styles headlining Slane Castle, it was all about the Allta Summer House. A brief spell on the roof of Trinity Street Car Park followed before Chef Niall Davidson and team settled on this latest, permanent iteration. Located in Dublin's Capital Dock, the menu is a diverse range of dishes. From a sea bass crudo, to a shitake bolognese, and ex-dairy cow t-bone cooked over the flames. This is already proving popular a few short weeks in.
Homestead Cottage, Doolin, Co Clare
Robbie McCauley’s restaurant in this beautiful part of the country has been receiving plaudits left, right and centre, including getting a nod by the Michelin Guide in late 2023.
Set in a charming 200 year-old traditional stone cottage, expect some exceptional cooking cooking showcasing the very best local and in-season ingredients, including a wide variety of homegrown produce from the Robbie and his wife Sophie's own one-acre plot close by. Ray's guest, Corrina Hardgrave reviewed it back in July 2023.
Galway City and County both offer some exceptional dining experiences, from the likes of Kai and Aniar in the city, to more casual destinations like Pota Cafe in Baile na hAbhann to the hugely popular Misunderstood Heron overlooking Killary Fjord in Leenaun. But Darog which opened last year on Dominick St Lower is definitely a spot to have on your radar. Offering a range of artisanal, biodynamic, organic and natural wines served alongside a selection of cheese & meat boards and small plates such as Dexter beef tartare or chicken yakitori with homemade kimchi.
Around a twenty minute drive from Belfast City Centre (or a quick train journey on the Belfast to Bangor line) is the town of Holywood. Much like it's (almost) namesake in the states, it's full of stars. But rather than movies, it's brilliant restaurants, which for a small town away outside the city, is very impressive. Noble is probably the most well known with its stunning take on modern European food, while newer kid on the block, Frae, has firmly become favourites of the area. But Lynchpin is one to pull focus on. Described by John & Sally McKenna of the much acclaimed McKenna Guides as "Chapter One for vegans", this plant based focused restaurant is offering brunch, lunch and dinners. It's been open since 2021, and offers exciting veggie and vegan dishes as well as themed evenings featuring the likes of Korean and Italian cuisines.
Press play below to listen to the full chat with Corrina Hardgrave, and you can read her reviews every weekend in The Irish Times.
Food with Ray Foley, thanks to Cully & Sully, Great Food & Soup-er conversation.