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Sally's blog

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Three years in and John and Sandy Wyer’s Forest Avenue remains right at the bleeding edge of Irish cooking, says Sally McKenna

Despite being three years old, Forest Avenue hasn’t lost its sense of newness, hasn’t lost that frisson that gives a feeling of excitement when you visit. And explaining that frisson is easy: it comes straight from the sense of inextinguishable passion exuding from John and Sandy Wyer.

Who says the don’t make divas like they used to? Shannen Keane’s Diva restaurant is divaness personified.

Shannen Keane’s Diva is, indeed, a diva. It’s a star performer, a top-of-the-bill act, the headliner, the name above the title.
And that means that Ms Keane is the Culinary Callas, a stylish performer with a culinary voice that is uniquely hers. She can go, effortlessly, from the High C of a chicken lahksa, all chill and coriander notes, to the deep bass of a soulful bowl of beef and barley soup, and everything is comfortably within her range.

Joining the queue at K.C. & Son & Sons is almost as much fun as eating the smashing food. Almost.

Here’s two things about the queue of hungry people at K.C. & Son & Sons, in the tony suburb of Douglas, in Cork city.
First: the queue of people is forever. It’s always there. It’s there when they open, and it’s pretty much there when they close.
Secondly: it’s the nicest queue of people you have ever stood in. Everyone is in great form. It’s a chatty queue – the young woman with her pals queueing behind us, sensing that we were West Cork know-nothings out of our zone, advised us that Douglas regulars order The Bombshell.

The chef’s table in Dublin’s Chapter One restaurant is one of the greatest experiences in dining.

Eating at the chef’s table in Dublin’s Chapter One restaurant, it’s difficult to decide which is the better entertainment: The superlative cooking? Or the considered words of chef-patron Ross Lewis, as he introduces the dishes, and talks about his cooking and his restaurant.
Even before the first little dish of beetroot with Lindi pepper arrives, Mr Lewis confesses that he tells all new staff members: “You are a hospitalitarian.”

The Dough Bros have transformed how we think of pizza. It took them all of three years.

The pizza you order is called a Prawn Po’boy.
Its mix of coriander, burnt chilli and sweet spicy Atlantic prawns has arrived onto that tablet of crispy dough as the wayward experiment of an earlier pizza that riffed on a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich.
The banh mi is gone, but the Po’boy still carries the pickled daikon that featured on the banh mi. Except we have left behind Saigon and today the pizza has turned into a New Orleans blast of prawn and chilli.
At this point, possibly confused, you have to ask yourself: Where are we, exactly?

John McKenna drives 500 kilometres to eat at Canteen Celbridge.

Canteen Celbridge may be the most significant restaurant in Ireland.
The clue to it’s importance lies in the name.
James Sheridan and Soizic Humbert’s restaurant is Canteen, the name they brought with them when they moved their premises from Blackrock, in south Dublin. Housed in a little market in Blackrock, it was called Canteen @ The Market.
But Canteen, today, is in Celbridge, County Kildare. And that’s why it’s so important.

Pat and Ali’s Cinnamon Cottage puts John McKenna in the birthday mood.

I walked into Cinnamon Cottage and immediately felt as if it was my birthday. It was October 28th.
The thing is: my birthday actually falls on March 29th.
Don’t confuse me with the facts. Whatever day it is when I walk into Cinnamon Cottage, it feels like my birthday.
Patrick and Ali put together such an assemblage of good things, delicious things, tempting things, and make them all look as handsome as the day is long. When you walk into Cinnamon Cottage, you have to wake up to a reality: resistance is futile.

Kilkenny's Rinuccini has been a defining restaurant in the city for more than 25 years. John McKenna applauds their expert curation.

How do you define success?
Well, try this for a definition: in the Cavaliere family’s Rinuccini restaurant, in Kilkenny city, they enjoyed their most successful year in business in 2015.
26 years in, and they hit their peak.
26 years after Antonio Cavaliere first opened the doors of his restaurant, back in the dog days of 1989, and the family have their best ever year of cooking and selling superb food and beautiful wines.

La Cucina Centro is the restaurant Limerick has been waiting for since forever. Eamon Barrett is blown away.

Announcing the arrival of your new restaurant in the centre of Limerick City by having the name gilded onto the window in double height silver lettering might seem a tad over confident. But, in the case of La Cucina Centro, which opened in early November on Henry Street, that confidence is well placed.

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