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Sally's blog

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

The Portaferry Hotel, and 10 Seafront Getaways

The Portaferry Hotel, Portaferry, County Down
A ratio. A certain ratio. Often, it’s a ratio that determines if something feels right. You walk into the bedroom in The Portaferry Hotel, for example, and the room feels just right: bright, welcoming, snug, cosy, inviting. And the reason why it feels so good is that ratio: the size of the seaward-facing windows proportionate to the width of the room. Spot on.

Forest and Marcy, Dublin

A single dish can sometimes define a cook, and where that cook is at. But it can also define a nation, and where that nation is at, in terms of its culinary traditions.
Ciaran Sweeney’s fermented potato bread, with bacon and cabbage, a €8 starter dish on the menu at Forest & Marcy, on Dublin’s Leeson Street, does just that, both for Mr Sweeney himself, and for Eating in Ireland, 2016.

Stef Hans Café, Thurles

As we linger over making the decision to order some lemon tart in Stef Hans, in Thurles, the waitress, Joanne, tells us this story:
“It was my eldest’s first holy communion last Sunday, and on the Friday night, who comes to the house with a whole lemon tart for us but Steffi!”
And the pair of us simply melt into a puddle. But not before ordering the lemon tart.

Bistro Este, Belfast

You have to trust a place that displays cookery books. In Belfast’s Bistro Este they have masses of them, tucked into wine boxes with a little raised table amongst them, presumably for browsing.
It's a clubbable space with big windows onto the street, a huge atrium roof throwing loads of light onto simply laid tables with large goblet wine glasses at each setting, a bar that serves classic cocktails and craft beers, and a hatch to a relatively open kitchen.

Book Review: Fruit on the Table by Theresa Storey

Theresa Storey is a great cook. Anyone who has ever bought one of her jars of jams and chutneys, sold from her Green Apron market stall, will know that already. Here is a cook whose instinct, and accuracy, with flavours is unerring. Ms Storey seems to always know the right moment: when to pick the fruit; when to stop the cooking; when to seize the day and the flavours of the day. Her book runs from marmalade to prune tarts, via mojito marmalade and Batley cake and Finnish blueberry pie.

The Ramen Bar, Dublin by Sally McKenna

Kakoro, the sushi and bento bar outfit who originated on Lower Liffey Street, have just opened The Ramen Bar at the back of their tiny city centre premises on South William street. It’s cool and super fun. You sit amongst the punters arriving for their takeaway sushi and bento boxes and try not to slurp noodle broth all over your clothes, grateful that most of the high tables are facing the wall. Each place setting is prepared with a paper menu, a covetable wooden soup spoon and a pair of chopsticks.

Best Kitchen Basics

Mark Best is smart. If you heard him speak at last year’s Food on the Edge in Galway, you will be in no doubt about that. His speech skewered culinary gods who use their celebrity status to make pots of money, and he spared no one: even saintly Jamie Oliver got the dirk in the throat from Mr Best.

Kitchen Mechanics by Gary O'Hanlon: The Next Generation

“I’m still deciding if I want to live in Longford”
“It’s very far from Dublin”
“Five choices are a lot to have on a menu”

Just some of the recent quotes from a 21 year old average Pastry Chef on trial in VM.

I’ve been very lucky. I had the same kitchen staff for 7 years, up until a year ago. Bar adding to the team, and the odd promotion from within which I’m a big fan of, I pretty much had the same crew since opening in 2008.

Deane's Eipic, Belfast by John McKenna

Tension, and release. That's how Danni Barry masters her cooking in Eipic, the upmarket, glam room of Michael Deanes con-joined trio of restaurants in the centre of Belfast.
A little starter of Wye Valley asparagus in a tiny pastry filo with a bacon cream is so poised, so tense with delicate flavours, that it's high-wire cooking, right from the off. Then comes a linseed cracker with fresh cheese, a dice of new vegetables, and a micro-dice of fines herbs, and Ms Barry once again has us on the edge of our seats, so tense and nuanced is the balance of the ingredients.

Featherblade, Dublin by William Barry

The conversation had turned to “things which annoy people the most.”

Everyone around the table in Featherblade chimed in with the usual human shortcomings: bad grammar; slow drivers in the fast lane, selfies...

What about you? someone asked me across the table.

I explained how It gets my back up when people call themselves carnivores. Human beings are not carnivores, humans are omnivores, lions are carnivores. If a human tried to be a carnivore it wouldn’t end well.


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