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Sally's blog

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

John Reynolds changed Ireland

John Reynolds was a crazy maverick who changed Ireland.
Before Mr Reynolds took his club and music promotion experience beyond the Pod in Dublin and into the festival world, most particularly the creation of Electric Picnic, festivals were big music bashes where the punters were treated like cattle.
The food was dire, the facilities were dire, and the sense of being ripped-off whilst being a captive in a big field never went away.

Laura Caulwell's cooking in Storyboard is a cultural opus.

Anyone planning a visit to the Memorial Gardens in Phoenix Park on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, might consider calling into nearby Storyboard, Laura Caulwell’s stylish café.
The cafe is well placed, also, for visitors to IMMA and Kilmainham Gaol – situated in Islandbridge in a minimal room that blazes with sunlight when the clouds part. The room feels like a cultural space, with its education-style chairs and modern museum-style architecture that exposes all the functional and structural elements of the room.

Dublin's Bread 41 is totally rockin' it.

Here’s a prediction for you: we’re prepared to wager that there are folk who will become devotees of Eoin Cluskey’s Bread 41, and who will never, ever, buy a loaf of sourdough, the very bread that is the speciality of this Dublin city bakery.
Instead, they will join the queue – there is always a queue, always – and then they will happily ask for: a batch loaf.
That’s right: a batch loaf. Cotton wool bread personified. A big blob of blandness. Except...

Hadskis in Belfast is firing out some pretty darn perfect food.

If there were just one dish that sums up the ethos and style of Niall McKenna's Hadskis, then it might be their cheesy Parmesan truffle chips.
It’s not just the crispy, cheesy spuds themselves, but also the cheery way in which this little saucepan of deliciousness is served - along with witty cracks about how they’re ready to call the ambulance when you’ve got through it. It’s mighty.

Leeside food hero Mirco Fondrini gets his name above the door in the lovely da Mirco

Here’s what you will be saying to your friends after dinner in Cork’s da Mirco Osteria:
“Abbiamo passato la serata in allegria”: We had a really joyful evening.
The key word here, the key term that defines Mirco Fondrini’s lovely eating house, is: allegria. It means happiness, cheerfulness, joy, and M. Fondrini brings you to that state thanks to joyful cooking, effervescent wines, and his own buoyant, soulful service.

Tom Spruce's elegant cooking will have you sailing the ferry over to Waterford Castle

There is something utterly other-worldly in the experience of enjoying the elegant cooking of Tom Spruce, in the timeless cocoon of Waterford Castle’s dining room.

Mr Spruce’s serene cooking, in these most gorgeous surroundings, makes for a special dining experience. And, of course, the fact that you take a short ferry ride over the water to the island to eat and stay in a castle does, indeed, make this an other-worldly event.

The Foyle Hotel and your essential Donegal Detours

Brian and Brenda McDermott’s Foyle Hotel, on the square in little Moville on the edge of Lough Foyle in Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula, offers a masterclass in contemporary savoury Irish cooking.
Dishes that you might think of as domestic staples - lamb pie; pumpkin soup; chicken breast with champ; mussels with cider - are rendered here with such professional elan that they emerge newly birthed.

Solas is shining brightly in delightful Dingle

Solas has risen out of the box to shine a light in Ireland’s food culture: this Dingle newbie is one of the few Irish restaurant that gets small plates food service exactly right.

The key element of what they get right is the simple excellence of the plates because the Solas food offer is red-hot-good: the prawns with chickpeas; the stunning chowder croquette; pork belly with an apple and lime tartare that is worth the trip to Dingle all on its own.

Alex Green is squeezing out sparks in Michael Deane's Eipic

Back in the day, there was never a tradition of fine dining in Northern Ireland. Taking drink at any business meeting – or rather buying drink for a client, was considered somewhat unethical. If people did go out, it was for high tea, and a number of smart locations in the city offered this meal, often served mid-afternoon.

Whilst Dublin had restaurants like Whites on the Green or The Mirabeau, Belfast had its high tea destinations. It was, back then, a quite different culture.


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