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Sally's blog

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

William Barry gets stuck into chef Bryan McCarthy’s inspired Bao Boi, and its gorgeous steamed buns.

Bryan McCarthy is a chef’s chef, a cook who has earned his stripes through a long career of doing the right thing, working hard and constantly learning. His career started as teenager in his native Glandore, in West Cork, where he was front of house at much missed The Rectory restaurant, followed by spells at Barberstown Castle, Killashee House Hotel and Leixlip House, before returning to Cork to head up the kitchen in Springfort Hall near Mallow.

Barry Fitzgerald and his team offer a textbook example of the dynamic modern Irish butcher-farmer in Fitzgerald’s of Fermoy.

“You can get whatever you want”, says Barry Fitzgerald, and even mere seconds spent scanning the shelves of Fitzgerald’s Butchers in Fermoy reveals exactly what Mr Fitzgerald promises. If you are after the arcane and unlikely of the carnivorous universe  – the beef heart; the short ribs; the ox tail; the pot au feu; the pickled tongue; the beef neck; the lamb sweetbreads; the lamb lap; the collar of pork – then it is all here, beautifully presented in a superbly designed butcher’s shop.

Cirillos is exactly the sort of super-confident middle-market Italian restaurant that Dublin city needed.

Cirillos is good.
That’s why, on the night we eat dinner in this popular Baggot Street destination, the room is filled with Italians: as a race, Italians are bloodhounds when it comes to hunting down good food.
The kitchen know how to make ravioli with spinach and ricotta where the pasta is transparently thin, so it forms a gauzy, starchy envelope for the filling. It’s light as a feather. It’s a beaut.

Belfast used to be a mecca for authentic Chinese cooking. Today, little Macau, on the Ormeau Road, keeps the flag flying.

Macau has been a significant restaurant in Belfast for the last two decades - many would say it serves the city's best Chinese food. The restaurant opened at a time when Belfast Chinese food was hip and savvy, and its customers were both the city's Chinese community and the community of Northern Irish chefs.

Elizabeth Field

The first person we contacted, after the result of the U.S. Presidential election was in, was Elizabeth Field. No matter what the situation was – a political conundrum; a problem with finessing marmalade; how to cook goat meat; finding the best tweed in Donegal – Elizabeth was always the best informed and most reliable person to whom you could turn. 

In Dublin’s Storyboard, Ali Dunworth finds that Jamie Griffin and Laura Caulwell are going that bit extra: what’s not to like in Storyboard, like?

Have you noticed the independent cafe look being ‘borrowed’ more and more by commercial outlets up and down the country?
Simply looking the part as a café used to guarantee something but, these days, an instagrammable interior, speciality coffee and a brunch menu don’t always equate to what you might expect.
But don’t let the fact that Storyboard has all these things put you off! They have managed to tick all the indy cafe boxes and still deliver something fresh.

Richard McCracken is one of the brightest new talents in Belfast cooking, and Cyprus Avenue is a must-visit.

On leaving Richard McCracken’s Cyprus Avenue restaurant, we drove down the adjacent Cyprus Avenue, made globally-famous by the song of the same name on Van Morrison’s timeless 50-year-old classic, Astral Weeks, and almost collided with a group of Japanese tourists.
The name is still evocative, it still draws people in, and it's a clever tie-in for Mr McCracken's restaurant, an East Belfast neighbourhood destination that opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a street-side terrace, an occasional market stall, and an ambition to serve the community with good food.

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