9 Market Street, Kinsale
Leona and Dee offer cooking that appears simple – sausage rolls, sandwiches; pasta dishes; seafood chowder; Wagyu burger – but here’s their secret in 9 Market Street: this cooking is technically super-charged. The consideration and finesse that bring these dishes together is quite masterful, so that bowl of French onion soup will stop you in your tracks, as you revel in its luxuriousness, its perfect balance, the crispness of the croute and the slinky sexiness of the long-simmered onion. A great addition to Kinsale.
Strawberry Field, Moll’s Gap
Margaret and Peter Kerssens make exceptionally good crepes. And when you pull up to this traditional cottage, when touring the peninsula, and order up a flour crepe with some ice cream and a cup of tea you realise just what an appropriate snack this is for the hungry traveller, not to mention the hungry traveller's children. You will find Margaret and Peter's Strawberry Field by taking the Sneem road at the Avoca store at Moll's Gap. A curious and rather sweet little cottage that also offers a charming gift shop selling a range of strawberry-related accoutrements.
Fish at the Marina, Dingle
Alex Barr’s place down at the marina in Dingle holds its own with all the superstar destinations in this great food town. Lovely fish cooking, and brilliant service from the boss make this a secret worth discovering, so just get a taste of that calamari.
A big room that is part of the big beach front in Lahinch is home to Randy Lewis' eclectic and well-judged cookery. Their own house breads make something like a chicken and ham sandwich special and, if you have been out on the waves, this is cooking that will put the fire back into your battered body.
Builin Blasta, Spiddal
Heather Flaherty runs Builin Blasta at the Spiddal craft centre, and we need only tell you that this most gifted cook was formerly in McCambridge’s in Galway city to let you know of the standards of excellence you will find in Spiddal. Beautiful baking, great coffee, and lunch here after a hair-tousling stroll on the beach is just sublime.
Builin Blasta Facebook
Claire and Alan do the good thing in Steam, in the Station Yard in Clifden. As cooks, they are blessed with good taste and good judgement, so every plate is precisely considered, and perfectly delivered. And they make what may be the best hot chocolate on the west coast.
The Blue Bicycle, Newport
Philly Chamber’s Blue Bicycle is a beaut. The room is sweet and lovely, the cooking and – especially – the baking is beautiful, and there is a beautiful courtyard out back for when the sun shines. The BB is just the sort of place you dream of finding on the Greenway, with delicious food that will salve your tired body, and then get you and the kids back on the saddle.
Sweet Beat Cafe, Sligo
Carolanne Rushe and her crew have a great room, great sounds, great drinks and great food, so this is a new don’t-miss! destination in Sligo town. Ms Rushe started her business as a market stallholder, and the jump to this ace room in the centre of town has been smooth and logical, so get in line for a Rocket Cow and some brunchtime homemade beans on toast. Excellent.
Tra Bhan, Strandhill
Anthony Gray’s Strandhill outpost is the sister restaurant to Eala Bhan, in Sligo, and this pretty room above the Strand Bar has been making hungry people happy since they got the doors open in 2009. Start with the taste of the Wild Atlantic Way, and take it from there.
The Counter, Letterkenny
Richard Finney and his team are one of that handful of original talents who are rewriting the book of how we eat and drink in Ireland. The space he has created with the new café in The Counter means that here is a shop that is also a café, informal, stylish, and the tenor of the style is a bit Scandi with a bit of Tokyo, or a bit of food cart coupled with a dash of diner. Whatever you call it, it’s special.
Photos from The Strawberry Field strawberryfield-ireland.com