This weekend sees the publication of our two 100 Best editions on guides.ie. We hope you enjoy our two interactive maps, 100 Restaurants and 100 Best Places to Say and find them useful for planning trips throughout Ireland.
When we wrote and published the first edition of the 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland, way back in 1992, it was difficult to find 100 exceptional Irish restaurants. It was a struggle to write the book. Where was the talent?
Fast forward 25 years, to 2017, and the struggle with the 100 Best Restaurants is a different beast altogether. These days, we struggle to cope with the tsunami of brilliant new restaurant openings in every city and corner in Ireland. From January to December in 2016, creative and dynamic new restaurants opened their doors and, incredibly, they found an audience in double-quick time.
And they all want to be considered as one of the 100 Best.
They are ambitious. They are the talent. The book stills creates a headache for us. It’s just that it’s a different headache.
The other feature that has changed radically in 25 years is just where you find the best modern cooking. Serious restaurants with ambitious cooking used to be easy to spot. They had French names, waiters in bow ties, a la carte menus, and a head chef. Today, the best cooking in Ireland can be found in art galleries, in remote upstairs rooms, in public gardens, in pubs, in winebars, in garden centres and even takeaways.
One of the new entries this year, Assassination Custard, is a Dublin restaurant with two tables – a nice echo of the 1992 book which featured the legendary Shiro Japanese Dinner House in West Cork, which also only had two tables.
Nine of the entries are bars. Four are wine bars. There are six ethnic restaurants, including two where the cook is an Irish chef. In an industry supposedly difficult for women to advance in, it’s encouraging that nineteen of the 100 Best are either run by female chef proprietors, or have female head chefs.
Cataloguing the modern Irish restaurant culture is exclusive, expansive, and brilliant fun. Such talent, in every part of the country!
With this years 100 Best, McKennas' Guides would like to thank the following people: Niall Toner for putting together such a splendid edition in the Sunday Times, where this list was first published.
We love sharing information and new ideas with our Editors and food writing friends: Leslie Williams, Joe McNamee, Eamon Barrett, Caroline Hennessy, William Barry.
We guess it was inevitable – given that our children were being carted to restaurants in their Moses baskets since the age of one month – and even though they are pursuing their own careers, we have come to rely on them to keep us up to date with openings in Dublin and Cork, where they now live. They share our palate, and hopefully our values, and they anarchically bring a youthful perspective to our work.