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For John McKenna, the magic number in 2013 was 1826.

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

2013 was a magical year for Ireland's food culture and the brilliant folk who drive it, in particular chefs such as Frankie Mallon in Westport's An Port Mor, Kevin Thornton in Dublin, Bruce Mulcahy in Kenmare, Jess Murphy in Galway's Kai, Aran and Coleen McMahon in Castlebar's Rua and Café Rua, Gautam Iyer of Cork's unique Iyer's Restaurant, Caitlin Ruth of Deasy's in Clonakilty, Paul Williams of Limerick's Canteen, Shteryo Yurukov of Sage in Westport, Stephen Toman of OX in Belfast, Ollie O'Regan of The Nephin in Mulranny, Emma Bowe of Dublin's Seven Social, Gary O'Hanlon of Viewmount House in Longford and Dublin's Cleaver East, where Rory and Oliver are serving brilliant food.

I was particularly impressed by all their work but, in the middle of it all, there was a quiet dinner cooked in restaurant 1826 in Adare by Wade Murphy that blew me away. It wasn't that the food was especially provocative or revolutionary – it was simply utterly wonderful. No, what struck me was the way in which Mr Murphy had subtly rearranged the dynamics of dining – serving fine food in a very informal room with informal service, and yet with every detail fine tuned to the way he wanted it to be. Tuned is the right word: 1826 is tuned differently to other Irish restaurants, the pitch of each considered detail is different and I suspect some people will overlook the many subtle statements made by the restaurant and its owners. But if you love modern Irish cooking then you will love 1826, and its quiet, confident subtlety.

Big Respect also to: Higgin's Butcher's in Sutton, County Dublin; the food hall at Avoca, Rathcoole; the Dingle Food Festival; September breakfast in Ballymaloe House; Kinara Kitchen at Electric Picnic; the ever-brilliant Idaho Café in Cork; the strawberry eclair at Devour Bakery in Ballinrobe, baked by Yvonne Murphy; ten years of URRU in Bandon; Danette Milne's magical sauces from County Kilkenny; the staff at the Connemara Coast Hotel; Portugese custard tarts from Bantry's The Stuffed Olive; guanciale from Hannan Meats; beef from Rigney's Farm in Limerick; Brasserie on the Corner and Il Vicolo in Galway; the Foodie Forum in GMIT; Joe Fitzmaurice at Savour Kilkenny; Eugene Callaghan in Kelly's Hotel, Rosslare; Claus Meyer at the Ballymaloe LitFest.

Read our Editors' Awards for the year

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