My culinary journey through modern Ireland Offering more than just potatoes and Guinness pints, Ireland’s culinary scene is booming.
From modernised pub fare to food trucks and delicious plant-based fare, South African expat Angie Martin, a recent vegan convert, embarked on a culinary journey through the Emerald Isle…
All stews and a lot of carbohydrates
I am almost ashamed to admit that is all I knew about the Irish food scene before I moved to Dublin a little more than two years ago. My assumptions weren’t entirely unfounded… Traditional Irish meals are heavy on the carbohydrates.
Dishes such as champ (potatoes with scallions), colcannon (potatoes and cabbage) and famous Irish Stew (meat with vegetables and potato) were developed to sustain everyday families and the poor living in the 18th century. Served with butter-slathered chunks of soda bread and the 210 calories hidden in a pint of Guinness, typical Irish cuisine is a hearty carb fest.
But Ireland has undergone a culinary revolution more than a culinary journey. Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, released a five-year Food and Drink Strategy recently, which is aimed at changing the country’s ‘beer and potatoes’ reputation. Based on the global food tourism trend, Ireland’s tourism board expects that the culinary traveller could boost tourism revenue by up to €400-million by 2023.
Dublin, in particular, is a mecca for foodies. There are dishes to please every palate, preference and the picky eater. A stroll through the streets of the capital reveals hipster food trucks, distilleries brewing craft beers, trendy pop-up Korean restaurants and a thriving plant-based food scene.
The starting point for my culinary journey was an obvious choice: the local pub.
A pint at the pub
Local pubs are ingrained in Irish culture and are still the number one spot the locals head to for a pint and a plate of good Irish fare. Dublin is tiny, so you never need to worry about driving home; you can walk or cycle back.
A must-do experience in Dublin is to visit the Guinness Storehouse. Walk through the history of Ireland’s most famous brew and finish with a beer (included in the cost of admission) at the rooftop bar while taking in the city views.
For lunch, wander over to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland. Cosy up next to a fireplace in one of the restaurant’s quaint rooms. You would have to have a heart of stone not to fall for one of the charming, sultry-eyed musicians. I sure did.
Also recommended: The Porterhouse in Temple bar has an extensive pub menu. Try the burger or one of the delicious veggie options.
From farm to farmer’s market
It seems you can’t walk far in Dublin without bumping into a food truck. Food markets and trucks have popped up all over the country, and are the best place to sample Ireland’s culinary heritage, made with fresh produce from the land and sea.
My favourite is the Beatyard market on Camden Street. Open from Thursday to Sunday, enjoy a drink at the adjoining Bernard Shaw bar and order from a variety of food trucks. I loved Veginity for its amazing vegan chicken wings and Vish and Chips,
Venturing beyond the capital, follow your rental car’s GPS southeast to Kilkenny. The quaint medieval town hosts a farmer’s market each Thursday, from 9h30 – 14h30. Try the truffles – they are not everybody’s cup of tea but are worth a taste.
Also recommended: Make time to visit the little port town of Dun Laoghaire. There is a family market in the park on Saturdays, with a surprising variety of food trucks. Dun Laoghaire is accessible on the DART (Dublin’s train system).
Fine dining to impress
With 11 restaurants boasting Michelin stars, Ireland’s reinvention is well underway. So where do Dublin’s in-the-know locals’ wine and dine? The answer is L’Écrivain, according to renowned Irish food critic Trevor White. The elegant, Michelin-starred establishment takes homegrown produce and gives it a French gastronomic makeover, guided by chef Derry Clarke.
“Luxury Gold’s Ultimate Ireland itinerary includes a personal meet-and-greet with Trevor White and dinner at L’Écrivain,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa. “Travellers will also enjoy a stay at the five-star award-winning hotel, Ashford Castle, where they can enjoy a magnificent high tea and fine dining.”
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way coastal scenic drive is spectacular but, views aside, the route also passes the Wild Honey Inn in County Clare, the first Irish pub to have received a Michelin star, which certainly warrants a visit, although it might require a bit of Irish luck to get a reservation,
The world in an island
For a city of just 115 km², Dublin is home to a staggering number of international restaurants. Mark Berndt, a Capetonian who moved to Dublin a year ago, tells me I can “feast on Korean barbecue one night and Palestinian
Ireland’s super-fresh produce blends well with exotic flavours, creating world-class flavours. Berndt’s top foodie choices in Dublin are the Nightmarket for Thai, Drunken Fish and Hailan for Korean dishes and Musashi for Japanese cuisine.
A blooming plant-scene
I’m not saying it just because I am now vegan, but I have eaten the most delicious food of my life in Dublin – and it has been plant-based.
Book a table at Sova Vegan Butcher off Camden street for the most delicious vegan dishes.
You can also bring your own wine! I once bumped into Kip Andersen, the director of Netflix documentary ‘What the Health’… Booking ahead of time is necessary.
Also recommended: The Happy Pear Restaurant. It’s owned by Dave and Steve Flynn – well-known identical twins who promote a healthy, plant-based lifestyle. There’s no need to book but be sure to follow them on Instagram for some fantastic recipes.
Travellers have been lured by Ireland’s beautiful and mysterious emerald shores for centuries but the exciting gastronomic scene and growing foodie culture is certainly another reason to journey here. There’s a dish for every traveller’s taste buds.