Our time in Ireland was spent in Kinsale, Galway and Dublin. Our middle stop was shorted a little bit so while I’d love to share stories about rich seafood in Galway Bay, we seriously underestimated the time it would take to travel from Kinsale to Galway on Ireland’s charming and beautiful, but narrow and twisty roads. Plus, at least one of us was sick while actually in Galway, so our culinary adventure was curbed a bit. However, we had the good fortune to eat well in every place we visited and were pretty surprised by the variety and quality everywhere.
The biggest takeaway, though, was Dublin’s worldliness. I am still dumbfounded by the concentration and diversity of food in that city. Within one block of our guesthouse was cuisine from every continent, if not every country (well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point). We were craving, and expecting, some Irish staples such as boxty, lamb stew and fish and chips, but had a hard time staying focused on that goal with all the many tempting options surrounding us. Of course, the pubs were plentiful and Guinness and chips were in no short supply, but we could also have pointed to a world map while blindfolded and then feasted on the cuisine of that country or region with no effort—Spanish tapas, French pastries, Indian curries… so many delicious options. Nonetheless, we found and enjoyed our Irish staples, but stumbled into a few other exciting places along the way. Below I share places where we enjoyed meals throughout the country. The pubs we visited will come in another post.
The Pantry, Kinsale
This adorable deli and bistro provided our first Kinsale breakfast, as we overslept and missed breakfast at our bed and breakfast. The Pantry’s pastry selection has that “I’ll have one of each” effect, but we exercised self-control and opted for a chocolate and crème-filled croissant with berry compote and a sausage-stuffed croissant. The deli case was full of tantalizing meaty treats to be enjoyed in the bistro or for takeaway. If I lived in Kinsale, which I’m seriously considering, I would eat at The Pantry every day.
White House Bar, Kinsale
The White House is a pub, hotel and also has a fine restaurant, Restaurant d’Antibes, that is a member of Kinsale’s Good Food Circle. We were looking for a cozy pub to spend the afternoon in and watch the Rugby World Cup and White House delivered. We had pints of Guinness (of course) oysters and the heartiest, most delectable seafood chowder ever. It was rich with the fruits of the sea near Kinsale. Throughout our trip we encountered a fierce dedication to local sourcing and White House is doing their part.
The Spaniard, Kinsale
After our Rugby afternoon at White House we wandered up the hill to The Spaniard. Kinsale isn’t super touristy anyway, but The Spaniard is definitely off the beaten path regardless. It also has a pub, but only serves food in the restaurant, which seems a lot like a pub, too. We both selected the night’s special of roasted leg of lamb with vegetables and potatoes. I also had my first hot port of the trip, which is now my favorite cold weather drink. The lamb was tender and flavorful and was served atop and alongside potatoes. Being an Idaho-reared potato connoisseur, I approved.
If it sounds Italian, it’s because it is. As aforementioned, our journey to Galway from Kinsale was long and treacherous and Joel was sick to boot. We arrived at our bed and breakfast late and exhausted and asked our hosts to point us to the closest establishment serving anything edible. They suggested Capone’s and it was delightful. The service was over-the-top friendly and the food was delicious. I never would have thought to pair lasagna with chips (fries), but you know what? It works. All over the country you will see restaurants and shops touting 100% Irish beef. Capone’s lasagna was made with 100% Irish beef and it was some of the better lasagna I’ve had. Joel had some pork ribs, I have no explanation for that, and then we returned to our accommodations and slept soundly with full stomachs.
This French restaurant served our complimentary breakfast every morning. I’m not certain of the relationship between the restaurant and our guesthouse, but I’m glad they have one. Every morning they put out a spread of the usual suspects, but with a French twist—croissants, cheese and thinly sliced ham—so it was slightly more enjoyable than a Best Western continental breakfast. They also have a menu for cooked-to-order options for a discounted price. We opted for the full Irish breakfast and a mushroom toastie one morning. Both were phenomenal. I’ve never had such a perfectly poached egg. I was actually getting over a stomach issue as we ate, and not much in the mood for black or white pudding, but Joel’s was so good, I couldn’t stop. The service was very friendly, too. Although we weren’t able to visit L’Gueuleton in the evening, we walked by to find it packed and it’s well-regarded throughout the city for excellent French fare.
Leo Burdock, Dublin
Our first full day in Dublin we were bound and determined to have fish and chips. We had tried to have it every day of the trip without success, but through no fault of Ireland. We’re easily distracted when it comes to food and when searching for fish and chips on menus we typically found it, but something shiny always grabbed our attention instead. The Spaniard in Kinsale, for example, definitely had fish and chips and it was probably amazing, but that roasted leg of lamb… Anyways our hope was to find some battered and fried goodness en route to the Guinness Storehouse, but we were having poor luck. We finally asked a kind bicycle-mounted policewoman for a recommendation and she sent us straight to Leo Burdock “The best fish and chips in Ireland”, which was conveniently two blocks away. The front of Leo Burdock’s chip shop is no bigger than our guest bathroom. You step up to the counter and clearly state your order, Soup Nazi style, and then promptly receive your order wrapped up in thick butcher paper. The piece of cod handed to me was as long as my arm and perfectly battered and fried to a heavenly, golden crisp. We devoured our find on our walk to the Guinness Storehouse. We later Googled “best fish and chips in Ireland” and low and behold, Leo Burdock comes up first. Whether that’s due to merit or good SEO I don’t know, but I’ll vouch for the former. The only thing that would have made it better was a Guinness, but that would have been difficult to manage while walking and eating.
Gallagher’s Boxty House, Dublin
So this joint is in Temple Bar, and the jury is still out on how I feel about Temple Bar. But, our super friendly SixT rental customer service guy, Sammy, went on and on about this place. He made several other recommendations that all checked out, so we figured Gallagher’s would follow suit. It totally did. Temple Bar definitely has its share of tourist traps, it’s loud and reminds me of Dirty Sixth here in Austin, but Gallagher’s Boxty House is a diamond in the rough. It’s quiet and classy, the service was off the charts (really, we didn’t receive anything but excellent service our entire trip) and the food, my goodness. We started with oysters because they’re so dang good over there, and then I had corned beef boxty and Joel had coddle. If you’re unfamiliar with boxty, it’s an Irish potato pancake-crepe-like thing. (One of my better definitions, I think.) The boxty wraps meat and/or vegetables. In my case, it wrapped delicious corned beef and cabbage. Coddle is another dish you may be unfamiliar with—I certainly was. I thought Joel was going around looking for cuddle fish. No. Coddle is a thick Irish soup (or stew) made of whatever folks have hanging around, but usually includes sausage or pork, potatoes and onion. Both dishes were crazy good and very filling.
Catch 22, Dublin
Similar to our quest for fish and chips, we were also on a near constant quest for fresh seafood. We had plenty, but were always lusting for more. We had a few recommendations for areas to visit outside of Dublin that would have fresh seafood—Howth, and Dun Laoghaire (along Dublin Bay). We elected to head south one day and stop in Dun Laoghaire on the way back, walk the pier and enjoy a dinner of fresh seafood. We indeed walked the pier, but fresh seafood was not to be found in this harbor town. Back to Dublin we went, a bit chagrined. We parked the car and set out to find a meal and a pub or two. We weren’t going to go hungry by any means, but we were holding out hope for some local and/or at least fresh-ish seafood. All of a sudden, we rounded a corner and saw up ahead a bright blue beacon. Catch 22. With a name like that I figured it had to have fish, so we checked out the menu. They not only had fish, they had bounty galore from the nearby sea! We got a table and soon learned that this little venture was started by friends and had only been open about eight weeks. We were pleased to be some of its early patrons. They served pan-fried sardines as a complimentary snack, which we enjoyed ahead of chili-garlic crab claws. For the main course we shared a shell pot full of fresh, steamed clams, mussels, cockles, prawns and a treat of more crab claws covered in a tomato-chorizo broth, and oven-baked mackerel.
Taste Cafe, Dublin
On our final full day in Dublin, I woke up with what seemed to be food poisoning. I have no idea what, if any, establishment it came from. It might have been my body rebelling against eight days of rich food with Guinness chasers. Nevertheless, I was repulsed by the thought of all food and drink for most of the day. I did manage to leave the room and feasted on hot tea and a slice of toast for lunch. Poor Joel dutifully held my hand all day with zero complaints. By dinnertime, I was determined to rally whether my body liked it or not. We went to a nearby pub. I had a hot port. My body didn’t like it. Through waves of nausea and debilitating stomach cramps I powered on, but couldn’t fathom eating anything with meat in it or near it. The only thing that sounded kind of okay was chocolate pudding or something sweet. Despite wanting to duck into a pub for some lamb or other hearty Irish fare, Joel insisted we go to Taste, a French café near our guesthouse, as we could see their pastries in the window. I felt horrible for ruining our last dinner in Ireland, but we took a table and listed as our host read the specials, among them, lamb shank, delicious, hearty, Irish lamb shank. Apart from that, Taste had what looked to be a beautiful menu and I wish I’d been able to partake. However, I ordered a warm pear tart and was quite content with the three or four bites I managed. Joel was overjoyed with the lamb shank. Then, we went back to the guesthouse early and watched The Simpsons.