November 30, 2020


Cooking Is My World

Ireland’s top 20 food towns

10 min read

Rosscarbery | Co. Cork

Pilgrim’s, Rosscarbery

Let’s be fair, we could have written about the food scene in every town in Cork — and not because we’re biased — but Rosscarbery has seen a surge in excellent cooking in recent years that we are happy to indulge. Pilgrim’s focus on foraged and seasonal produce results in beautifully prepared and regularly changing dishes. Grab lunch with a view at The Fish Basket choosing with favourites such as fish tacos and scampi and chips, amongst others, on the menu. 

Stay: Celtic Ross Hotel’s dining options include newly-opened CRAFT street food truck making it an ideal location to park for the night. (MM)

Dingle | Co. Kerry

As reliable as a Fungie sighting, dining in Dingle never disappoints. Restaurants have come and gone over the years but Global Village and The Chart House remain strong, using local produce to create exquisite dishes. You’ll find the best breakfast in town at My Boy Blue, never get a bad coffee from Justin and the team at Bean In Dingle, and you can’t leave without a trip to the home of Murphy’s ice-cream — the brown bread ice-cream is a firm favourite of mine. 

Stay: Located on Main Street, Benners is within walking distance of every restaurant. (MM)

Carrick-on-Shannon | Co. Leitrim

The Cottage, Carrick-on-Shannon
The Cottage, Carrick-on-Shannon

You’ll be certain to find a dynamic of range of culinary offerings in this riverside town, starting with confident cooking at The Cottage where chef Sham Hanifa uses local produce to create an Asian-inspired menu. The Oarsman has been serving top quality food for many years, always adapting and striving to improve on their already brilliant menu. Make sure to visit Lena’s tea room for their homemade baked cooks and award-winning marmalades and jams. 

Stay: Set in the heart of Carrick-on-Shannon, you’re never far from a great meal when staying at The Bush Hotel. (MM)

Kildare | Co. Kildare

Hartes, Kildare
Hartes, Kildare

What Barry Liscombe has created at Harte’s gastropub is making Kildare a must-visit destination. Hearty, simple food — that is cooked well and paired alongside top class service in stylish surroundings. They also have their own range of beer here made with the team at Dew Drop Brewery. For lighter bites, visit Mary-Kathryn’s deli for fresh sandwiches that are wholesome and tasty, while you’ll find excellent coffee that is locally roasted Square Coffee. 

Stay: Silken Thomas for its warm welcome and cosy interiors. (MM)

Westport | Co. Mayo

This Must Be The Place, Westport
This Must Be The Place, Westport

Mayo is known for its beautiful scenery, but its growing culinary scene is starting to cause a stir too. The homely atmosphere at An Port Mór has made it a much-loved restaurant in the town for many years, not to mention the creative cooking from owner Frankie Mallon. You’ll struggle to pick only one dish off the menu at This Must Be The Place — think bacon and cabbage sandwiches, wild mushroom and pearly ragout or sweet and savoury pancakes — not to forget innovative Irish cooking at Pantry and Corkscrew. 

Stay: Knockranny House Hotel for idyllic views and fine dining at La Fougère restaurant. (MM)

Howth | Co. Dublin

Mamó, Howth
Mamó, Howth

Dublin’s seaside town has been quietly floating along for years with a handful of long-standing good restaurants, but Mamó has injected a new lease of life into the village using high-quality ingredients to produce outstanding dishes such as glazed beetroot with mushroom spelt and cavolo nero. King Sitric has been serving good grub for many years, avoiding fashion trends and sticking to what they know best, fish. Howth Market is now part of the furniture where you’ll find a range of freshly baked goods, homemade fudge and organic produce every weekend. 

Stay: Stay at King Sitric so you’ll only have the stairs to contend with after dinner.

Tramore | Co. Waterford

Seagull Bakery, Tramore
Seagull Bakery, Tramore

While its sister town Dungarvan tends to hog the spotlight, Tramore’s growing food scene is starting to get noticed. Returning home has inspired many including Peter Hogan and Jumoke Akintola who recently returned to Tramore bringing their exceptional cooking and service to Beach House. Meanwhile, Mezze deli creates an authentic mix of Tel Avivan flavours using local produce. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better way to start your day than with Seagull Bakery’s sourdough bread and seasonal baked goods. 

Stay: Check-in to The Address on the Beach for stunning sea views. (MM)

Greystones | Co. Wicklow

The Fat Fox, Greystones
The Fat Fox, Greystones

Having gained plenty of recognition over the years thanks to a notoriously enthusiastic duo, Greystones town is thriving now more than ever. The Happy Pear has been serving up delicious vegetarian grub for years, while award-winning chef Sunil Ghai and his wife, Leena, have spiced things up at Tiffin by Sunil, with authentic Indian food to go and a retail shop with freshly-ground spices. The latest addition, The Fat Fox, packs a punch with its stylish, colourful design and mouth-watering baked goods. 

Stay: For coastal walks and proximity to the town opt for the historic Slieve More B&B (MM)

Moira | Co. Down

Moira, County Down
Moira, County Down

For those that know Moira, it’s no surprise as to why it’s on this list, the village’s great food offerings have been consistent for many years, and continue to grow. At Wine & Brine, chef Chris McGowan and his wife, Davina, have created a neighbourhood restaurant that is loved by the locals, but that everyone wants to visit for its flavoursome food. Almost every menu in Ireland has Pete Hannon’s incredible beef on their menu, and understandably so, but you can pick up your own supply at Hannan Meats in Moira. 

Stay: Nearby Clenaghan’s offers exceptional food alongside self-catering apartments.

Dungarvan | Co. Waterford

Few towns in Ireland have transformed their culinary offerings in recent years like Dungarvan. While the iconic Tannery Restaurant may have pioneered the gourmet movement, today the West Waterford hub is stacked with top-notch dining options — many of them dotted around its buzzing marina. The Moorings is the main draw for sea-food lovers, while dog-friendly 360 Cookhouse is a popular locale for its wings, patatas bravas and cocktails inspired by Blackwater gin. Merry’s gastro-pub is one of my own favourites while Eunice Power’s AndChips continues to keep the local scene fresh. 

Stay: Consider The Tannery Townhouse — the absolute inn-spot for gourmands on getaway. (TB)

Lisdoonvarna | Co. Clare

Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna
Roadside Tavern, Lisdoonvarna

To use a little matchmaking parlance, Lisdoonvarna and food-lovers make the perfect pairing. The small spa town and gateway to the Burren woos visitors with everything from Birgitta Hedin-Curtin’s iconic Burren Smokehouse visitors centre to the gorgeous Wild Honey Inn: Ireland’s only Michelin Star pub. Elsewhere, The Roadside Tavern ranks as one of my favourite pub-grub spots in Ireland; while next-door, the Burren Storehouse’s pizza oven whips up traditional Neapolitan pies with Irish toppings like St Tola goats cheese, Gubbeen salami & of course — organic salmon. Wash that down with their Euphoria Classic home-brew. 

Stay: Sheedy’s is a highly-rated country house hotel has been welcoming food-lovers to the Burren for generations. (TB)

Kinsale | Co. Cork

”Mention Kinsale and the first thought is always food, reputation, location, seafood, festivals and innovation! That keeps Kinsale to the fore and naturally, its customers keep coming back for more”. So says Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy, one of the town most’s successful food stories (ordering a bunch of starters here is one my go-to Kinsale food tips).

 Milk Market, Kinsale
Milk Market, Kinsale

Kinsale may be billed as Ireland’s food capital since the 80’s but, 40 years on, the vibe’s as fresh as ever. The Black Pig Winebar is an ambient spot for local tapas and vino while The Bulman is worth the wander across the bay to Sommercove for its teriyaki oysters alone. 

Stay: Standards are high in Kinsale but a sea-view room at The Trident is tough to top. (TB)

Gorey | Co. Wexford

Wexford Town might be an obvious choice for Loch Garman (and with good reason for La Côte alone) but Gorey in North Wexford is shoring up as much buzz these days. The town’s newest offering, Table Forty One, is leading the charge. Run by owner-chef Andrew Byrne, house speciality here is fillet steak served with mushroom and smoked bacon jam. Elsewhere, Marlfield House is a stunning Ireland’s Blue Book property and home to the acclaimed The Duck restaurant while The Kitchen and the Book Café make great locally-minded coffee stops. 

Stay: The Ashdown Park Hotel for its great Taste Wexford dining packages. (TB)

Adare | Co. Limerick

Adare is the classic example of a small village with a super-sized food reputation. The chocolate box town in the heart of Limerick is oozing with dining delights, not least 1826, run by Wade & Elaine Murphy. The gorgeous thatched property boasts a menu offering the likes of black sole on the bone with Dooncastle oysters and roast cod with Gubbeen chorizo. Elsewhere, you’ll find incredible cafés like The Good Room to the phenomenal fine dining options like the Mustard Seed and Adare Manor’s Oak Room. 

Stay: Apart from the obvious if you’re feeling flush, Sean Collins & Sons is a fantastic family-run option to both stay and dine. (TB)

Monaghan | Co. Monaghan

Could Monaghan offer Ireland’s most secret food trove? Let’s start with its two award-winning food trucks; Tex-Mex Blasta Street Kitchen with specials including local free-range goat burgers and Silver Hill duck tacos and Blásta who are regulars at Monaghan Farmers Market. Streat-Yard is a new socially distant outdoor dining venue two minutes from town by taxi, with live music and Old Carrick Mill gin cocktails while Monaghan Spice (Bangladeshi) and Eastern Balti (Indian) are two top curry houses. Elsewhere Monaghan garlic mushrooms are a must at Andy’s Restaurant while The Local is a great zero waste coffee shop. 

Stay: The Westenra Arms, right in the centre of town.

Portstewart | Co. Derry

Looking for a coastal gastro-getaway with a difference? Then Portstewart in County Derry should be on your road-trip radar. The seaside town about 45 mins east of Derry city offers a range of surf and turf options tempting you to pitstop during your Causeway Coastal. Harry’s Shack, set right on the entrance to Portstewart Beach, brings a taste of Northern Cali to Northern Ireland with its kicked-back seafood menu and sundowners while The Anchor Bar complex is another excellent spot to savour the catch-of-the-day. For your prom walks, pick up your caffeine hit and local produce at Warke’s Deli. 

Stay: At The Beach is a villa-style getaway with direct beach access. (TB)

Clifden | Co. Galway

Clifden’s vibrancy and charm is matched with its stellar choice of dining options. Steam cafe’s commitment to great food and great service never disappoints, serving open crab sandwiches, Connemara smoked salmon and an array of homemade cakes and sweet treats and Darcy Twelve’s use of local ingredients on its menu showcases the best of Connemara. Guys Bar has been a town and tourist favourite for many years, serving good quality comfort food, while recently opened Lamplight wine bar has an extensive and impressive wine list thanks to their knowledgeable sommelier, Anke. 

Stay: Foyle’s hotel for its exquisite cooking in Marconi restaurant. (MM)

Donegal Town | Co. Donegal

Donegal Town’s hard work to grow and promote local food businesses over the past number of years earned them the title of Foodie Town in 2019. Enjoy riverside views alongside delicious food at Quay West where owners Debbie and Jo focus on local, sustainable and nutritious cooking. No trip here is complete without a trip to The Counter Deli where the team is pushing boundaries with their food, Mac’n’cheese sandwich anyone? The Olde Castle bar is a landmark here, cooking wholesome Irish food like seafood pie and bangers and mash. 

Stay: The Gateway Lodge for its modern rooms and delightful breakfast at Blas Restaurant. (MM)

Sligo | Co. Sligo

 Aerial photo of Garavogue River and Sligo Town
Aerial photo of Garavogue River and Sligo Town

The west of Ireland has plenty of culinary delights to offer, and Sligo town is no different. Jane and Myles Lamberth team good cooking in a relaxed and welcoming space at Baker Boys, making it a must-visit on any trip here; while Pudding Row’s range of artisanal and homemade products will leave your mouth watering long after you’ve left. I’m not sure you’ll find better gelato out west than at Fabio’s with innovative, and delicious, flavours such as raw acacia honey and organic lavender. 

Stay: Overnight at The Glasshouse Hotel for riverside views and chic interiors. (MM)

Midleton | Co. Cork

Farmgate, Midleton
Farmgate, Midleton

Can we include three Cork towns in our list? Oh yes, we can! As East Cork’s food capital, Midleton is where the region’s finest produce comes to showboat, visible everywhere from the town farmer’s market to the local SuperValu. Old-school favourites like the Farmgate, Finíns & O’Donovans remain dining strongholds while Kevin Aherne’s Sage has firmly stamped Midleton’s reputation as a location for locavores. There are plenty of local favourites; Monty’s Café honours local produce in every artisan sambo, The Bay Leaf is Middle-Eastern family resto with great vegan options while in Midleton’s hotly contested pack, Ferrit & Lee seals the people’s vote on TripAdvisor. 

Stay: In a town with surprisingly few accommodation options for its stature, Midleton Park Hotel makes a sound, central base with a menu that hat-tips local produce. (TB) | Newsphere by AF themes.