How do you like your eggs in the morning? We went in search of the best brunches in Ireland, seeking out the cafés and restaurants that put extra thought into the sourcing of their key ingredients and have come up with imaginative ways of serving eggs that delight their customers.
Here - in no particular order - are 30 of the very best.
1 GATHER, TUAM, GALWAY
Rosti, crisp bacon, organic greens and hollandaise… that's how the brunch rolls at Gather in Tuam, where the Flaherty sisters, Aoife and Siobhan, demonstrate commitment to local and artisan producers, in dishes such as free-range eggs baked with kale and Wooded Pig chorizo, and a full Irish starring Castlemine free-range, rare-breed bacon and sausage.
2 THE GREEN SHEEP, THURLES
The incredible-sounding breakfast sandwich at The Green Sheep in Thurles comprises (are you ready?): "Three thick rashers from John Lacey next door, salad without sprays grown by Sarah at Comfrey Cottage 10 minutes' down the road, pickled cucumber from Ayle Farm, pasture-reared eggs from Kylie at Magner's Farm [Magner's eggs got a lot of love when we asked readers to tell us about their favourite eggs] and gorse petal shrub dressing from Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers." One of The Green Sheep's best customers is Peter Ryan, a visually-impaired Para-Olympic cyclist and motivational speaker, who must know a thing or two about good nutrition.
3 HATCH & SONS, DUBLIN
When the first branch of Hatch & Sons opened on St Stephen's Green (there's a second in the Hugh Lane on Parnell Square) it made a virtue out of necessity by serving a baked rather than fried breakfast, as fire regulations prohibited stove-top cooking. Hatch & Sons is all about serving the very best of Irish produce - lovely free-range eggs, dry-cured bacon from O'Neill's, Waterford blaas from Walsh's Bakehouse and butter from Glenilen - in a space that feels as if it could be the kitchen in someone's rather lovely old house.
4 SEASALT, COBH
Jacquie O'Dea is the Ballymaloe-trained chef at this new-ish café in Cobh, located a short walk from the train station. Eggs Royale is one of the dishes that has the locals salivating, with two poached organic eggs on sourdough toast served with Frank Hederman's organic smoked salmon (from nearby Belvelly Smokehouse) and hollandaise sauce. Other egg options include Gubbeen chorizo hash, mushrooms on toast, avocado crush and a Full Rosscarbery Irish.
5 WOOLLEN MILLS, DUBLIN
The brunch game is strong at The Woollen Mills beside the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin city centre. One current favourite is butternut squash bhaji with poached eggs and mango marmalade, and we very much like the sound of the fried egg and bacon waffle sandwich with hollandaise. Sister restaurant, The Washerwoman in Glasnevin, is holding its own with dill pancakes served with gravadlax, poached eggs and smoked cream cheese, and asparagus, pea and buttermilk fritters served with poached eggs and wild garlic aioli.
6 JACK FENN COURTHOUSE CAFÉ AT BELLEEK CASTLE, MAYO
How does ham knuckle from the wonderful Andarl Farm (home of sublime 'velvet pork'), boxty, Ballyhoura mushrooms, spicy homemade beans and fried free-range eggs grab you? Yes, thought so. No wonder Jack Fenn's was named Café of the Year 2019 by Georgina Campbell's prestigious Ireland Guide.
7 TARTARE, GALWAY
Tartare is Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon's casual café/wine-bar, located opposite Aniar on Dominick Street. The brunch options include poached (Corrib free-range) eggs with mushrooms and seaweed hollandaise and beef cheek with black pudding, fried eggs and sourdough, which sounds like a dish that could banish the most truculent of hangovers, perhaps with a Connemara whiskey, apple and seaweed sour by way of hair of the dog.
8 LEGHOWNEY COUNTRY MARKET, DONEGAL
Everything in the Five Mile Fry - eggs, bacon, sausages, potato bread, wheaten bread - served at Leghowney Country Market just outside Donegal Town (which takes place every second Saturday morning) comes from within five miles of the community centre where the market takes place. Quite often, says one regular, the 'delicious' eggs from local free-range supplier, David Morrow are double-yolkers.
9 NOOK, SLIGO
Ethna Reynolds' list of suppliers is a roll call of great provenance - the egg supplier is Ballysadare Free-range and the pork comes from Andarl Farm; they combine beautifully in a dish of poached eggs on sourdough with pork belly served with Markree Farm greens, sriracha and hollandaise with pickled chillies. One fan loved a recent brunch dish of Indian flatbread served with Bombay potatoes, chilli fried eggs and chutney, and we like the sound of bacon and cabbage hash with hollandaise, topped with a couple of fried eggs. Non-meat-eaters can opt for the vegetarian breakfast featuring vegetarian sausage, fried potatoes and house-made beans.
10 PUDDING ROW, SLIGO
Pudding Row in Easkey prides itself on creating simple food using the best ingredients available locally, many of them organic and free-range, sourced from local suppliers. Bread and pastries are baked on the premises each morning, and brunch options from chef Dervla James include simple, creamy scrambled eggs with chives on white toast and slow-roast tomatoes and homemade beans on toast, topped with avocado, egg, seeds and leaves. The eggs at Pudding Row come from Woodville Farm.
11 THE FUMBALLY, DUBLIN
Fumbally Eggs is a legendary dish, with good cause, and it's one that you'll find an homage to (that's a nice way of saying 'copy of') on just about every brunch menu up and down the country. At the mothership, they scramble the eggs with olive oil, Gubbeen cheese and garlic, and serve them with sautéed kale, toasted sunflower seeds and house-made hot sauce on organic multi-grain sourdough from Tartine Bakery. Delicious - and worth the queues on Saturday morning, which have become even longer since the opening of the Fumbally Stables market next door.
12 OVERENDS AT AIRFIELD, DUBLIN
Most of the ingredients used at Overends come from the farm at Airfield, supplemented only by vegetables from Dennis Healy in Co Wicklow and Spring Cottage Organic Farm in Co Westmeath, and products from name-checked producers. Options include everything from purple sprouting broccoli with poached egg and bagna cauda, to a full Irish featuring sausages from the very wonderful Higgins butchers in Sutton. The family brunch costs €20 per adult and €10 per child and features pastries, juices and coffee, plus options such as buttermilk fried chicken with waffles, Macroom buffalo ricotta and house kimchi. Yum.
13 KAI, GALWAY
Jess (pictured above) and David Murphy's Kai is a Galway destination, deservedly so, a bastion of good food, where the menus are underpinned by a sourcing policy that goes above and beyond when it comes to supporting local farmers and small producers. The Sunday brunch is legendary - you will need to book - and currently the most popular dish is duck eggs with Inch House black pudding. Ever since the restaurant opened in 2011, Kai's eggs have come from Galway Free-range Eggs.
14 URBANITY, DUBLIN
You can't book at Urbanity, located on Coke Lane in Smithfield, but regulars are happy to wait patiently for a brunch offering that caters to everyone from vegans and vegetarians to committed omnivores. Make ours a Scandinavian scrambled (organic) eggs from Rod's Eggs in Co Louth with spiced tomato, scallion, roast radish yoghurt on organic sourdough - and throw in some merguez sausages while you're at it. And maybe a side of O'Neill's bacon too. Or perhaps we'll have them poached on top of halloumi with house aiolis and dukkahs…?
15 GOURMET FOOD PARLOUR, DUBLIN
If the prospect of slow-cooked rib of beef benedict on sourdough with fried eggs and kimchi hollandaise on the side couldn't raise the dead on a Sunday morning, then we don't know what could. The Gourmet Food Parlour has several branches across Dublin and uses free-range eggs from Annalitten Farm in Co Monaghan in its popular huevos rancheros and all other egg dishes.
16 GERTRUDE, DUBLIN
Buttermilk chicken with fermented hot sauce, orchard syrup and honey butter is a firm brunch favourite at Gertrude, says chef Holly Dalton, as are dishes made with free-range eggs from Tolka Valley in Glasnevin. Soft scrambled eggs with crab, hot sauce and kale, with sourdough from Bread Nation, is another winner.
17 ALI'S KITCHEN, CORK
Chef Ali Honour sources locally and cooks simply - the results have made her café on Rory Gallagher Place one of the most popular in the city. Brunch favourites include mushrooms Florentine, Eggs Benny made with Tom Durkan's slow-cooked ham and hash made with Hanley's black pudding.
18 BIBI'S, DUBLIN
The queues outside Bibi's in Portobello on weekend mornings are a testament to the quality of the brunch in this friendly neighbourhood café. The dishes that really get pulses racing are the Turkish eggs - poached and served with yoghurt, Turkish butter and Tartine sourdough - and the squash eggs with roast squash, garlic yoghurt and chilli butter.
19 MY BOY BLUE, DINGLE, KERRY
Dingle has upped its café game in recent times - another great new addition is Pantri Dingle - and My Boy Blue is already firmly established with locals and visitors alike. Brunch might be avocado toast topped with fried eggs and pimped with chilli peanut rayu from White Mausu, pickles and sesame on Bacus sourdough, or smoked salmon bruschetta with beetroot and walnut salsa, whipped lemon and thyme goat's cheese and pickled cucumber.
20 MEET ME IN THE MORNING, DUBLIN
How do you like the sound of Gubbeen sobrasada - a soft, spreadable chorizo, on top of smoked Gubbeen cheese béchamel with fried cabbage, poached egg, Jerusalem artichoke chips and pickled radish on house-made challah bread? Thought so. Meet Me in the Morning in Portobello has always been a go-to place for brunch, with impeccable sourcing (all the veg come from McNally Family Farm), but recently the egg dishes have moved into another league.
21 MOLOUGHNEY'S, DUBLIN
Moloughney's is where Clontarf folk like to gather and chew the fat over dishes such as baked free-range eggs with chorizo, baby potatoes, red onions, peppers, chilli and crème fraîche. The full Irish comes in large and small versions and features Clonanny Farm free-range sausages and Tournafulla puddings and salt beef hash is a guaranteed hangover-buster.
22 BROTHER HUBBARD, DUBLIN
When it comes to brunch, Brother Hubbard has been leading the way ever since it first opened on Capel Street. Now there are two branches - one northside and one southside - and brunch is as popular as ever. The Middle Eastern breakfast plate features a boiled free-range egg, a pot of hummus with sumac and extra virgin olive oil, feta with za'atar, cucumber, tomato, olives and toasted bread. But if that sounds too tame, eggs menemen - a classc Turkish dish of soft scrambled eggs with whipped feta yoghurt, mixed roast peppers and topped with herbs and chilli might be just the ticket. The croque madame is also delicious.
23 TWO BOYS BREW, DUBLIN
Two Boys Brew is a Phibsboro institution, and if you're not put off by the queues for brunch (you can book if you're a group of six or more, which is good to know) then you can expect delights such as Miso Mushroom Toast with cavolo nero, confit garlic, whipped ricotta, fresh chives and crispy onions topped with a free-range poached egg with a family connection supplied by co-owner Kevin's brother John of Rochedale Eggs in Ballymakenny, perhaps with a side of halloumi fries. Be still my beating heart.
24 JAMESTOWN SOCIAL, DUBLIN
Jamestown Social is a relatively new arrival to Finglas but already a firm favourite with locals who rate Philip Dunne's smart café as the place for good coffee and plenty more besides. The brunch burger comes on a brioche bun with a burger, fried egg, piri piri onions and 'secret' sauce, and the Jamestown Toast features slow-cooked beef, avocado, garlic aioli and sriracha on sourdough, topped with a couple of soft-poached eggs.
25 LORETTA'S, DUBLIN
At Loretta's in Phibsboro, the brunch menu has an American twist. Amongst the dishes responsible for its enormous popularity - book ahead to avoid disappointment! - are the green chilli pork butt with 'hash browns, sunny egg and cilantro onions' and the breakfast tacos with soft scrambled eggs, mozzarella and green salsa with chorizo an optional extra.
26 KLAW SEAFOOD CAFÉ, DUBLIN
At Niall Sabongi's Seafood Café, they serve an Omelette Arnold Bennett - a super-rich dish containing eggs, cream, smoked haddock, cheese and more - which is reason enough in and of itself to beat a path there for brunch right now. If that doesn't appeal, there are plenty of other fishy delights. The free-range eggs come from Nest in Monaghan.
27 CLANBRASSIL HOUSE, DUBLIN
At Clanbrassill House, a sibling to Bastible around the corner, the hot smoked trout Benedict is a thing of beauty, but if that doesn't get your tastebuds going then you can opt for a chargrilled sirloin steak topped with a fried egg and burnt greens. The soft polenta with poached eggs and sobrasada on brioche also sounds pretty damn good. The free-range eggs come from egg man Michael Crosbie.
28 ONE SOCIETY, DUBLIN
Using free-range eggs from the Nestbox in Castlebayney, One Society on Gardiner Street comes up with a weekly special brunch dish - last week it was the Not So Eggs Benedict, with slow-cooked wholegrain mustard ham hock, crispy potato skins with apple chutney, sauté spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise and chive sauce. After that everyone had a nice lie-down.
29 LEGIT COFFEE, DUBLIN
The pulled pork Benedict on brioche is the dish that gets the most thumbs up from Legit Coffee's customers on Meath Street: "It's the little slivers of caramelised green apple - a clever touch" says one. The croque madame is a beauty too, with no stinting on the béchamel front, but there's a super green omelette to keep the healthy folk happy.
30 DOOKS FINE FOODS, TIPPERARY
Richard Gleeson's smart café/restaurant in Fethard is a gem, with care taken over the sourcing of ingredients and a calibre of food that reflects the chef's stints with Ottolenghi and Skye Gyngell. Emly Free-range Eggs in Oola, Co Limerick supply the eggs used to good effect in dishes such as Butcher's Daughter black and white pudding with poached egg, roast potato chunks and parsley mayonnaise, and rosemary, orange and fennel sausages with roasted tomatoes, fried eggs and toasted white yeast bread made in-house.