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Food critic Lucinda O'Sullivan's best Irish restaurants of 2016

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Above: Pickle (left) and Hangdai Chinese (right). Centre: Lucinda O'Sullivan

Above: Pickle (left) and Hangdai Chinese (right). Centre: Lucinda O'Sullivan

Sunil Ghai. Photo: Tony Gavin

Sunil Ghai. Photo: Tony Gavin

Heron & Grey. Photo: Tony Gavin

Heron & Grey. Photo: Tony Gavin

Hang Dai on Camden Street

Hang Dai on Camden Street

Clonskeagh House burger

Clonskeagh House burger

Ballynahinch castle in Connemara

Ballynahinch castle in Connemara

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg, Co Clare

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg, Co Clare

Osteria Lucio

Osteria Lucio

Capesante al Profumo d'Aglio by Antonio Cavaliere of Ristorante Rinuccini, Kilkenny

Capesante al Profumo d'Aglio by Antonio Cavaliere of Ristorante Rinuccini, Kilkenny

Antonio Cavaliere, Head Chef/Owner of the Michelin listed Ristorante Rinuccini in Kilkenny

Antonio Cavaliere, Head Chef/Owner of the Michelin listed Ristorante Rinuccini in Kilkenny

The Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey

The Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey

Forest and Marcy

Forest and Marcy

Saba

Saba

Rasam Restaurant, Glasthule, Co.Dublin.

Rasam Restaurant, Glasthule, Co.Dublin.

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Above: Pickle (left) and Hangdai Chinese (right). Centre: Lucinda O'Sullivan

It’s been a busy, buzzy year on the dining scene, as eateries at all levels are opening apace

With a whole new wave of young chefs challenging the more staid establishment figures, we’ve now got restaurants and cafes in old train carriages and on buses, and we’ve had a tiny restaurant in a market, sans loo, awarded a Michelin star. As we’re winding down the 12 days of Christmas, here are my 12 hottest dining experiences of 2016.

 

Ticket to Ride

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The Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey

The Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey

The Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey

The train may not have left the station at Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway, but chef Alan McArdle’s food on board the Pullman Restaurant in January was Michelin standard. Set in two exquisite original carriages from the Orient Express, we sat in a dreamy carriage with inlaid wood panelling, antique lace curtains and fine china, dining on confit duck, foie gras and beluga lentil jus.

glenloabbeyhotel.ie

 

Room With No Loo

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Andrew Heron and Damien Grey at the Michelin Star restaurant Heron and Grey in the Blackrock Market Photo: Tony Gavin 6/10/2016

Andrew Heron and Damien Grey at the Michelin Star restaurant Heron and Grey in the Blackrock Market Photo: Tony Gavin 6/10/2016

Andrew Heron and Damien Grey at the Michelin Star restaurant Heron and Grey in the Blackrock Market Photo: Tony Gavin 6/10/2016

 

“Fine dining doesn’t have to be a stuffy affair; they are dishing up haute cuisine without any haughtiness”, I said, on reviewing Heron & Grey last February. Set in a tiny room with no loo, let alone a view, in Blackrock Market, Andrew Heron and Damien Grey served a tasting menu to die for, going on to win this year’s only new Michelin star for Ireland, with the resultant stampede seeing them booked out until August 2017.

heronandgrey.com

 

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Sunil’s Pickle

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Pickle Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

Pickle Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

Pickle Restaurant on Camden Street, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

 

Sunil Ghai brought a new energy to Indian street food with his Pickle Eating House on Dublin’s Camden Street in February, recreating the faded elegance of the old Irani cafes of Mumbai. Try tawa machi, fish & chips as you’ve never had it before — boneless sea bream with crab chutney, ‘micro-chips’ and pickles.

picklerestaurant.com

 

Big Apple Asian

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Saba

Saba

Saba

With great cocktails, and food by chef Tao Trakoolwattana, Paul Cadden expanded from Clarendon Street to Baggot Street in April, with a stunning New York-style Saba restaurant and bar. Don’t miss the Vietnamese summer rolls.

sabadublin.com

 

Star-studded Indian

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Rasam Restaurant, Glasthule, Co.Dublin.

Rasam Restaurant, Glasthule, Co.Dublin.

Rasam Restaurant, Glasthule, Co.Dublin.

Nisheeth Tak’s Rasam Indian Restaurant in Glasthule is the haunt of everyone from Miriam O’Callaghan to Chris de Burgh, and Pat Kenny to EastEnders star Jessie Wallace. The food and atmosphere is brilliant, with Saturday nights being a who’s-who of famous faces. The new menu has recently been launched — try the kokum fish curry from Kerala.

rasam.ie 

 

No Reservations

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Forest and Marcy restaurant

Forest and Marcy restaurant

Forest and Marcy restaurant

It has a no-bookings policy, so I sat outside John and Sandy Wyer’s new Forest & Marcy, on Upper Leeson Street, waiting for it to open. It’s a chic jewel, with exquisite contemporary Scandi-Irish food by chef Ciaran Sweeney. Expect lots of crispy-fish-skin tweaks. Try the whipped brandade, it’s wonderful!

forestandmarcy.ie

 

Michelin Pizza

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Osteria Lucio

Osteria Lucio

Osteria Lucio

You don’t actually expect to have your pizza cooked by a Michelin-starred chef, but the fact that Osteria Lucio on Grand Canal Quay is owned by Ross Lewis of Chapter One raises the bar. They also serve fabulous regional Italian dishes. Sitting out front, in July, with a cocktail and an Apis pizza of spicy salami, honey and basil, was wow.

osterialucio.com

 

Gastro Gaz

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Clonskeagh House burger

Clonskeagh House burger

Clonskeagh House burger

Some chefs really do ‘flavour’ better than others, and Gareth ‘Gaz’ Smith, chef patron of Clonskeagh House, which opened in August in D6, just cracks it. As well as rib-eye burgers, Smith can turn out a daube de boeuf or a langoustine gratin that knocks your socks off.

See clonskeaghhouse.ie

 

Il Numero Uno Italiano

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Capesante al Profumo d'Aglio by Antonio Cavaliere of Ristorante Rinuccini, Kilkenny

Capesante al Profumo d'Aglio by Antonio Cavaliere of Ristorante Rinuccini, Kilkenny

Capesante al Profumo d'Aglio by Antonio Cavaliere of Ristorante Rinuccini, Kilkenny

Attending Savour Kilkenny in October gave me the perfect excuse to visit the divine Rinuccini, located in the shadow of Kilkenny Castle. Run by the delightful Cavaliere family, there’s simply nothing like it in Dublin. Wines are imported from Italy, and the mouthwatering food is exquisitely executed. Antonio’s ravioli alla crema di Gorgonzola is ethereal.

rinuccini.com

 

The Maharajah’s Castle

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Ballynahinch castle in Connemara

Ballynahinch castle in Connemara

Ballynahinch castle in Connemara

In October, we also headed out Wesht to the Owenmore Restaurant in Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara, where superb chef Ultan Cooke delivers on food that is complex, contemporary and delicious. The castle, once owned by an Indian Maharajah, is just amazing and very different.

See ballynahinch-castle.com

 

Rocking Chinese

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Hang Dai on Camden Street

Hang Dai on Camden Street

Hang Dai on Camden Street

Forget jingly Chinese music and sloshy stir-fries, Karl Whelan and Will Dempsey’s new Hang Dai on Camden Street rocks. Hitting the ground running in November with lots of

Glam cocktails and a touch of Suzie Wong sassiness, it’s like sitting in a Shangai Metro with the cast from a Bond movie. Duck is the star of the show here, cooked on an open wood-burning oven.

hangdaichinese.com

 

Hotelier of the Year

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Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg, Co Clare

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg, Co Clare

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland in Doonbeg, Co Clare

From Kennedy to Obama, all American presidents have laid claim to the old sod, but Donald Trump is the only one who actually owns a spread here! He’s certainly winning the popular vote in Doonbeg, Co Clare, and they’ll love him even more now every Republican supporter in America is going to be flying in on their helicopters to be able to say they played golf at President Trump’s Hotel. The former Lodge at Doonbeg is a superb place, with wonderful decor and food, and a delightful, friendly staff, headed up by general manager Joe Russell. It was pure bliss sitting in the Ocean View Restaurant, looking out at the Atlantic, while enjoying a superb seafood risotto washed down by a fine Riesling.

trumphotels.com


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