As we sit down to Easter Sunday lunch, in whatever form it takes, our restaurant industry is on a hiatus. Let's spare a thought for our fabulous food industry, which needs our full support, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who today is looking back at some of the best lunches and dinners she's had in recent times, after which she's parking her reviewing pen until our hardworking and innovative chefs are back in their kitchens, doing what they do best
Striking cream water-lily light fittings dominate Asheesh Dewan's penthouse flagship at Dundrum Town Centre, D16. Ananda is always busy, and it can feel like a big cruise ship in the sky, but on my visit for the Indian Holi Festival of Colours, we enjoyed a sublime tasting menu.
Ross Lewis's legendary Michelin-star restaurant beneath the Writer's Museum on Parnell Square, D1, is anything but stuffy, and should be on everyone's list. My last visit was for the launch of Robin Gill's book, Larder, and it was one whale of a party, with Lewis showing the hipster chefs they had a lot to live up to.
Kevin Hui's sleek restaurant in Sandyford, D18, is a favourite spot for rock stars and captains of industry. We had a fantastic night there in February, celebrating the arrival of the Chinese Year of the Rat (it feels like it), involving a visit from some fabulous traditional Dragon dancers.
Eileen Dunne and Stefano Crescenzi introduced the Irish to proper Italian food. Now, sons Ghinlon Wang and Sean Crescenzi have added their own touch with Crudo in Sandymount, D4. It's still delightfully Italian, but we were wowed by the new contemporary edge.
Olivier Meisonnave has created a true feel of France in Dax, his superb basement restaurant on Upper Pembroke Street, D2, where I recently had lunch. I love this place, and if you haven't tasted chef Graham Neville's stuffed courgette flower, then you haven't lived.
In 1983, Marog O'Brien created Farmgate, a small shop and restaurant in Midleton, east Cork, and it became legendary. She's now joined by her daughter Sally, the buzzing artistic atmosphere here is matched by the superb fresh fish, local vegetables simply cooked, and the bakery's divine cakes and breads.
We had a wonderful evening in the Garden Room at The Great Southern Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry. The grandeur of the gilded Victorian Italianate domed ceiling was breathtaking - and the Kilmore Quay scallops were pretty damned good, too.
GREEN MAN WINES
David Gallagher created an oasis of good food and wines in the foodie desert that was Terenure, D6W, with his shop and wine bar. He's a great man to create an atmosphere, whether celebrating the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, his collaborations with China Sichuan, or just his own great boards, cote de boeuf or sole on the bone.
The Irish Open was on when we arrived at this bustling atmospheric grill in the heart of Limerick City, so it was packed with golfers chowing down on terrific-looking steaks. We had a couple of cocktails and soon got into the swing of things with a fantastic chargrilled lobster and fries.
LADY HELEN Restaurant
Sometimes, when I'm headed south via Kilkenny, I drive into the Mount Juliet Estate outside Thomastown just to look at the house, which was once home to Major Victor McCalmont and his family. Some years ago, I was there when acclaimed chef Albert Roux made the Queen Mother's favourite souffle for invited guests. Today, the Lady Helen Restaurant has a Michelin star under executive chef John Kelly, and on my most recent visit, I was truly blown away.
Nick Munier and chef Chris Fullam's charming piece of Parisian kitsch on Upper Leeson Street is adored by the D4 set. I had a fabulous evening there with a friend enjoying Ricard cocktails and, from "Les Menus", we had terrific small plates, including escargots; croque royale; and cod with aligot (cheesy mash), mussels and buttermilk sauce.
Having managed to snag a cancellation at Damien Grey's tiny 22-seater Michelin-star restaurant in Blackrock Market, myself and three friends had a fantastic night. Grey is a showman, in the best sense, who conducts the room from his raised kitchen while delivering the most sublime food by way of his exciting and innovative tasting menu.
The best scampi in Ireland - using Dublin Bay prawns - is here at the Garryvoe Hotel in east Cork, a fact I keep telling readers and Instagrammers. It's one of my favourite places to go when I'm off duty; himself can have a pint and a chat with Dan Joe behind the bar, and I can have a glass of wine with some of Kevin O'Sullivan's great food, and gaze out at Ballycotton Lighthouse.
The train didn't leave the station, but we loved our 'trip' on the original dining carriages from the Orient Express - so much so, that we went back again. Set in the grounds of the five-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway, the interiors of the Pullman Restaurant are exquisite, with cream and gold lacquered ceilings, incredible inlaid walnut panelling, not to mention exquisite food.
The Twitterati know that I do a lot of my dining out in Rasam, Nisheeth Tak's Indian restaurant in Glasthule, Co Dublin. The food is fab, but it's the atmosphere and welcome created by Tak down the years that draws people back week after week. Even the divine Nigella loved it.
The Cavalieri family's superb restaurant in the shadow of Kilkenny Castle is the best Italian restaurant in Ireland. I was down for lunch recently, and had, as always, chef Antonio's feather-light ravioli Gorgonzola e noci (ravioli in a Gorgonzola sauce with toasted walnuts). Sublime.
We had a great night in Nicky Foley's tapas restaurant in Dingle, Co Kerry, during the annual Dingle Food Festival. The tapas was to die for, which is why top chefs Neven Maguire, Derry Clarke and Jess Murphy were also packed in, enjoying the food and the fun.
While in Kinsale, Co Cork, for the annual Gourmet Fest, we had a great night in Tom and Grainne Kay's Supper Club. There are lots of great restaurants in Kinsale, but the Supper Club has a lovely relaxed, drop-in feel. We had a half-dozen oysters and a whole baked Camembert cheese, along with a good bottle of wine, and got drawn into conversation with four hilarious girls who talked for over an hour as to who did the best eyebrow microblading in Dublin!
THE GRILL ROOM
It's hard to beat the stunning view of Moll's Gap from the new Grill Room at the five-star Europe Hotel in Killarney. Having had millions of euro spent on it by the Liebherr family, who were in great form at the opening party, we were down to check it out, and it certainly didn't let the side down. A great night, which even had the management doing jigs and reels!
THE HUNTER'S BAR
Coming up from Kerry in October, we stopped, as we often do, for lunch at The Hunter's Bar in the Dunraven Arms in Adare, Co Limerick. It's a bastion of great hospitality, people-watching and sublime food, while in its Maigue restaurant, they carve a whole ham from the trolley each morning, and roast beef in the evening.
Stay safe, take care of one another, and I'll see you all again soon.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine