Life Food & Drink

Thursday 13 December 2018

Where do Ireland's top chefs eat? (you'll be surprised to hear they're not all pricey)

Ox Belfast
Ox Belfast
Wade and Elaine Murphy
Elaine Murphy
Declan Maxwell

The new edition of the bible, Where Chefs Eat, has just been published in both book and app form. The physical book is quite a tome - a guide to 4,500 of the best places to eat all around the world, compiled from the recommendations of 650 chefs. Unlike other guides, which tend to focus on high-end (for which read: expensive) establishments, Where Chefs Eat (WCE) is as much about neighbourhood cafés as it is about Michelin stars.

Joe Warwick has been involved with WCE since the original edition in 2012, and is responsible for the concept and name. "The chefs are sent a survey asking them to pick restaurants in each of eight categories. The idea is very much about getting away from a vague notion of 'Best' - I launched 'The World's 50 Best Restaurants' and in many ways WCE was a response to that - and is about categorising restaurants, matching the place to the purpose and being a lot more democratic, eclectic and inclusive in terms of the range of places that are included: there's everything from taco stands to opulent Michelin-starred dining rooms, breakfast to late night, bargain to high-end, local favourites to 'worth the travel', and so on. I want the book, and the app, to be really useful to anyone who loves to travel and loves restaurants."

Warwick is originally from County Down and a regular visitor to Ireland. When it came to selecting the Irish chefs whom he asked to contribute he says that he "just picked out chefs that I knew and met along the way", having been writing about restaurants since the mid-1990s.

The Irish contributors to the guide include the Michelin-starred chefs Ross Lewis of Chapter One, JP McMahon of Aniar and Stephen Toman of Ox, and between them they have some great recommendations. Here, we asked a few more Irish chefs and restaurateurs for their recommendations.

'Where Chefs Eat' is published by Phaidon, £19.99, the app costs €16.99

Grainne O'Keefe,

Head chef, Clanbrassil House

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

There are a lot of great restaurants in Dublin but many are closed on my days off, Sunday and Monday. Fortunately, Forest & Marcy open on Sunday evenings. They do a tasting menu inspired by the seasonal produce available from the McNallys' farm in North County Dublin. The cooking in Forest & Marcy is incredible and they have a really good wine list to match.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

Ox in Belfast (pictured main). Any time I'm in Belfast, I will always make time to go for a meal in Ox. Seasonal, simple food cooked incredibly well. They also have a wine bar next door called Ox Cave which is perfect for pre/post dinner drinks or to go in and try some of the charcuterie and cheeses.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

De Locos tapas is located in Ronda, just an hour from Malaga, and serves the best tapas I have ever eaten - so much so that I visited twice. Ronda is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and has a host of good restaurants and attractions. De Locos is very small, with only five or so tables in the restaurant, and is run by Guillermo and his wife. The menu is hand-written and each dish is explained in detail by Guillermo with roughly 20 or so dishes to choose from. The menu is always interesting with a lot of Japanese and Moroccan influence. Between two we ordered about 14 tapas accompanied by recommended wines and the bill was less than €50. Try the foie gras or the smoked sardines if available, but all the dishes we tried were incredible.

Wade & Elaine Murphy,

Chef and owners, 1826 Adare

2018-03-24_lif_39364596_I2.JPG
Wade and Elaine Murphy
 

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

You can't beat Chapter One. Ross and the team there are always pushing and never rest on their laurels. We have had some memorable meals there and it's not just about the food either, the service is always top class. Recently we had a fantastic lunch in One Pico. We hadn't been there in a few years but the cooking was top notch and really enjoyable.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

That's really hard to narrow down to just one. Campagne in Kilkenny is right up there as one of our favourites but there are others too, like The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna, Kai in Galway, MacNean House in Blacklion and The Tannery in Dungarvan. All are flying the flag for Irish food and have certainly helped raise the bar in terms of the standard of cooking in Ireland today.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

That has to be Chef's Warehouse and Canteen in Cape Town. We have been to Cape Town a few times and Liam Tomlin's tapas-style restaurant is always our first port of call. You can taste the sunshine and love in every bite you take. The wine isn't too shabby, either.

Kevin Powell,

Chef, Meet Me in The Morning

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

El Grito in Merchants Arch, Temple Bar. The first time I ate here was about 1am after catering a wedding; we went in and ordered far too many tacos and savaged them all. I love what they do and the atmosphere, and basically just love tacos. The tacos el pastor with a volcan on the side is my suggestion; wash it down with their horchata.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

Kai in Galway. The first time I ate here I was working for Corleggy Cheeses during the Volvo Ocean Race. Jess' [chef Jess Murphy] attitude to food is beyond compare; I love everything they do here. My most memorable dish was ricotta-stuffed courgette flowers; it was my main dish but I asked for it again. Jess let me have a smaller second portion. I haven't been for a long time but from watching closely it looks as if it has only improved.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

Saiko Sushi in Malmo, Sweden. The first time I ate here we just happened to have walked by and been curious to see what it was like. They use local Scandinavian ingredients and make some super interesting dishes with them. They've also got the strangest bathroom! I had a horse tartare dish here with crispy salmon skin and it was super wonderful and got me thinking about tartare in lots of different ways.

Gwen McGrath and Ken Doherty,

Owners and chef, Assassination Custard

We like the less formal restaurants of the Middle East, Italy or Spain where everyone seems to be dining out. The service is not slick but efficient, someone is clued in; it's like your dad could be your server, your granny is in the kitchen and that's alright! It has to be personal and for you to feel that you're getting good value.

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

Gwen: Luncheonette for its simplicity and imagination too. I always know I will get something I will enjoy there. Forest & Macy is such a fun place to dine, sitting at the bar, there isn't cooler spot in Dublin. Although Hang Dai is pretty hot, too.

Ken: Terre Madre is like a classic Italian trattoria, transplanted to Dublin's North city quays, it's a brilliant Italian staple.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

Both: Kai (above) for its fun and eclectic lunch menu.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

Gwen: La Cova Fumada in Barceloneta and Quimet & Quimet, also in Barcelona, where it's standing room only, and all about the tinned food (a Catalan tradition), with locals and tourists squeezed in cheek by jowl. And Restaurant Agusterello A Testaccio Di Commentucci in Rome. Housed in a former slaughter house in an old working class district, this place serves up traditional Roman classics such as tripe, oxtail and pajata.

Ken: Donna Teresa in Naples - a no-nonsense, no menu, father and daughter operation. And Morro Fi and Agullers, both in Barcelona. We have a few staples in London, too: Black Axe Mangal, St John, Moro and Persepolis. We love to eat on the hoof in markets in Sicily, Istanbul, Marrakesh and Fez.

Elaine Murphy,

Restaurateur, The Winding Stair, The Legal Eagle, The Woollen Mills, The Washerwoman

2018-03-24_lif_39364631_I3.JPG
Elaine Murphy
 

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

Assassination Custard is definitely among the most exciting food being served in Dublin. Gwen and Ken are cooking the yummiest of small plates in their doggedly unpretentious cafe. The panelle are savage, as are the romanesco, the veal (essentially saltimbocca) and the nduja rolls. The place is teeny and they are an absolute delight. I also love the Trocadero, for its wonderful welcome, its Chateaubriand and those dauphinoise. Drool! The confidence to serve decidedly unfashionable food really well is the key to a great dining experience.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

The Tavern in Murrisk holds a lovely memory (embarrassingly, neither pre-or post-climbing Croagh Patrick!) of Cleggan scallops and Kelly's of Newport black pudding, during a long and lazy lunch on a miserable and rainy afternoon - perfect. And I adore Kai. Jess Murphy is a genius and one the great women of Ireland! The roasted cauliflower that I had last time I was in Galway I will never forget. And that chocolate angel delight... good grief. She is amazing and I love the space.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

Two of my most memorable food experiences were on a recent trip to London with Ian Connolly, our executive chef. We arrived to the most incredible welcome and a stunning spectacle at The Clove Club in Shoreditch. There were many highlights but the buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt was spectacular. We also went to Black Axe Mangal, a ridiculously good and fast-paced Turkish-inspired, punk rock flatbread joint, owned and invented by a former St John chef, Lee Tiernan. We loved it, especially the ox heart, runner bean and horseradish flatbread.

Declan Maxwell,

Manager, Luna

2018-03-24_lif_39365231_I4.JPG
Declan Maxwell
 

Favourite restaurant in Dublin?

My favourite Dublin restaurant is Etto. Not only is the food excellent but the atmosphere and service overseen by Simon and Liz make for a great dining experience.

Favourite Irish restaurant outside Dublin?

The Tannery in Dungarvan. Paul Flynn's food is real; great ingredients put together simply and very tasty. There's always a warm welcome from Máire and they have a beautiful townhouse with rooms which makes it a special place for a weekend getaway.

Favourite restaurant outside Ireland?

Roscioli. This is my go-to place in Rome. Three places in one: restaurant, deli and wine shop. Probably the best carbonara amatriciana and burrata with black truffles in Italy.

Weekend Magazine

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life