Saturday 25 May 2019

Where to eat without it costing an arm and a leg

Six Irish restaurants hold Michelin stars today, all of them in Dublin.

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud has two. Thornton's, L'Ecrivain, Chapter One, Bon Appetit and Mint each have one star, whilst Restaurant Michael Deane in Belfast is the only Northern restaurant to hold a star.

The first star to be won in Ireland was achieved by Cork's iconic Arbutus Lodge, who grabbed a gong in 1974 and held on to it for almost a decade. Dublin's Russell Hotel also won a star that year, and in '75 Myrtle Allen's legendary Ballymaloe House won its first star. Michelin also recognised the originality of the woman who may have been Ireland's greatest female chef. Catherine Healy of Dunderry Lodge, in Co Meath, ran a gem of a restaurant sited in old farm outbuildings and situated in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

But it may have been Michelin's finest Irish moment when it awarded a star to Paul and Jeanne Rankin's Roscoff restaurant, in Belfast, in 1991.

Belfast was still a place of bombs and bullets, but Rankin and his extraordinary team were deservedly recognised as being the finest in the country at that time.

Today, it remains astonishing to many food lovers that great cooks such as Cavan's Neven Maguire of the MacNean Restaurant, Cork's Denis Cotter of Cafe Paradiso, Belfast's Brian McCann of Shu and Martin Shanahan of Kinsale's Fishy Fishy Cafe have not received the gongs that their careers and creativity merit.

You can spend a great deal of money eating at Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland -- the foie gras first course in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud will cost you €40, whilst the red leg partridge is €50 for a main course. In Kevin Thornton's restaurant, the eight-course tasting menu is €125 per head.

But even Michelin stars have to move with the times. Guilbaud's does a two-course lunch menu for €38, whilst Thornton's lunch menus begin at €45. Chapter One has long been renowned not just for superb food, but for amazing value for money: the pre-theatre menu at €37.50 is one of Dublin's best bargains and always has been.

L'Ecrivain, meanwhile, has lunch specials at just €25, but the offer of dinner for two with a bottle of wine for €125 is a steal.

In Mint, chef Dylan McGrath has early evening tapas menus with wine for just €55, whilst Oliver Dunne in Malahide's Bon Appetit has a three-course dinner menu for €50.

In Belfast, Restaurant Michael Deane has a two-course lunch offer for £17.50. Believe it or not, there has never been a better time to eat starred food.

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