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A guide to Dublin's cuisine capital

In Dublin, the easiest way of starting an argument is to walk into Burchill's or McSorleys and proclaim in a loud voice "Ranelagh is not a village; it's a suburb".

In this neck of the woods, such a statement is far more contentious than saying the earth is flat and the merest whiff of this sort of heresy will bring the locals down on you faster than the Spanish Inquisition on a lapsed monk.

It's true to say that many of the traditional local amenities associated with 'village life' have vanished. It's maybe ironic that what was the butcher's shop is now a restaurant specialising in meats.

There's no real 'centre', no focal point to Ranelagh (compare Sandymount, with its Green). What's more, Ranelagh's car parking regulations are totally draconian and enforced by a squad of wardens and clampers that make Hannibal Lecter look like that nice vegetarian from next door. But what Ranelagh does have, that I'm sure denizens of many other urban villages/suburbs envy like mad, is its enormous choice of dining options.

From Gonzaga to the LUAS station, Ranelagh has a wealth of restaurants and cafes unparalleled by any other area of Dublin. As one restaurant proprietor told me recently: "The LUAS has made us. People go home, get changed and they are back here by 7.30 and ready to party."

The other day, I took a stroll down the strip. Wongs used to be regarded as Dublin's premier Chinese restaurant. Perhaps it's been resting on its laurels for I haven't heard many people raving about the place of late. Er Buchetto is an amenable place to have a panini, a glass of wine and a read of the paper. Antica Venezia has, I noticed, swapped its lurid purple frontage for plain wood. Hope it hasn't lost that candle-in-a-bottle charm.

The Butcher's Grill prides itself on its steaks -- though I did momentarily wonder if €80 for the T-bone for two is taking the p*ss ever so slightly. Don't worry, there are more economically viable offers, like the fine Cote de Boeuf for €50 for two.

I like the way that Milanos and Marios, purveyors of pizza and pasta to the masses, glower at each other (metaphorically speaking) from opposite sides of the road. There are two places for tapas, La Bodega (larger portions) and Ochos (Okk-oss? Oh-chos? Pronounce it how you will).

There are two Indian restaurants or at least an Indian and a Pakistani -- the long-established Punjab Balti and Kinara Kitchen, the smart new kid on the block.

Ranelagh also boasts a couple of hidden gems. Down a narrow lane there's Michie Sushi, Dublin's only place to eat tapas, in my opinion and, lurking beneath the LUAS there's another low-key delight. Don't look down your nose at Pinnochio's location, this tiny cafe/restaurant encapsulates the charm of big Italy.

Here, are my Top 10 favourite Ranelagh dining spots. All and any of them I'd endorse for a lunch or a night out.

1 Dillinger's Dependable comfort eating with more than a dash of flair. Interesting wine list. Relaxed and informal with pleasant, efficient staff.

2 Butcher's Grill Without doubt, one of the best places to enjoy a steak in Dublin. Informal atmosphere with well-ventilated, open-plan kitchen.

3 La Bodega A recent discovery. Beautifully cooked (by Valencian chefs) and well-presented tapas in larger-than-normal portions. Good but limited range of Spanish (plus some 'international') wines. Outstanding service.

4 Wild Goose Grill Welcoming Ranelagh restaurant. Lovely decor and ambience. Competent cooking from a mainstream menu most will like. Excellent wine list.

5 Michie Sushi Unique. Outstanding sushi and sashimi from a skilled chef/proprietor who really cares. Tiny place, though.

6 Pinnochio Authentic, amazingly atmospheric recreation of informal Italian cafe, serving what I'd call 'real food'.

7 Punjab Balti Long-established restaurant serving good, honest Indian food.

8 Kinara Kitchen Stylish Pakistani restaurant where the cooking is several cuts above the norm. Service can be brusque.

9 Eatery 120:Solid, dependable, mainstream restaurant with buzzy ambience.

10 Tribeca Once cutting-edge, now MOR. Inspired by the New York diner, there's no better place at which to feed the family. Grab their legendary buffalo wings.


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