Crudo

11 Seafort Avenue
Sandymount
Dublin 4
DO4 DH32
Phone: 01 667 3252

Crudo is the creation of Eileen Dunne's two sons, Ghinlon Wang and Seán Crescenzi. And it's a creation that pushes a lot of buttons for me. Brendan Ward's sensitive, generous interpretation of Italian cooking (with a very positive attitude to truffles) is complimented by an ace wine selection and great advice on matching. A special place.

 

Hooked

65 Henry Street
Galway
Phone: 091 581 792

Hooked celebrates fish and seafood in a way that is gloriously informal and fun. It's a no nonsense and no frills kind of place, the sort of restaurant where I'd like to go with a bunch of friends to explore the menu in detail and to share a few bottles of crisp, dry white wine. More Spanish than Irish in a sense. Portions are generous and service is lovely.

 

INK Café

dlr Lexicon
Haigh Terrace
Moran Park
Dun Laoghaire
Co. Dublin

INK, in Dun Laoghaire's iconic Lexicon complex, is a café that not only aims to produce zero waste, fills a glorious, bright, airy space in this brilliant building, but also cooks from scratch everything on the premises. They even clip the daily menu to cardboard rescued from kitchen packaging. There's a great sense of care.

 

Izz Café

14 George's Quay
Cork
Phone: 085 149 5625

Cork's own Palestinian restaurant, Izz, specialises in the Middle Eastern flatbreads known variously as manakish, manakeesh, man'ousheh or, as here, manaeesh. The Alkarajeh family, who spent a year and a half in Direct Provision, are the people behind Izz, having established a fine reputation for their food at Mahon Point Market. Good home baking too.

 

{...} AND CHIPS

Unit 3 Castle House
Davitt's Quay
Dungarvan
Co. Waterford
Phone: 058 24498

The curiously named {...} AND CHIPS is a chipper in the sense that Harry's Bar in Venice is a pub or that Harry Potter is a schoolboy. For a start, it's very cool in terms of how it looks, it serves squid and it's the brainchild of the indefatigable Eunice Power. Essentially a takeaway, there are a few seats so get in early. It's outstanding.

 

Little Mike's

63 Deerpark Road
Mount Merrion
Co. Dublin
Phone: 01268 0377

The news that Gaz Smith of Michael's was to open a wine bar with small plates was greeted with a degree of scepticism. Michael's is known for its generosity; there are no half measures.

Well, the generosity is still there but the plates are, indeed, modest, assembled with great care and orchestration of flavours and textures but always putting the main ingredient centre stage. Delightfully eclectic selection of wines by Talha Pasha.

 

Seasalt Café

17 Casement Square
Cobh
Co. Cork
Phone: 021 481 3383

Jacquie O'Dea's Seasalt is a café where - and this is a much abused term - they actually do home cooking, i.e. how you would do it in your own kitchen if you had the time, the skill and the raw materials. And it's utterly delightful, a tall-ceilinged, bright room packed with understandably happy people. Cakes are by Ali Cullinane who is well known in these parts to be as to cakes what Monty Don is to gardens.

 

The Yard

3 Lower George's Street
Wexford
Co. Wexford
Phone: 053 914 4083

The owners of The Yard have a vast kitchen garden and when they can, they dish up its produce. There's a sensible menu at lunchtime that keeps it simple and good, and there are tapas at night. A large, fun restaurant run with a personal touch and simple, well-executed cooking.

 

Frank's

22 Camden Street
Dublin 2

Walk-ins only at the utterly delightful Frank's. It was, until recently, a butcher's shop and it still looks like one from the outside. There's a long Corian table surrounded by stools and dark green walls. At the back, there's a minute kitchen where Chris Maguire, who used to create magic at Lock's, prepares everything in front of your very eyes.

The menu is very short, the platefuls are small and designed for sharing (although solo eating here could be a lot of fun too). Brilliant and constantly changing wine selection at very kind prices.

 

Potager

7 Church Street
Skerries
Co. Dublin
Phone: 01 802 9406

When it comes to a chef's CV, the words "Chapter One" and "Forest Avenue" have the authority of, say, Galileo talking about the movements of the planets. Cathal Leonard's cooking is meticulous, infinitely detailed, disciplined, thoughtful, mildly playful, carefully creative and comes with the confidence that comes with not just well-honed skill but years of experience. But this is certainly not what I think of as tortured food involving tweezers.

 

Circa

90 Terenure Road North
Dublin 6
Phone: 01 534 2644

Just because it's in Terenure does not mean that Circa is a neighbourhood restaurant. The food is worth travelling for: detailed, disciplined, modern, ingredient-led, classics-meet-funk and get on great together. All that and flavour, plenty of flavour.

A cream coloured menu card, folded in four, is tucked into a crisp linen napkin in a way that seems to say "It's OK. You can relax. You're in the right place. Circa is lovely, the cooking is the definition of what you don't do at home, the service friendly, efficient, relaxed and, importantly, enthusiastic.

 

Good Day Deli

Nano Nagle Place
Douglas Street
Cork
Phone: 021 432 2107

This is a bright, modern glass box sitting in the three acres of gardens that the Presentation Sisters here share with the community. The food, by Corkonian Karen and New Zealander Kristin, is bright, vibrant, original, nurturing and thoughtful. And, oh yes, it doesn’t feature meat.

 

Uno Mas

6 Aungier Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 475 8538

Uno Mas is the heavily Spanish influenced brand new restaurant from Liz and Simon, the people who have been delighting us with Etto for several years now. It was the most eagerly anticipated opening in Dublin since it was announced in late 2017. The best squid I have ever eaten was consumed here. And there’s an outstanding Iberian wine list.

 

Variety Jones

78 Thomas Street
Dublin 8
Phone: 085 177 1805

It’s a very small menu in a small place (35 covers), so you might not find what you like on it. And the portions, for the most part, are small, so macho appetites should look elsewhere. If you want starter, main course and dessert, it doesn’t really work like that. And nobody will ever say “I could murder a steak; let’s go to Variety Jones”. But Keelan Higgs (late of Luna and Locks) is cooking divinely in a very modern idiom here. Exciting food.

 

Grano

5 Norseman Court
Manor Street
Stoneybatter
Dublin 7
Phone: 01 538 2003

Outstanding pasta dishes – including grano arso orecchiete – using brilliant specially imported raw materials. Owner Roberto’s mother, Mamma Roma, makes the pasta by hand in front of your very eyes. And there’s a lovely, thoughtful wine selection. Grano is a gem.

 

BO.CO Bar + Oven

57 Bolton Street
Dublin 1
Phone: 01 873 0128

Attractively stripped back décor in this venerable old Dublin boozer which has been transformed into a pizzeria where good value cocktails add to the fun. Clever toppings and good American-style bases plus seductive desserts, with very fair prices.

 

One Society

1 Lower Gardiner Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 537 5261

It’s a café in north inner city Dublin, a happy and somewhat random discovery on a wet afternoon when I was mooching around the distinctly down-at-heel streets behind the Gresham Hotel. Great croque madame, slow-cooked brisket, bread from Le Levain and, latterly, Neapolitan-style pizzas. Friendly, enthusiastic team.

 

Zozimus

Centenary House
Anne’s Lane
South Anne Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 536 9640

A huge and very cool bar hidden down a laneway smack in the centre of the south inner city. They do a vast range of cocktails but the real draw here is the Chinese menu by Jules Mak. The dumplings are outstanding and the salt and chilli squid was the best I’ve had when I last ate there.

 

The Dalkey Duck

61 Castle Street
Dalkey
Co. Dublin
Phone: 01 552 8605

A proper gastropub (if you insist on that awful word) in what used to be the rather louche McDonagh’s in the heart of Ireland’s most upmarket village. Excellent cooking with confidence but no showing off, a great wine selection and very attractive pricing depending on the day. And it’s on the Dart.

 

The Grayson

41 St Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 683 3680

This used to be Residence where Graham Neville cooked before he went to Dax. Now owned by the Press Up Group, it has been opened up, has very cool bars on every level, and while the food is now a lot less formal and more all-things-to-all-people it’s pretty good. A fine place for steak.