The island of Ireland’s lush green pastures and wild, rugged coastline yield some of the best produce in the world – from Connemara Hill lamb reared on fresh herbs and heather to organic Clare Island salmon from the west coast and tart green Armagh Bramley apples.
In recent years the island has undergone a foodie revolution. Ingredients served in farmhouse kitchens for centuries are now combined with global flavours and sophisticated cooking techniques to bring them back to the forefront of the island’s cuisine.
Whether you’re in a Michelin-starred restaurant, a lively coastal bistro or on a sustainable farm, you’re bound to find food that celebrates locally sourced native produce.
FIELD TO FINE DINING – Loam, County Galway
All ingredients at Enda McEvoy’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Galway come from the county’s wild landscape. Loam means ‘rich, fertile soil’, which Enda contributes to by sourcing all vegetables from a local farm, and returning waste to be turned into compost. His modern, industrial-style restaurant is even decorated with wooden herb boxes so diners can watch ingredients flourishing around them.
Enda’s ethos forces him and his chefs to get creative in the open-plan kitchen – rowan shoots are reduced into an almond-flavoured syrup and nettles are transformed into a grassy purée, while Connemara air-dried lamb and Gubbeen pancetta are as good as any charcuterie you’d find on the continent. The seven- and nine-course tasting menus let ingredients speak for themselves – ‘squid, shiitake and egg’ takes the form of an umami-rich squid noodle soup, while ‘burnt honey, whiskey and raspberry’ is a take on a traditional Scottish cranachan with local honey, whiskey foam and freeze-dried raspberries. Visit the restaurant to taste the purity of Galway’s produce.
BLOSSOM TO BOTTLE – Long Meadow Cider, County Armagh
Rural County Armagh is known as the orchard of the island. Its tart Bramley apples are transformed by local producers into artisan ciders and exceptional apple juice. The pretty town of Armagh makes a great base to explore the surrounding cider houses and learn how these world-renowned fruits get from blossom to bottle. Stroll through Long Meadow Cider’s 30-acre orchard to see first-hand how the apples are grown, harvested and pressed, then tuck into a picnic lunch beneath the apple trees with a pint of soft, mellow Blossom Burst or punchy Oak Aged cider.
TIDE TO TABLE – Wild Atlantic Way, West Coast
This unique seafood trail strings together smokehouses, oyster farms and seaside cafés, making it a must for foodie road trippers. Choose a section of this coastal route to dip into for a short break: tuck into Mulroy Bay’s rope-grown mussels at charming local haunt The Singing Pub on Donegal’s north-west coast after seeing how they are grown in the farms.
Or join a tour at picture-perfect Connemara Smokehouse before tasting its organic beech-smoked salmon. Then take a two-hour scenic drive south to embark on a guided walk along the seashore with Kelly Oysters to oyster beds where you can slurp bivalves fresh from the sea.
Head to The Bulman in Kinsale, County Cork for a well-deserved pint of Guinness and a bowl of Oysterhaven mussels in a creamy broth with smoked bacon, spring cabbage and thyme. This orange-painted pub is as jolly inside as it is out, with live music four nights a week.
FARM TO FORK – Sage, County Cork
This pretty stone building off Midleton’s high street is a hero on the farm-to-fork scene thanks to its ‘12-mile’ ethos. Kevin Aherne has an exceptional relationship with farmers and growers within this short radius, offering diners a truly seasonal taste of east Cork. Check out the website to see who is growing leaves, foraging mushrooms and catching fish for that particular season.
Though the menu changes daily, the 12-mile sharing board is a permanent fixture, offering the likes of sweetbread croquettes and sage black pudding with beech mushrooms. Other seasonal dishes include beetroot and goat’s cheese ravioli, ale-brined chicken supreme, and hake with tagliatelle, seaweed and cultured butter.
GRASS TO GLASS – Dingle Distillery, County Kerry
Distillers on the island make the most of unique botanicals to craft small-batch gins. Locally foraged ingredients are gathered in County Kerry by three gin lovers to create their award-winning Dingle Original Gin. The trio has chosen red fuchsia (that the locals call ‘the tears of God’) and bog myrtle from the shores of Derrynane beach, along with rowan berry from the county’s mountain ash trees and heather found at the feet of the West Kerry hills, to create a bottled tribute to the county.
Dingle Original Gin bagged the prize of World’s Best Gin at the World Gin Awards 2019, making the distillery a must-visit for fans of the spirit. You should also embark on a tour of Dingle itself, sipping on the eponymous gin at Dick Mac’s lively pub and brewery, classic martinis at Chart House restaurant and even Dingle Gin-infused ice cream at Murphy’s bright blue ice-cream shop. Or drive through the county’s forests, moorlands and mountains to soak up the landscape that inspired this fresh, floral gin.