Young teams hungry to make their mark mean that the quality of cooking across Ireland just keeps getting stronger and stronger, and a new breed of neighbourhood restaurants – set away from city centres, where costs are lower – are also bringing top quality cuisine to more of the country than ever before.
The diversity of the country’s dining scene is reflected in our selection of Michelin Stars, which all offer something different, from the much-loved Dublin institutions that are the elegant Patrick Guilbaud (Two Stars), stylish Chapter One and legendary L’Ecrivain to chic Liath, which sits within a bohemian suburban market in the seaside village of Blackrock.
When it comes to dining within hotels there’s House, with its impressive coastal views, and Lady Helen, which proudly showcases produce from the estate on which it stands. Also offering a place to stay is the Wild Honey Inn, which started life in the 1860s as a hotel, and is now a cosy pub with rooms, serving classical French dishes.
Kilkenny’s Campagne is a sleek neighbourhood spot focusing on refreshingly understated cooking, while County Cork plays host to three very different restaurants: chic Japanese Ichigo Ichie, sweet, understated Chestnut, which focuses on natural flavours, and intimate Mews, where local herbs and seaweeds are a feature.
Galway’s Starred restaurants, meanwhile, come at both ends of the design spectrum, with industrial-style basement room Loam (winner of the Michelin Sustainability Award 2020) providing a complete contrast to nature-inspired Aniar, which is decked out in wood and stone.
Joining these existing Stars in the 2020 edition of the guide are a whole host of newly Starred restaurants.
Foraged and preserved produce leads the way at Aimsir in Celbridge, which is welcomed into the guide with an impressive Two Michelin Stars and chic, accomplished Greenhouse in Dublin also joins the Two Star category following its promotion from One Star. (For a more in-depth insight into these restaurants, see our ‘Zooming In’ articles by clicking here: Aimsir, Greenhouse)
Intimate-wine-bar-cum-bistro Bastion in Kinsale and grand manor house dining room The Oak Room in Adare are promoted to One Michelin Star, while the dynamic, laid-back Variety Jones in Dublin – where dishes are cooked over the fire – enters the guide for the first time with One Michelin Star. Let’s take a closer look at these three restaurants:
The Oak Room, Adare (Promoted from a Michelin Plate)
The dining room of the impressive 1830s mansion Adare Manor, exhibits all the comfort and grandeur one would expect. It’s named after the wood-panelled walls commissioned by architect Augustus Pugin and comes with a dark green colour scheme, period artwork and lavish chandeliers. In summer, ask for a table in the small glass-enclosed terrace for wonderful views over the parterre and 850 acres of grounds.
Michael Tweedie’s assured, refreshingly understated modern cooking champions top ingredients from Ireland’s artisan producers, and dishes comprise just 3 or 4 ingredients, as he has the experience and courage to know when to hold back. The resulting combinations are refined and well-balanced, with complex flavours and great attention to detail. The wine list is a labour of love and offers a superb range by the glass.
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Variety Jones, Dublin (New Addition to the Guide)
This tiny restaurant sits sandwiched between other properties and there’s no sign above the door, but that all adds to the anticipation. The long, narrow room has a funky, modern style and the cool, relaxed atmosphere is helped along by the laid-back team.
At the back you’ll find charming chef-owner Keelan Higgs working calmly in the open kitchen, while his brother Aaron keeps things running smoothly out front. Highly original, refined yet unfussy dishes burst with freshness and flavour, and many are cooked over the open fire; Keelan loves this concept, as it means no two dishes will ever be exactly the same. The menu is divided into the headings Snacks, Cold, Warm, Pasta, Family Style (for sharing) and After (one dessert and one cheese). The monthly changing, mostly organic wine list is equally passionately compiled.
Bastion, Kinsale (Promoted from a Bib Gourmand)
Set in the very centre of town, Bastion is an intimate wine bar cum bistro run by a keen young couple: Paul cooks, while his wife Helen looks after the service. A large bar splits the room in two and while its dark décor gives it a moody feel, twinkling candles add a welcoming touch.
Chef-owner Paul McDonald might be Scottish born but the cooking here has a strong Irish base, with regional ingredients leading the way – although he’s happy to search further afield if the quality of the produce dictates. Natural flavours are kept to the fore and local seafood is a highlight. The skilfully prepared, exacting dishes take on a modern style and often exhibit a playful, innovative element, while at the same time showing depth in their flavours and textures.
Our Michelin Star selection for 2020 certainly offers discerning diners plenty of choice in terms of atmosphere, style and type of cuisine – a reflection of the Irish dining scene as a whole.
For a list of all the NEW Star Distinctions for 2020 click here
For all UK Star listings click here
For all Republic of Ireland Star listings click here