Travel: Dublin

Temple Bar, Dublin is full of restaurants and bars
Temple Bar, Dublin is full of restaurants and bars
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Ireland is lucky enough to produce, grow and catch some of the world’s finest food and drink, and the sector is proving crucial as the country continues to recover from the economic hangover of 2008.

Ireland is lucky enough to produce, grow and catch some of the world’s finest food and drink, and the sector is proving crucial as the country continues to recover from the economic hangover of 2008.

If you are visiting the Emerald Isle for a culinary tour – as I was – taking in Dublin and its environs, do yourself a favour before you leave home and skip Google. There’s no need if you enlist Ketty Quigley (www.deliciousdublintours.com) to show you around the vibrant food and dining scene.

After touching base at the glorious Brooks Hotel (www.brookshotel.ie), there was food to be eaten. First stop was greengrocer Fallon & Byrne (www.fallonandbyrne.com), where their underground restaurant was full of Dubliners having lunch. The menu allowed us a taste of the southwest via smooth creamy artisan cheese from Durrus and charcuterie from the Gubbeen Smokehouse – their pigs are bred for a higher fat content resulting in a softer meat post-curing. Food was washed down with Irish Craft IPA from BRU, with lemony undertones that made it a great partner for the smokehouse’s chorizo. Highlights of the fish course included Kirsti O’Kelly’s pickled herring with its strong tarragon and star anise flavours.

After lunch it was time for some breakfast, and the Turkish Eggs Menemen from Brother Hubbard (www.brotherhubbard.ie) would make the perfect start to a day/afternoon. The crunchy sourdough toast piled with scrambled eggs, tomato and peppers came with a feta and olive yogurt to combat the kick from the chilli and onion salsa.

Hubbard’s Co founder Garret Fitzgerald trained at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, and after some serious globe-trotting he returned to Dublin with skills and an appetite for a creative and worldly-wise menu.

Sitting under a patio heater, wearing a coat fit for the arctic, the unseasonable winter warmth of 13 degrees was making me thirsty. Surely now was the time for some Guinness? Yes, and what better way to sample it than accompanied by a variety of native oysters at Klaw (www.klaw.ie), Niall Sabongi’s cool and compact city shack in Temple Bar’s Crown Alley.

The toasted oyster comes with a theatrical presentation, and if you want more heat you could add the fiery Jalapeño Chardonnay vinegar. But you must have at least one oyster “naked” before adding flavours to the mix, and after a life spent in the nutrient-rich waters a plump Galway Bay oyster is recommended.

For a more hands-on approach to the dining experience I visited Cooks Academy (www.cooksacademy.com). Catering for groups of up to 80 guests and all abilities, you can make your own food under the watchful eye of the academy’s chefs. I tackled a traditional Irish soda bread with salmon mousse terrine, and a bespoke Irish coffee on the side. As I removed the bread from the oven my fellow cooks in training gave me a standing ovation and proclaimed it to be the best loaf ever created – although my recollection may be tainted by the few glasses of O’Haras Irish Pale Ale consumed while the bread was baking.

I popped into Murphy’s ice-cream shop and, after what seemed to be one of the hardest decisions in my life, went for the Dingle Gin, with a creamy fresh flavour and boozy botanicals that gave my taste buds a new lease of life.

All this eating was making me hungry, so after a quick pit stop at Brooks it was out for dinner at L Mulligan Grocer, Bar and Restaurant (lmulligangrocer.com). The frontage tricks you into expecting just another traditional pub but inside it is quirky and contemporary, championing micro breweries from around the country, and even brewing its own craft beer.

To start I tried the black pudding and Ardsallagh goat’s cheese and almond croquette. The pudding had spice, and the croquette crunch. Perfect. A Remix IPA provided some gently toasted refreshment. For the main show slow roasted pork neck and mustard mash was duly delivered. No need for a knife. Just a glance at the meat and it fell apart. A superb dish, and teamed with award-winning dark and malty Plain Porter stout – a substantial nightcap.

Next morning I headed south to the majestic Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel (www.fitzpatrickcastle.com). Perched high on Killiney Hill it affords visitors a commanding view over Dublin Bay beyond, and my balconied corner suite allowed me to swap windows when I wanted to change the vista.

Killiney Hill offered a calorie-burning opportunity and taking the path to the top provided another spectacular view of the city, sea and Wicklow mountains.

After the morning’s exercise I arrived in James Joyce country at the heritage town of Dalkey, just south of Dublin, grabbing lunch at Finnegan’s pub on the quaint main street. I chose the scampi and they proved to be delicious, having been freshly made with Dublin Bay prawns – raising the bar for pub grub. And this was another opportunity for an IPA, this time a Wicklow Wolf, brewed just a Blarney stone’s throw over the border in County Wicklow.

Sandy Cove, further up the coastline, is worth a visit to see the Joyce museum, housed in the Martello tower where the author spent six nights in 1904. Also nearby is the famous “forty foot”, a natural pool granting the opportunity to bathe in the balmy Irish waters.

Thinking about swimming was bringing on an appetite. After a pre-dinner Shortcross Gin in Fitzpatrick’s Library Bar we took a trip to Glasthule to Cavistons Food Emporium and Restaurant (www.cavistons.com). The emporium has somewhat evolved from the fishmonger Peter Caviston’s father opened in 1967, both in scale and range, converting two shops into one and opening a bakery across the road. With a tradition of listening to customer requests and searching out new trends, Peter puts the success of the emporium down to entertaining and exciting people’s palates – “give them something to talk about”. He has also given them a place to dine – next door at Cavistons Restaurant.

The starter of crab vanished quickly, as did the accompanying chunk of charcoal bread. I had my fair share of salmon on this trip but couldn’t resist another variation for my main, in this instance teriyaki – sweet, sticky, salty, simple success. I searched out one last IPA, and entering a busy nearby pub found Peter Caviston holding court and listening to his customers, perfectly capturing the Irish approach to good food and great, friendly service.

FACTBOX

For more information see www.ireland.com

Flights with Aer Lingus: Edinburgh (from £54.98 return), Glasgow (£49.98), Aberdeen (£69.98)

Brooks Hotel Dublin from £135 per night (brookshotel.ie)

Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel from £138 per night (fitzpatrickcastle.com)