All posts filed under: Restaurants

A guide to Belfast, bite by bite

This article was originally published in The Irish Times. Imagine a meal that begins with the snap of crusty sourdough spread generously with Co Down’s golden Abernethy butter. Then move on to a plate of just-out-of-the-water Carlingford oysters, before a main of Mourne mountain lamb with buttery local potatoes. Round it off with a chocolate and salted caramel ice-cream from Glastry Farm from the Ards Peninsula or, for cheese lovers, Northern Ireland’s only raw milk blue cheese, Young Buck. This is just a tiny example of the endless bounty of Northern Ireland’s food produce you will find on menus these days in Belfast. Its restaurant scene has never shone brighter, making it the perfect time to visit. OX restaurant in Belfast. The past decade has seen the growth of the relationship between Northern Ireland’s producers, suppliers and restaurants. As the political situation stabilised, Belfast saw a surge in tourism with visitors taking in tourist attractions such as the Titanic visitor centre or stopping off in the city before a trip to the Giant’s Causeway or …

Review – Pullman Restaurant – Glenlo Abbey Hotel

The closest I’ll ever get to Laurence Olivier is a very unique dining experience at Glenlo Abbey. The star of my favourite version of my favourite book by Emily Bronte, “Wuthering Heights” (it feels like they invented the word brooding for the way he played the leading role of Heathcliff) used to take The Pullman Carriage on its Brighton run which saw it carry actors from London’s West End to tread the Brighton boards. The Pullman Carriage, now happily stationed at Gleno in Galway, was built in 1927 where it went on its glamorous Russia, Monaco and Istanbul routes. You might also recognise it from “Murder on the Orient Express”, the 1974 Agatha Christie film. It was also used during World War II by Sir Winston Churchill and his family. In fact its last journey was in 1965 taking Churchill’s remains and funeral cortege back near Blenheim Palace where he would be buried. This is a very special kind of dining experience. There is something about getting on board a piece of history, being greeted …

Dining in Donegal 2018

Donegal is magical, majestic and full of mischief. My home county is the most beautiful in the country. Of course I’m going to say that, but it’s true. You’ll find warm people, freezing North Atlantic waters crashing onto dreamy beaches, good food, cosy pubs, rich Gaeilge and the song and story that comes from it, and us. Then there are sights like Mount Errigal, Malin Head, Sliabh League and the magnificent Glenveagh National Park. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been warmed by a Donegal turf fire, its fizzing and crackly breath embracing you into the very heart of its mountains, its sea, its people and its soul. Grá mo chroí.   Here are some of my favourite restaurants: Harry’s Bar and Restaurant What can I say about Harry’s? I’ve written a longer piece here about this fine restaurant, but what makes it so special is how much they care. The owner Donal Doherty and head chef Derek Creagh are passionate about using local produce that comes from the surrounding area of Inishowen and …

Review – The Village Tavern, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal

Falling in love again with your home county can often happen when you least expect it. Donegal is the tattoo on my heart and the passport I am proudest of. I am in another flush of love with this special, mythical, weather battered, gorgeous and cheeky county at the minute.  I dragged my family out while visiting home this weekend to try The Village Tavern in Mountcharles which is just five minutes from Donegal Town. I had heard very, very good things about the food here, so not even a visit from that rascal Desmond was going to stand in the way. One two-hour journey from my homeplace in north-west Donegal later, it was certainly worth it. Signature Seafood Tasting Board Tucked into the back of an unassuming pub in the main village of Mountcharles, lies a roaring fire and delicious food that far surpasses any pre-conceptions of rural pub grub. The whole menu was like George Clooney had just married seafood and was showing her off to the world. The starters were clever and …

Italian restaurants in Dublin

I love Italian food precisely because it is that, Italian. It is beautiful, delicious, simple, coveted and nurtured, and spoken of with the same passionate pride as parents of a newborn baby. It is love. From the water that quenched thirsty hot tomatoes that grew to turn into passata to the cows that grazed in the fields of Lombardy to make milk for Taleggio cheese or the pigs that were reared to make us prosciutto to the olives grown for silky oils to make salads glisten. The food is grown, prepared and eaten with love and, importantly, with respect. I revel in seeing Italians and their unabashed excitement for their food. They seem to have an inherent, magical understanding for the absolute joy that can be had from the table, the things that are laid upon it, and those they love around it. Here are some of my favourite spots for Italian food in Dublin. Mamma Mia President Michael D. Higgins adores Mamma Mia, and rightly so. I discovered the joys of this restaurant while …

Remembering elBulli

Sunday October 18th  of 2009, table for 2 people at 7.30 p.m. under the name: CIARAN HAYDEN It is almost six years since I had the best dining experience of my life in elBulli restaurant. My friend Ciarán had won the gastronomic lottery and managed to get one of the 8,000 table bookings they offered a year. elBulli was a three Michelin star restaurant with head chef Ferran Adria at the helm until it closed a few years ago. The Godfather of molecular gastronomy’s cuisine was so sought after that the restaurant, on the Catalonian Costa Brava, received over two million requests a year for just 8,000 tables. Naturally, Ciarán and I thought we hadn’t a hope. He rang me a week before Christmas in 2008 to tell me about the table and I’m probably still not over it. Although it was over five years ago, I can still taste every dish. It was one of the most spectacular nights of my life.  Adrià closed the restaurant in 2011 because it was losing so much money. I was …

Review – The Cavern, Baggot Street

One of the surest ways to my heart is a good cheese board. I don’t tend to order them in restaurants as they are often a menu’s lonely, back of the fridge afterthought, dragged out and given a quick shave in the hope the diner doesn’t notice. We do. It’s like the guy who douses himself with Lynx instead of showering. We just know.  So I was very excited about seeing what the Cavern, the new baby offshoot of Baggot Street Wines, offered on their cheese board. I’m a big fan of the wine shop, their staff are lovely, unpretentious and helpful and when they introduced a very good selection of Sheridan’s cheeses ‘to go’ by their cash register, I hoped it would evolve into a wine cellar. Enter The Cavern. I went on a Thursday evening with a very good friend who kindly ordered champagne to toast a recent happy event. It was delicious with star-like tiny bubbles. The staff members were attentive and warm, answering any questions we had and topping up drinks at just …