Here at TheTaste, we love discovering new dining venues and experiencing great food. We’re also not opposed to reliving an old favourite or two.
From supporting local and using the very best produce on offer to witnessing the creativity of some of Ireland’s chefs, there’s never been a more exciting time to get out and taste all Ireland has to offer.
Throughout 2018, our award-winning team visited over 200 restaurants across 22 of Ireland’s counties and also some destinations abroad.
Despite the difficulty of narrowing down our choices, we’ve shared our own personal favourite dining experiences of 2018 and we look forward to sampling more of Ireland’s excellent dining venues in 2019.
2018 was a fantastic culinary year. With our Renault Belgard Taste Tour, we reached 22 counties and got a real understanding of where Ireland is in terms of food.
One of the main reasons I love what we do at TheTaste is the fact we get to meet such passionate people behind the food, from producers to chefs.
When we agreed as a team to do a round up of our best experiences last year, I knew for me this would be a difficult task and impossible to narrow it down to just one.
When I heard that award-winning chef Philip Brazil had taken over the reigns in the kitchen as executive chef at Castle Leslie, I knew I just had to visit this luxurious Monaghan castle.
Snaffles, a slightly odd name for restaurant, is situated on the mezzanine floor and is open to local guests in addition to residents. It’s an impressive space with carved wooden vaulted ceilings and rustic oak beams.
From start to finish, our dinner was sublime. It’s also worth noting the effort that has gone into the wine list here.
Other honourable mentions this year include Glovers Alley (Andy is a great day and he’s done such a great job with the restaurant) and Etto, the food there is just amazing. One Pico is also always a firm favourite.
Clenaghans had been on our radar since its opening week but we were blissfully unaware that they had charming, little cottages dating back to the Eighteenth century almost adjoining the restaurant.
Although run as two separate businesses, we were delighted to secure a booking in one of the cottages for the night, even though we only had a short 1 hour 40 minutes drive to get there from Dublin, we would recommend taking advantage and booking a little weekend escape to this rural gem.
The menu is divided into bar snacks, starters and mains. Pork scratchings and smoked chorizo pancake make up some of the tasty bites on offer. We settled on some Vegetable Crips with a herb mayo and a moorish Pork, sage and Onion Scotch Egg.
This year, I would love to visit Waterford Castle again for the full experience. It’s such an incredible venue in a beautiful part of the country.
I’m also overdue a visit to West Cork, with both Mews and Restaurant Chestnut on my list. Finally, I can’t wait to get into Dylan McGrath’s newest venue, Shelbourne Social, in the coming weeks.
2018 was a really exciting year for me in terms of food experiences, so much so that it’s pretty much impossible to narrow it down to just one, from a unique collaborative dining event with Alberto Rossi and JP McMahon to sunset dinners by the sea, there’s a lot to choose from.
With travel being one of my greatest passions, combining a love of food and travel seems to ensure a wonderful culinary experience.
Highlights this year included the fantastic Mediterranean cuisine of Cyprus (not to mention the copious amount of Halloumi cheese consumed in a few short days), dining in style at Bord Eau restaurant in Abu Dhabi and sampling the cuisine of Graz.
Another highlight was unleashing the giddy child within and skipping down the streets of New York City and eating everything in sight.
One of the most unforgettable dining experiences this year actually took place 40,000 feet in the air. Experiencing Emirates Business Class is something I will never forget.
In Ireland, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at The Courthouse Restaurant in Monaghan. For me, service is just as important as the quality of the food and this Michelin Bib restaurant exudes class and the service was some of the best I have ever experienced.
I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in quite a few Afternoon Tea experiences around the country this year, with Waterford Castle’s Afternoon Tea taking the crown for best experience.
Located in my home county, the historic castle hotel is the epitome of luxury. Another standout experience was the Afternoon Tea at Butler House in Kilkenny.
At the end of last year, one of my dining goals for 2019 was to finally visit l’Ecrivain. I’ve been eyeing up this Michelin starred restaurant for quite some time and it didn’t disappoint.
The whole experience, from the exquisite food to the spectacular service and the ambiance. It lived up to my expectations and even exceeded them. I’ll be dreaming about that duck for quite some time.
In 2019, I would finally like to tick Etto and Luna off my very long list. I’ve been hearing rave reviews from both of these Dublin institutions for the longest time and I need to experience it for myself.
While I’ve always dined out regularly, this was my first year working for TheTaste so it expanded my culinary horizons even further.
It’s impossible to pick a favourite meal as I’ve enjoyed so many, but one of the undisputed standouts was dinner in The Greenhouse.
This Michelin-starred restaurant makes the most amazing Foie Gras Royale with Granny Smith apples – it’s to die for.
And Sean, the restaurant’s sommelier, is a genius! I look forward to his recommendations each time I visit The Legal Eagle.
I can’t not mention Etto, which was also fabulous. When I was there, I had the most delicious Goat’s Cheese Malfatti which I still dream about.
Before Christmas I decided to go to Cork for the weekend and I had an anterior motive as I was dying to go to Chestnut. At only €65 for the tasting menu, it was exquisite. For me, it was the perfect dining experience.
Everything is locally sourced and the atmosphere was so cosy. From the squid ink crackers to the sensational service, this was undoubtedly one of the best nights of the year.
This year has been a great foodie year for me and I had the chance to eat in and experience some really great restaurants.
When my colleague Sinead was doing a review in Peploe’s, I was lucky enough to go along with her as her guest. From the starters to desserts, everything was absolutely delicious.
A real highlight from this Peploe’s dining experience was the Crab Ravioli. I would genuinely go as far as saying it was the nicest pasta I’ve ever had.
We also had the chance to taste some ham, which was aged in red wine for 2 years. Safe to say there was nothing left on the plate.
Another dining highlight for me this year took place during a visit to The Ferrycarrig Hotel in Wexford. Dining in Reeds restaurant, I thoroughly enjoyed my starter, Salmon Three Ways.
This Salmon dish was quite interesting for me to experience as I hadn’t really had anything like that before.
Next year I have quiet a few restaurants that I would like to try. First, I am hoping to try Etto as I have heard such great thing about this place.
Next up is Locks Restaurant, I haven’t had the pleasure of dining in Locks as of yet but it is something I am really excited about.
Last on the list is Aimsir, Cliff at Lyons’ new restaurant. Opening in March 2019, I’m sure this will be a dining hotspot next year.
One of my highlights of 2018 was dinner at The Orangery, the beautiful restaurant at Cliff at Lyons.
I had the duck, sourced locally, cooked perfectly and wonderfully paired with a glass of Spätburgunder.
It was the first sunny weekend of the year and I was celebrating a special occasion so that made it even lovelier.
Regardless of it, the venue’s charming glasshouse decor and superb service also contributed to make of this an amazing experience.
In a city where dining excellence is the norm, I hosted a food and wine pairing for Brasserie on the Corner‘s wine club in November.
The restaurant champions a loyal commitment to sourcing local ingredients.
Each of the five courses for the 40 diners was served on point by Head Chef Dave, including scallops and fillet of beef that can be very unforgiving if not cooked with precision timing.
Inventive and utterly delicious with friendly servers who clearly enjoy their work with general manager, Eimear Killian. Eimear could run a small country in her spare time.
We stopped outside Fromagerie in La Rochelle because of its exterior standing-only table-posts, around which were a few friends tucking into cheese, wine and bread, and generally having a good time.
We popped inside, chatted with the owner (who had once spent over a year in Armagh as a chef), who said he would sort us out with a variety of cheeses and two glasses of wine.
A few minutes later, we were munching on five different tabs of cheese, and sipping wine. There was also a side of small pieces of bread. We’d be hard-pressed to recall a cuter lunch, but as we finished up anxiety hit us: the wine was so full-bodied and flavoursome, the cheeses so aromatic, that we began to wonder how much it would cost.
When we were presented with the bill we almost dropped – what we had just eaten and sipped came to a measly €10. It was, without doubt, the smartest, best value meal we can recall having.
My favourite restaurant in Ireland of 2018 is Montys of Kathmandu, run by the ever charming Shiva and Lina Gautam. Specialising in the freshest Nepalese cuisine, Montys has stood the test of time in Dublin open over 20 years.
Besides incredible food and warm service, Shiva’s wine cellar for in my opinion, is the best in Ireland. A treasure trove of wine gems available by bottle and glass, this for me, is the complete dining experience.
Elsewhere, in 2018, I was very fortunate to visit The Fat Duck and Core by Clare Smyth, two bucket list restaurants in London – neither faulted.