Here at TheTaste, we love a great dining experience and we are dedicated to discovering the best in Irish food, drink and travel.
Throughout 2017, 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 experience of 2017 and we look forward to experiencing more of Ireland’s excellent dining venues in 2018.
There were so many exciting openings in 2017 and so many memorable meals, but one that stood out for me was The Muddlers Club in Belfast, a city very close to my heart and somewhere we spend a fair amount of time.
It’s exciting to see so many talented additions to the food scene up there and Muddlers embodies the fresh, positive wave of change that are taking place.
Chef/Proprietor Gareth McCaughey is an understated talent. His plates are inventive and competent, all the while showcasing the best of local producers in his own creative style.
Our main of Skeaghnore Duck with a miso sauce, which we described as “a theatre of food on a plate”, was easily one of the most wonderful dishes I’ve had the pleasure of devouring in 2017.
Adare Manor is top of my 2018 list. We stayed there a few months before the current renovation and now that it’s fully complete, I can’t wait to travel to the picturesque village of Adare to see the changes and to sample Head Chef Michael Tweedie’s very tempting tasting menu in The Oak Room.
Another hotly anticipated dinner will be in the soon to be open Uno Mas on Aungier St, the brainchild of the team behind Etto, one of my favourite Dublin restaurants.
Although this will be more Spanish themed than Italian, we have no doubt that Chef Paul McNamara will be creating some mouth-watering dishes and that there will be an eclectic wine list, with rumours of an unrivalled sherry selection that may just convert the masses.
2017 was a fantastic culinary year. With our BMW 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.
From a luxury escape point of view, it has to be the idyllic setting of Ballynahinch Castle, an impressive luxury retreat dating back to the 18th century. General Manager Patrick O’Flaherty has ensured that the culinary experience, through Chef Pete Durkan, matches the romantic views.
The stand out restaurant in terms of exceptionally good food at moderate prices has to be Richmond, which won a Michelin Bib last year.
Head Chef David O’Byrne has found his home with restaurant owner and front of house, Russell Wilde. The pair are delivering excellence on every well thought out plate, every time.
Looking back on my best bar food experience, one of the most exciting new additions to the rebel city is Cask in Cork. I got to taste the combined skills of Chef Bryan McCarthy and cocktail genius Andy Ferreira.
Cask has reinvented the bar scene in Cork, elevating the expectations of what can be achieved with bold design, a world class mixologist and an innovative small plates menu.
From raising the bar to Waterford’s culinary scene, I have to give a nod to Chef Keith Boyle of The BayTree Bistro. His food, enthusiasm and passion to train up local culinary students has to be commended.
This year, I look forward to visiting Danni Barry’s new restaurant Clenaghans and new Cork restaurant Ichigo Ichie by Chef Takashi Miyazaki.
I’ve been lucky enough to dine in incredible places this year, including an unforgettable Michelin starred lunch overlooking the Colosseum at Aroma.
But the best dining experience hinged on the right balance of simple, well executed food and wonderful company.
For me, a summer evening spent by the sea, indulging in seafood which was swimming earlier that day, is perfection.
I have simple taste, I am always satisfied with the best, and this sweet and succulent lobster, shared begrudgingly, was just that. I won’t forget it.
I’m most looking forward to dining in chef Rob Krawcyzk’s new restaurant, Chestnut, which will open in Spring in the West Cork town of Ballydehob. With Rob’s undeniable talent and innovative approach to utilising the best Irish ingredients, it is sure to be one of the year’s most exciting openings, in a gorgeous part of the country.
Rob has a particular affinity for seafood, so I’m sure his menu will be incredibly tempting. A return visit to my long-time favourite, The Greenhouse, is also long overdue.
Wining and dining at 40,000 feet aboard an Emirates Business Class flight to Australia in itself almost made the number one spot, but I couldn’t really overlook having dinner at Vue de monde, located on level 55 of Melbourne’s iconic Rialto building.
Rising to that ear-popping level in an elevator took some time, but once we were there the sweeping views across the city and beyond more than made up for that minor inconvenience.
However, it was the theatrical gastronomic experience that came after which made this an unforgettable evening.
A highlight of the complex nine-course degustation menu, served in the intimate surrounds of the Dom Perignon Private Dining Room, was one of simplest, kohlrabi noodles with herb emulsion, duck egg yolk and pickled baby lime.
All dishes are conceived by chef patron Shannon Bennett, whom MasterChef Australia fans will be well acquainted with.
In 2018, I will finally dine at Forest and Marcy after promising my very patient dinner date, and the restaurant’s chefs themselves, that I would visit throughout 2017.
Now that it’s in print, they can hold me accountable should I fail to keep my word – and that’s not a bad thing whatsoever, given the carefully considered and artfully constructed plates of modern Irish food that await me.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting WILDE and enjoyed their exquisite special menu paired with Krug Champagne.
It was a memorable experience all round, from the restaurant’s vintage beauty to the flawless taste and presentation of the food.
To start, I sampled a delicate and beautifully paired serving of Dublin Bay Prawns, which stood out as my favourite dish of the evening.
With regard to the champagnes, well, it was an all-Krug lineup including Grand Cuvées and Rosé, surely one of the food and drink highlights of my 2017.
This year, a visit to Clanbrassil House is on the top of my list. Living in the area, I’ve seen the series of recent new restaurants, bars and cafés opening here and I always make it my business to try them at least once.
I’ve heard nothing but praise for Clanbrassil House and, especially given its proximity to my house, I’m fast running out of excuses to postpone the booking!
Combining food and travel in my writing has allowed me to sample some truly incredible cuisines around the world.
Flavour-wise though, my best meal of 2017 has to be my lunch in the newly opened Restaurant Gemmayze in the InterContinental Doha during a visit to the city in December.
Bursting with rich Lebanese flavours, the varied menu of hot and cold mezzeh, kebbeh, grilled platters and bread mirrored an authentic Lebanese experience, thanks to the wealth of real-life knowledge from the restaurant’s Lebanese chef.
This was one of those unforgettable dining experiences I never wanted to end.
I’m an adventurous person and this year, I really want to continue sampling food that I haven’t had the opportunity to before. I even managed to eat a chocolate covered worm last year (though I’m not too sure how eager I am to repeat this experience).
By the end of 2018, I would love to have dined at both Luna and l’Ecrivain in Dublin. I’ve heard amazing things about both of these restaurants from people whose food opinions I really trust, so I’m really excited to try them out.
In 2017, I had the pleasure of experiencing a romantic dinner for two in Barberstown Castle, Straffan, Co Kildare.
The Barton Rooms restaurant has a mix of Victorian and Elizabethan styled rooms that ooze comfort and style.
Upon arrival to the castle itself, the warm and inviting atmosphere is complimented by the smell of open wood fires burning and opulent decor.
The menu is a mix of French and Irish cuisine created by head chef Bertrand Malabat and I have been told that all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.
I had the Pork Belly for my starter, a dish which was cooked to perfection. Following this, I opted for a fish dish for the main course.
I had never tasted Stone Bass before so enjoyed sampling something new for a change. For dessert I couldn’t resist the marinated pineapple and passion jelly – the perfect finish to my meal.
What I love most about Barberstown Castle, which has its own story to tell, is that feeling of being transported back in time. It is made up of four buildings from different periods in Irish history and it has maintained its original features and character perfectly. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this stunning venue for that extra special romantic experience.
This year I plan to book into Chapter One restaurant since I have never had the pleasure of dining there. I love the idea of the Chef’s table option where you get to experience culinary theatre in the private dining setting. I am sure it would be a memorable experience, so all I need to do is invite some friends to join me.
In February of 2017, I visited Sha Roe in Clonegal, Co. Carlow and despite my proud Carlow roots, I promise I didn’t pick this bistro for its location!
For my starter, I couldn’t resist sampling the salmon fillet with crab bonbons, which was accompanied by avocado and toasted almonds.
I have a new found love and appreciation for fish and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, which looked as delicious as it tasted.
My main course was a classic – perfectly cooked Kavanagh’s Irish fillet steak.
Sha Roe, which has been awarded a Michelin Bib, was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the fine food and service were second to none for me in 2017.
Continuing my love affair with seafood in 2018, I am most looking forward to dining at Niall Sabongi’s Klaw as I’ve been hoping to try oysters for quite some time. Served naked, dressed or torched, I can’t wait to sample them.