Sally's blog

Archive - all the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Brian McDermott, Donegal Table

To understand the status that chef Brian McDermott enjoys up in the far North West of Ireland, you only need to know one number: 457.
That’s the number of tickets that were issued for the official launch of Brian’s new book, Brian McDermott’s Donegal Table (O’Brien Press). Mind you, we suspect there were probably 500 people in the ballroom of the Redcastle Hotel, to celebrate a book that celebrates Mr McDermott’s native county.

It is worth the trip to Culdaff just to eat Gary McPeake’s seafood chowder in McGrory’s

Gary McPeake gets it. He’s a smart cook but, of all his strengths, it is the fact that he cooks in a style that is completely unpretentious and undogmatic that allows him to craft dishes that knock you sideways.
The fact that he cooks in the comfortable and unpretentious old McGrorys of Culdaff, on the Inisowen Peninsula in north Donegal – heading towards 100 years of trading – just makes his delicious grub taste even better.

Gordon Smyth’s cooking in the elegant Redcastle Hotel in Donegal is a new star for the county

Gordon Smyth is a filigree cook. His dishes, from lamb fritters to chocolate fondant, are poised, colourful, packed with flavour and, above all, they are precisely executed.
In fact, you see Mr Smyth's jeweller’s-like attention to detail as soon as dinner begins in the classy surrounds of the Water’s Edge Restaurant in the Redcastle Hotel, just south of Moville, as some red onion ciabatta and fresh soda muffins are placed on the table. The ciabatta is filigreed with the onion crescents, the muffins dusted with oat flakes. Delightful.

Cork’s Son of a Bun takes the burger equation up another notch

Son of a Bun is a unique culinary experience in Cork city, and for a simple reason: it confounds expectations, and is not what you expect.
As you are guided to your table by friendly, incredibly efficient staff, past the other smartly dressed diners in this modern, suave room, dimly lit and with eye catching portraits, you quickly have the impression that you have come to a deluxe, upscale restaurant.

Ben and Simon are powering the Belfast coffee revolution in Root & Branch

Root and Branch, run by Ben Craig and Simon Johnston, is an important addition to Belfast's emerging coffee scene. In fact, R&B are largely responsible for the explosion of coffee consciousness that is happening in Belfast right now.
Brewers, who also roast, their little two-and-half upstairs downstairs roomed operation is an iconic little space, where they encourage their customers to explore the joys of taste and aroma perception through their single origin, seasonal roasts, all roasted in-house and brewed with great concentration and skill.

The Not So Hungry Gap. Aoife Cox enjoys chef Gill Meller’s wondrous parade of early-Spring vegetables at The Green Barn.


That’s how at least one person described the decision by James Fennell, proprietor of the Green Barn restaurant at Burtown House, to arrange a dinner based around Burtown's fresh garden produce, for 100+ paying guests, and to do so, neither at the height of summer's abundance nor during autumn’s heaving harvests, but on the cusp of the hungry gap - that period in spring between the last of the overwintering crops and the promise of a new growing season, when little is expected of the vegetable garden.

William Barry gets stuck into chef Bryan McCarthy’s inspired Bao Boi, and its gorgeous steamed buns.

Bryan McCarthy is a chef’s chef, a cook who has earned his stripes through a long career of doing the right thing, working hard and constantly learning. His career started as teenager in his native Glandore, in West Cork, where he was front of house at much missed The Rectory restaurant, followed by spells at Barberstown Castle, Killashee House Hotel and Leixlip House, before returning to Cork to head up the kitchen in Springfort Hall near Mallow.

Barry Fitzgerald and his team offer a textbook example of the dynamic modern Irish butcher-farmer in Fitzgerald’s of Fermoy.

“You can get whatever you want”, says Barry Fitzgerald, and even mere seconds spent scanning the shelves of Fitzgerald’s Butchers in Fermoy reveals exactly what Mr Fitzgerald promises. If you are after the arcane and unlikely of the carnivorous universe  – the beef heart; the short ribs; the ox tail; the pot au feu; the pickled tongue; the beef neck; the lamb sweetbreads; the lamb lap; the collar of pork – then it is all here, beautifully presented in a superbly designed butcher’s shop.

Cirillos is exactly the sort of super-confident middle-market Italian restaurant that Dublin city needed.

Cirillos is good.
That’s why, on the night we eat dinner in this popular Baggot Street destination, the room is filled with Italians: as a race, Italians are bloodhounds when it comes to hunting down good food.
The kitchen know how to make ravioli with spinach and ricotta where the pasta is transparently thin, so it forms a gauzy, starchy envelope for the filling. It’s light as a feather. It’s a beaut.


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