I didn’t expect to find such culinary gems in Ireland. With a hasty trip to Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher in November, and a return visit in March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Galway, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to seek out delicious meals amidst all the sightseeing and festivities. But, I managed to find a number of incredible restaurants – especially in Galway, where the food scene impressed me to no end.
These are the best things I ate in Ireland.
Pizza – Skinflint, Dublin
Skinflint’s small menu is dominated by pizza, filled with gourmet toppings like poached pear and roast garlic confit. The signature pizza bases are made with Irish ingredients, and are more similar to flatbread – thin and crispy around the edges – served on a long rectangular wooden slab, then cut into smaller pieces at the table. I opted for the pizza topped with new potatoes (carb on carb, yes please), mascarpone cheese, rocket, and chili powder. It was a rich, savoury, and delicious combination.
On the drive from Dublin to Galway, I stopped in the small town of Gort, solely because someone had recommended I try The Gallery Cafe – a charming little restaurant adorned with art from artists around the country, which changes every 4-6 weeks with each new exhibition display.
The menu boasts artisan baked goods and seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. I had an open-faced sandwich topped with kale, eggplant, and goat cheese, sprinkled with pistachio dukkah and a pomegranate and ginger dressing. It was simple enough, but the fresh and flavourful quality ingredients made it memorable.
For a small town, Galway has some seriously fantastic foodie gems, and Cava Bodega – a Spanish tapas restaurant in the heart of Galway – turned out to be my favourite restaurant in the city.
I started with a platter of Spanish cheeses, olives, quince paste, and hazelnuts. Then moved onto whipped goat cheese with sweet piquillo peppers and walnut powder, wild mushroom & pea paella, and patatas bravas. Dessert was crema catalana (a Spanish version of creme brûlée) with caramel ice-cream.
The entire meal was indulgent and mouthwateringly delicious, but the fluffy, creamy whipped goat cheese stands out most; I still dream of it to this day.
Kai is a charming little spot known for their local, organic fare and healthful menu, which changes daily depending on the stock from local suppliers. The ever-changing specials are scrawled on a blackboard, and the day I visited they were offering Connemara crab salad: a massive bowl filled with earthy greens and herbs, crunchy slaw and crab seasoned with fennel. This salad was so fresh and full of contrasting flavours and textures – fragrant herbs, crisp cucumbers and red cabbage, and generous chunks of crab.
Ard Bia is located near the Spanish Arch, in a historic 18th century house overlooking the River Corrib. It’s atmosphere is cosy and casual, lit by candles and decorated with wooden tables, mismatched chairs, and shelves filled with jars of homemade jam, bottles of wine and craft beer lining the walls. The food, however, is on par with fine dining restaurants: quality, local and sustainable ingredients deliciously combined and beautifully presented.
I had gnocchi – one of the best gnocchi dishes I’ve ever had, to be more precise. Made from celeriac, it was soft and pillowy, complimented by sweet golden beets and crunchy walnuts, covered in a shallot butter and pesto sauce, topped with a handful of peppery rocket. It was divine.
Have you been to any of these restaurants? What are your favourite foodie spots in Ireland?