Tasting menus are having a bit of a moment. No longer the preserve of cheffy types or flashy business diners, they are increasingly the menus we seek out for special occasions and celebratory dinners. But buyer beware, they are not all created equal. A tasting menu should not be an afterthought; it should be all about the food, the chef and the team serving you. It should leave you feeling like you’ve experienced new tastes. You shouldn’t feel hungry, you shouldn’t feel full, you shouldn’t feel like you were there too long or too short a time. It’s all very subjective. But these are a few places that get it spot on providing tasting menus that delight, entice and excite.
The Greenhouse, 21 Dawson St, Dublin 2
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Housed in an unassuming building on Dawson Street, The Greenhouse ticks all the boxes you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant. Hushed dining room, white linens, intricate plating and flawless service. Combine that with explosive, emerging and exciting cooking, it’s one not to miss. Choose from a four or six-course tasting menu and expect a mix of well-sourced Irish and high-end European ingredients. Dishes are served with all the frills and foams you’d expect, but everything here serves a purpose - nothing is added simply to make it look fancy (a key element many tasting menus miss). The adventurous matching wines menu is worth forking out for too.
Heron & Grey, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin
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Tucked away in the seaside suburb of Blackrock is this exceptional 20 seater Michelin starred restaurant cooking tremendous food. It’s near impossible to get a booking without some careful planning and luck but it’s worth it to try their innovative tasting menu. The focus is on local, seasonal and inventive Irish ingredients. Each course, delivered to your table with great enthusiasm and detail, will surprise you. I recall a celeriac ‘taco’, a dish of lardo pata negra with pickled herring and dessert peppered with popping candy, all causing debate and delight at our table.
Ananda, Cinema Building, Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 16
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The surrounds may not be as plush in this shopping centre-based restaurant, but once you get started on the Ananda tasting menu, (and I realise this is a super cliché) you will be transported. This is a menu that takes you on a journey, from an amuse bouche of old Delhi chaat with fresh turmeric yoghurt to delicate Indian classics using wonderful Irish products - Kileel scallops with cauliflower korma and Causey farm lamb with baby pea biryani. An aged black lime sorbet palate cleanser is divine. The matching wine as a welcome addition for me, as I’m not confident matching Indian food to wines. An unexpected joy of a menu, great value, exciting flavours and something different.
Locks Restaurant, 1 Windsor Terrace, Dublin 8
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A true example of a tasting menu being the chef's playground is at Locks. Their five-course chef's menu is only available Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and it changes each day and week according to what’s in season and available. Simple descriptions are scribbled on the blackboard - bread, snacks, lamb tongue, sea trout - and are delivered as refined, beautiful courses that taste as good as they look. The whole vibe here is relaxed but refined, and it’s the same with the food. The perfect place to ease yourself into the world of tasting menus.
Chapter One, Parnell Square, Dublin 1
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Chapter One has been paving the way for fine dining using the finest Irish ingredients since 1992 and, indeed, many of the chefs cooking other tasting menus around the city will have spent time in this busy kitchen. They have a wonderful lunch tasting menu, dinner tasting menu and the best - the chef's table tasting menu, where you can sit in the kitchen and watch all the action. For any of these, you will enjoy real treats from all around Ireland - farmhouse cheese, the best Irish seafood, Ballyhoura mushrooms and anything great that’s in season, expect to see it here. Dishes are thoughtfully cooked and presented with an insight into each dish from the attentive staff, especially at the chef's table. An undeniably great spot for a celebration.
Mulberry Gardens, Mulberry Lane, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
There is a real dedication to detail at this secluded neighbourhood restaurant. Irish sourcing is paramount in the warmly furnished dining room, featuring Irish wool, art, linen and crockery throughout. This devotion continues into the kitchen, where they always source as locally as possible. The six-course tasting menu can bring you on a journey around the country, often featuring Castletownbere scallops, Kerry Hill lamb, wild garlic, sea buckthorn and Iona farm baby vegetables. The food is elegant and homely at the same time; a great spot to show off how wonderful Irish food can be.
Forest & Marcy, 126 Leeson St Upper, Dublin 4
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The cool kid on the block, Forest & Marcy is a buzzy neighbourhood wine room & kitchen, serving their tasting menus Friday & Saturday only, but this is five courses of noteworthy food. You’ll start with snacks; I remember fantastic duck ham, excellent pork belly croquettes and divine quinoa crisps. And then their famous fermented potato bread with bacon & cabbage. A fantastic modern take on a classic. The menu here is clever, balanced and full of adventure. There is a brilliant selection of wines, which you wouldn’t find in other tasting menu spots and the team are happy to match for you. Probably the best value menu on this list. Their sister restaurant Forest Avenue is also worth checking out.