20 beautiful destination restaurants to visit in Ireland
24th Aug 2021
Staycationing around Ireland isn't so bad, particularly if a stop off at one of these destination restaurants is on the agenda.
Dining out has never been such a luxury. Take full advantage of our newfound freedom by booking into one of these beautiful destination restaurants. The crème de la crème of the Irish food scene, they have enviable menus and personality in spades.
The Cottage, Jamestown, Co Leitrim
If ever you find yourself passing through Leitrim, be sure to add a stop off at The Cottage to the agenda. One of the midlands’ best-kept secrets, you’ll find it nestled on a quiet, scenic spot by the river and Weir. Headed up by chef Patron Shamzuri, he combines traditional Irish flavours with a subtle blend of Asian influences from his grandmother’s kitchen – the result being an ever-changing menu that never fails to impress.
Harry’s Shack, Portstewart, Co Derry
Sitting pretty right on the Portstewart coast, Harry’s Shack is privy to some of the best views in all the land (which even extend across to Inishowen). An hour’s drive north of Belfast, it’s worth the trip for the magnificent surroundings alone. Sourcing much of its fresh fruit and veg from a small two-acre farm run by owner Donal Doherty and chef Derek Creagh, the menu is simple but highly effective.
MacNean House & Restaurant, Blacklion, Co Cavan
Made famous by celebrity chef Neven Maguire, MacNean House is where he first developed his grá for cooking. The head chef and proprietor there, it’s set to the backdrop of the picturesque Cuilcagh Mountains in Cavan – right near the MacNean Lakes that give the restaurant its name. A Michelin-listed spot, it’s consistently rated for its food, wine offering, service and the overall dining experience it creates.
Misunderstood Heron, Leenaun, Co Galway
The foodie jewel of the west, Misunderstood Heron’s reputation precedes it. A tiny little food truck in Leenaun, the majestic Killary Fjord looms over it… but not even that could overshadow its impressive menu. Fresh, local, never conventional, it was opened by husband and wife duo Kim and Reinald back in 2017. Expect homemade brown bread, hot-out-the-oven pasties and slow-cooked Connemara lamb samosas.
Clenaghans Restaurant, Craigavon, Co Down
Experts in mixing old with new, Clenaghans offers guests a warm welcome, great food and unrivalled surroundings. Housed in a beautiful stone building dating as far back as the 18th century, step inside and you’ll be met by roaring fires and romantic candlelight – all of which help to set the mood. Full of charm and “hugely characterful” according to the Michelin Guide, food ranges from reinvented pub classics to “more refined, sophisticated dishes”.
Restaurant Chestnut, Ballydehob, Co Cork
A restaurant in the heart of West Cork, Chestnut operates under the careful supervision of chef Rob Krawczyk. Locally born, he returned home after travelling the world to transform the restaurant (along with his partner Elaine) from a run-down old pub into the centre of the village to the dining excellence it is today. Due to reopen on July 7th, they’re offering a casual “sticks and twigs” takeout in the meantime.
Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
The country’s only Michelin-starred dining pub, the Wild Honey Inn is a great base to set up camp when exploring the surrounding Clare countryside. Sourcing fresh, seasonal produce from the locality – what they refer to as “Ireland’s natural larder” – the menu is inspired by the kind of food its owners want to eat. Just as serious about wine as they are their gastro offerings, they have a good mix of both traditional favourites and new world varieties.
Lignum, Bullaun, Co Galway
Set up with the goal of showcasing the quality and diversity of ingredients from “the wonderful people who raise, grow and produce them”, the whole restaurant is built around the kitchen’s wood-burning oven. There, they cook over raw flames, giving a nod to the historic food cultures of the area while putting their own flair on dishes. In their own words, the atmosphere is refined but relaxed, unpretentious and fun.
The Harbour Bar, Downings, Co Donegal
Found in the Donegal Gaeltacht village of Downings, The Harbour Bar has given the place a facelift in recent weeks to ensure they’re ready for a summer of entertaining. Adding a new outdoor bar in their beer garden, the view overlooks the stunning Sheephaven Bay and is always a solid choice for a perfectly pulled pint of plain. Full of character, expect craic by the bucketloads too.
Sol y Sombra, Kilorglin, Co Kerry
Marrying traditional Irish classics with Spanish-inspired family-style cuisine, Soly y Sombra has the art of tapas down to a tee. Set within a cavernous old church, eating here is a dining experience like no other – the interior still has its pew and stained glass windows for added effect. For adventurous and more muted tastes alike, the food is a generous mix of local Kerry suppliers and Spanish cooking techniques.
Morrissey’s, Doonbeg, Co Clare
A Michel Bib Gourmand award-winner, Morrissey’s has many tasty things worth trying, though it’s their wild Doonbeg crab claws, scampi with homemade tartare sauce and white chocolate and seasonal berry cheesecake that deserve special mention. Outdoor dining is also a-go at the fourth-generation family-run restaurant thanks to their terrace which overlooks the Doonbeg river and Castle.
Pudding Row, Easky, Co Sligo
Think breads, pastries, local veg, Irish cheese, charcuterie, coffee, cake – basically Pudding Row has all the good things in life. A neighbourhood grocer in the seaside Sligo village of Easkey, it’s technically not a restaurant but merits a visit nonetheless. Also fully stocked with their famous Pudding Row picnic baskets, they’re the perfect addition to any outdoor feasts you have planned.
Brown Bear, Two Mile House, Co Kildare
An award-winning spot not far from Naas, Kilcullen and Newbridge in Kildare, Brown Bear got its name from a former coach house in the area. The restaurant’s namesake is no longer there, but the current restaurant continues its legacy with tan leather booths, candlelit tables and ambitious dishes. A good choice for vegetarians and celiacs too as there are plenty of options to suit both dietary requirements.
Pilgrim’s, Rosscarbery, Co Cork
A small little spot set in the coastal town of Rosscarbery West Cork, Pilgrim’s relies on using only the best of local, seasonal and foraged ingredients from the area. A guesthouse and the village bookshop in former lives, portions are generous and dishes draw inspiration from Asian cuisine. Operating an outdoor pop-up from June 9, staff are excited to return to indoor dining in early July.
Pigeon House, Delgany, Co, Wicklow
The proud owners of two separate branches – one in Clontarf, the other in Delgany – the Pigeon House does everything from breakfast to dinner. Stylishly renovated, the Wicklow café can be found above a bakery and deli in a building that was once a pub in a former life. Joining forces with Firehouse Bakery, The Delgany Grocery and Little Pigeon, they’re all housed within the one building and together they form The Delgany Inn.
Dede, Baltimore, Co Cork
There was only one Irish newcomer to the Michelin Guide this year, that being Dede in Baltimore. Recognised for the exceptional dining experience it offers customers, everything falls under the careful supervision of Turkish-born chef Ahmet Dede. Commended for his “refined, elegant and beautifully composed” dishes, his menus have “plenty of personality”, so prepare to be thoroughly impressed. If you can manage to swing a booking that is.
Aimsir, Celbridge, Co Kildare
Inspired by the changeable Irish climate and how it directly affects what grows and is harvested, the Aimsir menu is a celebration of all that can be sown, harvested, fished and foraged on our lovely Emerald Isle. In the very capable hands of Cornwall-born chef Jordan Bailey and Danish front of house manager Majken Bech Christensen, the two Michelin star comes very highly recommended.
The words “cool” and “funky” spring to mind when thinking of Ox in Belfast. Set up by two long-standing friends – each passionate about their craft – the restaurant was launched in March 2013 and has been bringing top quality food to locals ever since. Committed to developing close relationships with local suppliers, menus are crated around what seasonal produce is available at the time.
Ichigo Ichie, Cork City
A Michelin-starred restaurant specialising in Japanese food, this Cork city gem is unlike many of the other food offerings out there. Run by chef-owner Takashi Miyazaki, the menu changes every six weeks and fuses Japanese traditions with more modern touches. Timing their reopening with Tanabata Night or Star Festival (which fell on June 7), you can book your table over on their website now.
Café Paradiso, Cork City
Seasoned foodies will be well familiar with Café Paradiso by now. Not a new addition to the Cork food scene, it has “quite simply the best vegetarian food you will ever eat” according to our IMAGE editor-in-chief Lizzie Gore Grimes. High praise and an absolute must-visit for those looking to incorporate more plant-based options into their diets. Almost 30 years in the business, Café Paradiso has established itself as a Rebel City institution.