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Ireland has an exceptional natural larder at its disposal. Seafood such as oysters and prawns feature regularly – keep an eye out for Dublin Bay prawns (they’re actually lobsters), and if you happen to be in Galway City towards the end of September, don’t miss the annual Galway Oyster & Seafood Festival.
Besides the bounty of the sea, Ireland’s food scene also benefits from excellent meat, especially its lamb. Commonly served with herbs such as thyme and rosemary – and, in Ireland’s top restaurants, presented with a laser-like attention to detail – it’s become a quintessential Irish ingredient. The lamb from counties such as Roscommon, Wicklow and Donegal is particularly highly prized.
Dining in Ireland isn’t just for carnivores, of course. The country’s artisanal cheeses are excellent, as are its traditional soda breads, which are leavened with soda rather than yeast, and are very tasty when made with buttermilk.
The classic Ireland breakfast is the calorific ‘Full Irish’ fry-up (bacon, sausages, black pudding, white pudding, eggs etc), but many of Ireland’s restaurants serve far more creative brunches these days, with good veggie and vegan options in larger cities.
Dublin still has the highest concentration of Ireland’s best restaurants – with a healthy smattering of Michelin stars to show for it – and also offers the most variety. It’s a cosmopolitan city, so as well as modern Irish cuisine there’s much in the way of Asian and European options. Be warned though: choosing where to eat in Ireland’s cities is often dependent on booking well ahead.
The best places in Ireland to eat marry the country’s localised food tradition with a more modern focus on flavour and creativity. Quality farmers’ markets are found across Ireland, and where drink is concerned there’s an ever-rising number of craft breweries and distilleries. There’s good news too for those who like their coffee – a proper ‘Cup of Joe’ has become an integral part of life in urban Ireland.