Get cosy with casual excellence
Tucked-away wine bars, charming cottages and unique spots can make for an intimate meal without the fanfare.
MacCurtain Street has become Cork City’s go-to for casual fare done exceptionally well – and Nell’s is one of its cosiest choices. Victorian vibes in the softly-lit room contrast with a contemporary list of natural, biodynamic and organic wines, plus small plates of cheese, charcuterie, house pickles and home baking.
Lucky Athlone to have Michelin Bib-standard cooking on its doorstep – and at those approachable prices. Chef-proprietor John Coffey spotlights regional seasonal produce at Thyme Restaurant, which is a perfect riverside spot to take time out and slow things down.
Behind the deceptively small wine store frontage of The Lamplight in Connemara’s Clifden is an inviting wine bar with secluded courtyard and snug interiors. Choose from organic wine on tap and daily specials by the glass. Head chef and master smoker Damian McGill turns out confident snacks, boards and small plates featuring the best of Irish and European ingredients.
Take time to explore the parklands and gardens before dining in your choice of The Green Barn’s airy Scandi-style barn, sunny terrace or one of several intimate courtyards at The Green Barn at Burtown House and Gardens near Athy. Seasonal menus make creative use of the daily supply of organic produce from the walled kitchen garden.
Malaysian-born, Irish-bred Shamzuri ‘Sham’ Hanifa is a well-known face of modern Irish food, and the Leitrim produce showcased at his pretty riverside Cottage Restaurant near Carrick-on-Shannon proves how much of a local he has become. A unique spot worth a special detour.
Feast on killer views
Nothing says romance quite like a meal with a sweeping view of the country’s most lush landscapes.
Linnane’s is the stuff of Irish pub dreams: a whitewashed cottage serving creamy stout and craft beers and a purveyor of the freshest seafood, with tables indoors and out overlooking a small pier and tidal bay. Walk the nearby Flaggy Shore to work up an appetite for that lobster, those oysters and whatever else you’re having.
Is there a dreamier view than the salmon-rich river from a window table in Ballynahinch Castle’s fine dining Owenmore Restaurant? With talented executive chef Danni Barry overseeing food here and in the hotel’s Fisherman’s Pub with its flag floors and open fire, this is pure Connemara magic.
Kinsale is one of Ireland’s original gastro-destinations, and Man Friday is its oldest restaurant with some of its finest views. Perched up in Scilly village, the short stroll from the town centre offers views of Kinsale's marina and pier, while the restaurant’s conservatory overlooks its inner harbour: the perfect setting for its seafood-heavy menu.
Celebrate that extra special occasion
For life’s biggest moments, celebrate with white tablecloth meals and tasting menus to remember.
Chef Neven Maguire is a household name in Ireland for his best-selling cookery books and TV series. With his loyal team at MacNean House, he has made the lakeside village of Blacklion on the Cavan-Fermanagh border a mecca for big-hearted food and an unbeatable welcome.
Campagne by chef-owner Garret Byrne is one of Ireland’s most quietly brilliant restaurants, with pristine Michelin-starred cooking bringing a distinctive local flavour to classic dishes and techniques. Lunch is exceptional value – and with a short stroll to train connections to various cities, this makes a wonderful day trip option in Kilkenny.
Seek out the freshest seafood treats
Lobster dinners, oyster lunches and quick bites by the shore make for the perfect date with a seafood lover.
Dublin’s loss was Tramore’s gain when owners Peter Hogan and Jumoke Akintola Hogan moved the more formal of their two Fish Shop restaurants to his childhood hometown. (The Dublin Fish Shop location is a favourite for fried fish and natural wines.) Beach House serves a daily changing seafood lunch menu in a handsome Victorian seaside townhouse.
12| Goldie, Cork
Dive in at one of the most unique fish restaurants in the country, where Goldie’s dynamic young head chef Aishling Moore combines eclectic international flavours with a gill-to-fin approach to an ever-changing catch delivered daily from local day boats. Pair with a craft beer from the Elbow Lane group’s own micro-brewery to get a true taste of Cork.
A landmark family-run gastropub, Vaughan’s Anchor Inn put the fishing village of Liscannor on Ireland’s gastro-map in the 1970s. Today, a third generation of the family cooks here and at the casual Vaughan’s on the Prom. They also run Spooney’s ice cream parlour for an after-dinner treat.
Make it a sleepover
These romantic restaurants have accommodations to match for a weekend getaway for two.
A welcome drink featuring fruit from their own kitchen garden. Creative cooking of home-grown ingredients. The restful calm of period bedrooms. There are many reasons to love The Mustard Seed, but it’s the innate hospitality of owner John Edward Joyce that makes this the perfect country house experience.
Head on an extraordinary drive hugging the dramatic coastline of Glen Lough to reach the Olde Glen Bar near Carrickart. Cosy up in the 17th-century pub for a pre-meal tipple of Olde Glen craft gin, perhaps, or a perfect pint. Then head into the warm welcome of their adjacent restaurant for chef Ciaran Sweeney’s acclaimed modern Irish cooking, with a bed awaiting you next door in Clara’s Cots. Pure Donegal magic.