Dublin is a food capital. I know this, and finally find myself in the Irish capital, after following Irish travel bloggers GastroGays, who specialise in food: local recipes, produce and eateries.
Dublin is also home to the famous and trailblazing Queen of Ireland, drag queen Panti Bliss – hence my clever headline (in my opinion).
With my inspiration set, it was time to explore my own path and discover the greatest dishes on offer in the various restaurants and pubs around the center of the city.
In sight of a balanced experience, I spread myself over quick-eat Fish & Chips shops to fine dining establishments and everything in between.
Secret Food Tours offer a great way to pit-stop at wide range of eateries on your journey through Dublin is time is of the essence, and for us it was a 48-hour race.
As the name suggests, the stops on the food tour are secret, adding an element of mystery.
We’ve been allowed to share some of the possible stops to give you an idea of the tour style:
The best Fish & Chips in Temple Bar
This might not set the best tone for the calibre of this feature, but sometimes hearty and familiar food is the way to go – and the twist at Burdocks blew us away.
Introducing: Battered Smoked Cod fried in beef lard, and chips.
Not often is the cod used in traditional battered fish smoked, and by god it was beautiful. Somehow making the fish tender, with a tendency to melt, this went down a treat.
Also, who can turn down some freshly fried chips drenched in salt and vinegar?
Pick up some local produce at Fallon & Byrne
One of the great benefits of Secret Food Tours is the free samples.
So while you’re tasting local cheeses over the deli counter from county Galway and Waterford explore the halls here to find fresh produce, artisan chutneys, meats and alike.
Did you know honey is one of the biggest exports out of Ireland? You heard it here.
Now for the big players…
Dublin’s fine dining and high-end gastronomy options are on the sharp rise. While the city is fabulous for cafe culture, around the world street food and brunch the house down, I got the feeling the higher price-mark establishments had only recently bedded down roots here.
That said, the next two restaurants we visited prove Dublin was dying for them to arrive.
Glovers Alley: Art deco Miami meets French-inspired Irish gastronomy
That was a mouthful. But if I had to describe Glovers Alley in a bitesize chunk, that’s it.
Glovers Alley is the most exciting restaurant on the Dublin scene. The interior design alone is reason to visit: it’s sleek, sophisticated and uses my favorite shade of green throughout.
The nods to art deco Miami, circa 1925, are sublime and somehow work in contrast to the french-inspired cuisine, all while Dublin rests outside the window.
Glovers Alley is the axis of history, culture and cuisine.
One more thing: Who can deny the offer of a embellished gold, plush pink and olive green business card from a handsome maitre d’? I’m keeping it forever.
I got carried away, now to the food.
While the menu changes based on the fresh Irish produce in-season in the area, the options remain elegantly light but bountiful and offer an array of palette teasers for all tastes.
I’m a big fan of amuse-bouches, and of those we delightfully accepted – and by which I mean all of them – between each and every course were beautifully hand-crafted works of art.
The Chicken parfait between crisp macarons and chicken skin was impeccable.
The menu tastefully boasts its use of local produce, so with that in mind I chose my dishes in accordance and opted for the Dublin Bay Prawns to start and Suckling pig for main.
I think I have a thing about crispy skin?
To be able to inject French-influence without losing Irish heritage is somewhat an impossible thing to do without sacrifices being made somewhere, but this isn’t the case at Glovers Alley.
The desserts were equally impressive and the eclectic wine menu, deciphered for us by attentive and passionate serving staff, was a perfect accompaniment.
Glovers Alley isn’t somewhere to overlook to get a real taste of the evolving scene in Dublin.
Stack A Restaurant at Urban Brewing: A stone-walled heart with a lot of love to give
The manager at Stack A Restaurant is in love with his work and the art of beer brewing.
This was evident as he guided us around the incredible building. Having arrived in Dublin a mere few years ago, his eyes told us this is where his passion had led – and where he would stay.
How could we be surprised by that? Our passion for food led us to Dublin too. But, it was his energy that told us anything leaving that kitchen tonight would be exemplary of his devotion.
Housed in a working brewery, in the vault of a 200-year old Dublin Dockyard building – given new life in a sprawling cityscape – Stack A Restaurant has the wow factor.
The cavernous quality of the restaurant, at first, isn’t necessarily inviting or unwelcoming, but as warm-faced figures lead us to our table we get a real feel of the ethos at Stack A. The cold interior drives its unique atmosphere, and the staff bring its character.
Inspired by global journeys, by whom we’re unsure, the menu uses local produce – a running theme in Ireland’s gastronomy – to perfect its dishes.
I’m a meat eater, so any meat with a twist is for me. So when I see bacon powder, a sub-ingredient of the Pork Fillet and Pan-fried Atlantic Scallop appetizer, I have to have it.
I didn’t get much sense of bacon powder, but not being a main feature of the dish I should of expected as much, so that’s on me.
The Pork fillet, however, was so tender and sweet while the juxtaposition of the scallop, perfectly seared and warmed-through, made the dish as hearty as I could handle.
Staying on the hearty side of life – I’d calmed down after a few sips of specially chosen wine – of which the Sommelier here selects a range from around the world – I choose the ribeye.
Steak, for me, is the signpost of a kitchen’s skills – and this might be the Irish Beef origin talking, but with top ingredients like this, a top dish was made.
This thick and juicy cut surprised me by how easy it was to slice and how willing it was to allow me a side order of onion rings with no gastro-punishment later in the evening.
We left Stack A Restaurant with a shred of the love its manager has put into making it a culinary jewel in Dublin, and that’s enough to get us coming back for more.
Perfectly catered for special occasions – and even Wedding reception worthy – stumbling down into the basement of this centenary building was a big win for us.
Final thoughts on Dublin culinary culture….
So we managed to squeeze a lot of pit stops in our short time in Dublin. I have to say I’ve done food tours in Toronto, Nashville and now Dublin and I believe they are the best way to get a taste of the culinary culture in the destination of your choosing if you’re short on time.
However, it’s super important to take the time to visit a couple of restaurants for a fuller experience – even if time is escaping you – and give back a gesture of goodwill.
Dublin, we will be back – we never managed to get Brunch?! How did that happen?