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Trip to Ireland


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Planning a trip with family to visit relatives in Antrim. I don't have the whole itinerary yet but I know we will also be headed to the SE area of Ireland. So far, I know that I want to go to Cafe Paradiso in Cork and I'd like to go to Ballymaloe but I don't know of any restaurants in the Antrim area. Any places in those two (very general) areas that I just shouldn't miss? Of course, the biggest obstacle right now is how do a bunch of Americans figure out where to hire a guide who will drive us around on the wrong side of the road?

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Considering the number of Americans who visit Ireland and seem averse to driving themselves, I'd have thought that you should find a guide relatively easily. It really isnt that difficult to drive on the "wrong side" - we do it every time we visit the States or, indeed, most other European countries - and it would give you the total flexibility of finding good food at your own pace.

John Hartley

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I hope you realize I was kidding about the "wrong side" thing. That was strictly tongue in cheek. I agree that it would be so much easier for us to drive ourselves but frankly, we're a little nervous so we're still working on finding a driver. I'm not really working on that aspect of the trip but the person who is is having a hard time finding someone who is okay with just being the driver and letting us plan the trip.

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Planning a trip with family to visit relatives in Antrim. I don't have the whole itinerary yet but I know we will also be headed to the SE area of Ireland. So far, I know that I want to go to Cafe Paradiso in Cork and I'd like to go to Ballymaloe but I don't know of any restaurants in the Antrim area. Any places in those two (very general) areas that I just shouldn't miss? Of course, the biggest obstacle right now is how do a bunch of Americans figure out where to hire a guide who will drive us around on the wrong side of the road?

Hi Jean

If you are reffering to County Antrim, Belfast

is within this county and there is a detailed thread

on this page.

Hope this helps.

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I hope you realize I was kidding about the "wrong side" thing.

Yep. I guess it's a nervy thing if you havnt done it (and European roads tend to be narrow and more windy than yours). That said, and still sticking to the food front, I'd urge you to consider doing it - just for the complete flexibility of finding places and stopping for as long as you want without having to consider someone you're employing.

John Hartley

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Hi Jean

Yes, Cafe Paradiso in Cork is definitely worth a visit, you probably know that it’s vegetarian food, but it’s happily patronised by plenty of carnivores, so not a smug veg type vibe (a few years ago when we were going, my daughter who was about 5 at the time asked ‘are you going to pretend that you’re a vegetarian?’... no such credentials are required you’ll be pleased to hear :biggrin:). It was refurbished recently (damaged in a major flood last year), so is looking quite smart.

A reasonably new place in Cork which is well worth checking out is An Cruibin, which is a pub with small plates/tapas style food downstairs and a restaurant called The Silk Purse upstairs. I’m just finishing up a review I’m doing of it for Irish Tatler, so can’t go into too much detail, but in brief, it has to be the coolest place in Ireland and the food is great too. Have a look at their website here, I particularly like the biere et sandwich video on their website, a culinary Gilbert and George. The pub next door is well worth a visit too.

Not to miss in Cork is a visit to the English Market, a food market in a wonderful Victorian building which is open every day except Sunday. Lunch in the Farmgate cafe upstairs, which is on a mezzanine level overlooking the market, is a must. The food is simple but top quality, using produce from the market and the atmosphere is deliciously relaxed. It’s a while since I’ve been to Ballymaloe, but I’m sure that it is still a very enjoyable experience. Another place well worth checking out is the Tannery in Dungarven, Waterford, which you could visit on your way down to Cork. Also worth visiting is the Cliff House in Ardmore, a beautiful historic town with an incredible cliff walk (not dangerous, don’t worry), but avoid the formal restaurant (v disappointing) and opt for the bar food which you can have out on the terrace overlooking the sea, stunning on a good day. And as you can imagine, there are plenty of good places in Dublin if you decide to include it in your itinerary.

In Belfast, James Street South is probably the leading restaurant at the moment, it’s a smart, white linen type of place, but not stuffy, and also there’s Deane’s which I love, but they’ve made a few changes following a refurb and I haven’t been there since Derek Creagh, the former head chef left (the former sous chef is now running the kitchen). Also in Belfast is Mourne Seafood Bar, which is a lovely informal place for fish. The original Mourne Seafood Restaurant is a bit out of town in Dundrum, but well worth a visit.

As suggested upthread, you’ll adapt to driving very easily, but if you’re looking for a guide, PM me and let me know the specifics. Hope you enjoy your trip, and I’d love to hear how you get on.

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These places sound great Corinna and I will look through the Antrim thread also. We'll be spending at least 3 days in that area because we have relatives there that most of us have never met. Still in the beginning processes of choosing a route but I (as the biggest food lover) will be in charge of restaurants/pubs and our route can be greatly influenced by the outcome of my findings. There are a few skeptics in the group that think that Ireland doesn't have good food but having cooked for years from my Cafe Paradiso and Ballymaloe books, I'm more aware of the phenomenal food products and great chefs in Ireland. I'm very excited to "wow" my family.

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Well, when it comes to getting good food in Ireland, you’re both right. There are pockets of greatness and swathes of mediocrity, but if you know where to go, it can be a great experience. In fact, this was very much the observation of Colman Andrews at the launch of his book The Country Cooking of Ireland over here a few months ago (would be well worth buying before your visit). There has been huge growth in the number of artisan producers around the country, with world class cheese and charcuterie as well as top quality meat Take a look at the Good Food Ireland website.

In the northern part of the country, just over the border from Fermanagh, Neven Maguire makes great use of local produce at his restaurant MacNean House in Cavan. It is booked out way in advance, but as you’re planning well ahead, you should have no problem, and I think you would really enjoy it. Other great supporters of Irish produce are the Sheridan Brothers. Best known for their cheese shops, they also have a very good restaurant in Galway, Sheridan’s on the Docks, which has the added bonus of a great view. In Dublin (if you include it in your itinerary), The Winding Stair cooks simple food with great produce and would be well worth a visit. And out on the coast of Dublin in Dun Laoghaire is Caviston’s, a small fish restaurant which is excellent.

Without a doubt, you could weave your way through the country and eat handsomely while taking in some of the more scenic and historic parts. Enjoy the planning!

Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)
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I will definitely look into all of your recommendations. I have already ordered The Country Cooking of Ireland from Amazon. I don't know why but it isn't available anywhere here and I can't get it from Amazon until August or Sept. My thoughts are that I'll host a dinner with my fellow travellers using his recipes. I'm sharing your thoughts so far and everyone is getting excited at the options you've suggested.

I will keep you posted as the itinerary develops.

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Other great supporters of Irish produce are the Sheridan Brothers. Best known for their cheese shops, they also have a very good restaurant in Galway, Sheridan’s on the Docks, which has the added bonus of a great view.

Just got a call from Seamus Sheridan to tell me not to run with the review I’ve planned for Sheridan’s on the Docks in Galway. It has been closed due to abominably sharp practice by the landlord who exploited a loophole in the law and changed the locks putting a fantastic brigade of kitchen and FOH people out of work!!! They were booked out until September.

Seamus has already identified another larger premises and will be open later in the year. Really looking forward to the new place as I think Enda McEvoy is one of the most interesting chefs at work in the country at the moment. No one can match him for his focus on local, seasonal and foraged produce and it is very seldom I read a menu where I dearly want to eat every single thing on it. When it opens, this is the restaurant to watch.

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