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Ireland's Best Restaurants

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The Restaurants Association of Ireland Awards for 2006 are as follows:

Dublin

Best restaurant: Chapter One

Best new restaurant: Dax Wine Bar

Leinster

Best restaurant: Dunbrody House, Co Wexford

Best new restaurant: O’Brien’s Good Food and Drink House, Co Meath

Munster

Best restaurant: The Cherry Tree Restaurant, Co Clare

Best new restaurant: Mrs Dee’s Steakhouse, Co Cork

Connacht

Best restaurant: Vina Mara, Co Galway

Best new restaurant: Cleverly Mill, Co Sligo

Ulster

Best restaurant: The Old Post Inn, Cavan

Best new restaurant: Molly’s Yard Restaurant, Belfast


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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Thanks for this news Corinna, not to mention bumping this thread so I got to read it all!

Totally agree with the Dublin awards. Well-deserved in my book.

Si

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Hudson's, mentioned a couple of posts above, sounds as if it is worth a visit. Is there anything else in the Kilkenny--Thomastown--Waterford--Carrick-on-Suir area of comparable interest? We'll be spending a week in the area in May.

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Meanderer, I've have heard great things from friends in Kilkenny about a new restaurant called Bassetts in Inistioge, which is a beautiful little village not far out the road from Thomastown. It is set in the gardens of Woodstock on the way out of the village, and from what I can gather, specialises in "small plates", so a multi course approach, with plenty of fresh, seasonal and local thrown in. Also in Inistoige, down by the water, there is a lovely little lunch time spot; it’s very simple with wholesome soups and soda bread. I can’t remember the name of it, but it is a scrubbed pine type of place. For information on Kilkenny pottery and glassware, check out this thread

In Dungarvan, Co Waterford, there's The Tannery. I've never been, but it gets great reviews, so probably worth a try.

Simon, yes I agree on Chapter One. Everyone seems to love this place except for blind spot Michelin. On the best restaurant in Dublin, I think that Dax was the only opening of any significance last year. I only went once, not long after it opened, and found the servings pitifully small and the prices on the steep side. But I understand that it’s changed quite a bit since then and have heard great reports. I think they do a very good deal for lunch. Have you been recently? Do they still have a table for two right beside the ladies toilets (I couldn’t believe it when I swept past a romantic couple in this spot)?

The best newcomer next year will face stiffer competition with all the talk of Nobu, Antonio Carluccio and Gary Rhodes coming to town.


Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)

Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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I had high hopes for Molly's Yard in Belfast, as it's run by Barry Smith and his wife (Ex Oriel in Gilford) but after three visits in as many weeks, I won't be returning as it was far from what we were all expecting after some lovely food in the past at Oriel. Pretty terrible stuff.

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Simon, yes I agree on Chapter One.  Everyone seems to love this place except for blind spot Michelin.  On the best restaurant in Dublin, I think that Dax was the only opening of any significance last year.  I only went once, not long after it opened, and found the servings pitifully small and the prices on the steep side.  But I understand that it’s changed quite a bit since then and have heard great reports.  I think they do a very good deal for lunch.  Have you been recently?  Do they still have a table for two right beside the ladies toilets (I couldn’t believe it when I swept past a romantic couple in this spot)?

Hi Corinna, I haven't been all that recently I must admit (although I *almost* went there last Saturday, but ended up having a good meal in the virtually empty Exchange instead, but I digress). When I ate there we had good food, well prepared, good wine and a fabulous cheeseboard. Funny you should mention that table. They tried to usher us to that one first, but after a moment's reflection we felt it was unsuitable and asked to be moved. This was done without fuss, and it's just as well. I suspect my opinion of the place could have been very different if we'd been obliged to stay there. As it was I felt the tiniest bit bad every time I looked at the people who ended up at that table. Given the money I ended up spending there however, that feeling was quickly dispelled!!

The best newcomer next year will face stiffer competition with all the talk of Nobu, Antonio Carluccio and Gary Rhodes coming to town.

Quite!

Si

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I had high hopes for Molly's Yard in Belfast, as it's run by Barry Smith and his wife (Ex Oriel in Gilford) but after three visits in as many weeks, I won't be returning as it was far from what we were all expecting after some lovely food in the past at Oriel. Pretty terrible stuff.

That’s a shame. Was there anything in particular that you found disappointing?

As it happens, I was up in Belfast last weekend, but as we were staying with friends, I was only out around town for a quick bite in Deane’s Deli at lunchtime. I found it mediocre: a nice casual spot with very pleasant service, but very predictable plates and barely a whisper of provenance. In fairness, there was quite a cross-section of people and age groups, so maybe this is spot on for their market. I wasn’t too impressed with Deane’s Brasserie either some time back, but haven’t been to his restaurant upstairs, which I would expect is far superior.


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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Meanderer, I've have heard great things from friends in Kilkenny about a new restaurant called Bassetts in Inistioge, which is a beautiful little village not far out the road from Thomastown.  It is set in the gardens of Woodstock on the way out of the village, and from what I can gather, specialises in "small plates", so a multi course approach, with plenty of fresh, seasonal and local thrown in.  Also in Inistoige, down by the water, there is a lovely little lunch time spot; it’s very simple with wholesome soups and soda bread.  I can’t remember the name of it, but it is a scrubbed pine type of place.  For information on Kilkenny pottery and glassware, check out this thread

In Dungarvan, Co Waterford, there's The Tannery.  I've never been, but it gets great reviews, so probably worth a try.

Simon, yes I agree on Chapter One.  Everyone seems to love this place except for blind spot Michelin.  On the best restaurant in Dublin, I think that Dax was the only opening of any significance last year.  I only went once, not long after it opened, and found the servings pitifully small and the prices on the steep side.  But I understand that it’s changed quite a bit since then and have heard great reports.  I think they do a very good deal for lunch.  Have you been recently?  Do they still have a table for two right beside the ladies toilets (I couldn’t believe it when I swept past a romantic couple in this spot)?

The best newcomer next year will face stiffer competition with all the talk of Nobu, Antonio Carluccio and Gary Rhodes coming to town.

We ate in The Tannery last year. One of the top five meals I've ever had. Great service, incredible food and they now have accomodation.

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We ate in The Tannery last year. One of the top five meals I've ever had. Great service, incredible food and they now have accomodation.

Just as an aside, chef/proprietor Paul Flynn used to be head chef of Chez Nico at 90 in London when it had three stars so he has quite a pedigree.

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Meanderer, I've have heard great things from friends in Kilkenny about a new restaurant called Bassetts in Inistioge, which is a beautiful little village not far out the road from Thomastown.  It is set in the gardens of Woodstock on the way out of the village, and from what I can gather, specialises in "small plates", so a multi course approach, with plenty of fresh, seasonal and local thrown in.  Also in Inistoige, down by the water, there is a lovely little lunch time spot; it’s very simple with wholesome soups and soda bread.  I can’t remember the name of it, but it is a scrubbed pine type of place.  For information on Kilkenny pottery and glassware, check out this thread

And just a few more recommendations for Kilkenny and Waterford…

In last weekend’s Irish Times - discussing the best fish pie in Waterford - Tom Doorley maintained that you won’t do better than McAlpin’s Suir Inn at Cheekpoint, and suggested that a wide berth be given to Waterford’s Wine Vault, which is a bit off the boil at the moment. I haven’t been to McAlpin’s, but my brother has been there many times, and totally agrees on the superior fish pie.

In this month’s (Irish) Food & Wine, Leslie Williams (who has contributed to this board in the past) suggests the following:

Waterford

l’Atmosphere at 19 Henrietta St, due to open soon, offering well priced French bistro classics, from chef Arnaud Mary (owner of La Boulangerie bakery)

Brasserie Orange, seeking a new tenant (?), but still open (I’m not sure that this sounds like a recommendation)

The Tannery (as suggested upthread), with a particularly good lunch and early bird menu

The Strand, or The Ship in Dunmore East for fish, as well as Coast in Tramore

White Horses Restaurant in Ardmore, for something simpler

Richmond House in Cappoquin, for dinner

Local Cheeses: Knockalara and ]Knockanore

Kilkenny

Bassett’s, in Inistioge(mentioned upthread), gets a great review

Hudson’s, in Thomatown

Waterside, in Graiguenamanagh (a beautiful old village, which spills into Carlow on the other side of the River Barrow). There are some nice pubs there (avoid the trendy ones)

The Marble City Bar, in Kilkenny City for pub food

Zuni Restaurant, in Kilkenny City for a slightly quirkier take on cooking

Shortis Wong on John St in Kilkenny, is worth a visit to buy Lavistown sausages (which are a personal favourite of mine… big flavour, gutsy, top notch pork, which is well capable of carrying the garlic and cumin, kebab type spices)

Local cheeses: Lavistown, light and deliciously sour, like homemade butter; Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheeses which include “a goat camembert, a semi-hard goats’ cheese, and a washed rind cows’ milk cheese”.

And on local crafts; visits to Jerpoint Glass, Nicholas Mosse, and Stoneware Jackson are recommended. More detail on these on the Edible and Portable Souvenirs thread.

If I was to pick two, it would be The Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and Bassett’s in Inistoige, Co Kilkenny.


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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I would throw a vote in for McNeans Bistro in Blacklion in Cavan.

We ate there very recently and it was really good. The exterior of the house was cladded with stone which they should remove, it removes character from it... and I have to say it didn't look too promising, and actually Blacklion doesn't look too promising come to that. But the interior was a lot more pleasant and reminiscent of a nice small country hotel, which of course, it is.

I don't really watch TV so the head chef, Neven Maguire, isn't all that familiar to me. Apparently, that's a good thing, he's too nice or something.

Well, nice is alright by me. He's a very good cook. I had the fish tasting menu, eight courses and two sets of desserts including a tasting plate of desserts. Great value, I have to say, at 70 EU. All house wines are 20EU. Desserts were pretty special.

My wife had the vegetarian tasting menu at 50, one less course, and not as good I think. The meat one looked a little on the game-y side of things to me, which might be your bag, then again, might not. Wouldn't be mine but our guests loved it.

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Meanderer, I've have heard great things from friends in Kilkenny about a new restaurant called Bassetts in Inistioge, which is a beautiful little village not far out the road from Thomastown.  It is set in the gardens of Woodstock on the way out of the village, and from what I can gather, specialises in "small plates", so a multi course approach, with plenty of fresh, seasonal and local thrown in.  Also in Inistoige, down by the water, there is a lovely little lunch time spot; it’s very simple with wholesome soups and soda bread.  I can’t remember the name of it, but it is a scrubbed pine type of place.  For information on Kilkenny pottery and glassware, check out this thread

And just a few more recommendations for Kilkenny and Waterford…

In last weekend’s Irish Times - discussing the best fish pie in Waterford - Tom Doorley maintained that you won’t do better than McAlpin’s Suir Inn at Cheekpoint, and suggested that a wide berth be given to Waterford’s Wine Vault, which is a bit off the boil at the moment. I haven’t been to McAlpin’s, but my brother has been there many times, and totally agrees on the superior fish pie.

In this month’s (Irish) Food & Wine, Leslie Williams (who has contributed to this board in the past) suggests the following:

Waterford

l’Atmosphere at 19 Henrietta St, due to open soon, offering well priced French bistro classics, from chef Arnaud Mary (owner of La Boulangerie bakery)

Brasserie Orange, seeking a new tenant (?), but still open (I’m not sure that this sounds like a recommendation)

The Tannery (as suggested upthread), with a particularly good lunch and early bird menu

The Strand, or The Ship in Dunmore East for fish, as well as Coast in Tramore

White Horses Restaurant in Ardmore, for something simpler

Richmond House in Cappoquin, for dinner

Local Cheeses: Knockalara and ]Knockanore

Kilkenny

Bassett’s, in Inistioge(mentioned upthread), gets a great review

Hudson’s, in Thomatown

Waterside, in Graiguenamanagh (a beautiful old village, which spills into Carlow on the other side of the River Barrow). There are some nice pubs there (avoid the trendy ones)

The Marble City Bar, in Kilkenny City for pub food

Zuni Restaurant, in Kilkenny City for a slightly quirkier take on cooking

Shortis Wong on John St in Kilkenny, is worth a visit to buy Lavistown sausages (which are a personal favourite of mine… big flavour, gutsy, top notch pork, which is well capable of carrying the garlic and cumin, kebab type spices)

Local cheeses: Lavistown, light and deliciously sour, like homemade butter; Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheeses which include “a goat camembert, a semi-hard goats’ cheese, and a washed rind cows’ milk cheese”.

And on local crafts; visits to Jerpoint Glass, Nicholas Mosse, and Stoneware Jackson are recommended. More detail on these on the Edible and Portable Souvenirs thread.

If I was to pick two, it would be The Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and Bassett’s in Inistoige, Co Kilkenny.

Thanks, Corinna. That should get us through the week.

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Following the recommendation upthread, we had lunch on a recent Sunday at Hudson's in Thomastown and I think they had a bit of an off-day. My meal was terrific--particularly the entree--but it wasn't what I ordered. I ordered the lamb kidneys and I was served the lamb cutlets that were the special of the day. Because it was so good, I was happy to ignore the mistake. However, one member of the party ordered the salmon that was supposed to have some kind of citrus sauce but if there was any flavor beside salmon, nobody could detect it. Also the salmon was overdone and, hence, dry. The third member of the party had the steak and it was fine but we couldn't understand why they needed to add a 5 Euro surcharge for a steak that was about the size of the heel of my shoe.

We also ate at the Tannery and Bassett's, recommended above, and both lived up to our expectations. While the menu and presentation at the Tannery was more interesting, Bassett's location, alone, was worth the trip. They also served the best smoked salmon I've ever eaten. It was described by the owner as having been caught by a friend and smoked down the road in New Ross. My compliments to the fisherman and the smoker.

The food at the Lacken House was also quite good, but I could never quite shake the gloom of the dining room. Nor could I decipher why a huge bowl of steamed potatoes was brought to our table when our entees were served with about a half a kilogram of mashed potatoes on the plate.

Finally, in Dublin, we all enjoyed lunch at Luna. The tomato soup, in particular, was the thickest and richest I have eaten anywhere.

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Thanks so much for the post Meanderer.

Your experience at Hudson's does sound like a bit of a mixed bag. I'd love to hear a bit more about what you had at the Tannery and Bassett's, if you've got a chance. And yes, Woodstock in Inistioge, where Bassett's is located is such a beautiful spot. So glad you enjoyed it.


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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Corinna--Oddly, much as I know I enjoyed it , I cannot recall what my entee was at the Tannery. In a week, I have forgotten so much. My starter was an interesting combination of pork belly and squid. I would never have thought of it.

At Bassett's, I started with the charcuterie plate and then had a very nice piece of rare tuna with a pesto dollop. I skipped the desserts at both places because I had been so energetic sampling the food on the plates of the rest of the folks at the table. I think I managed to get more of the smoked salmon I mentioned earlier than did my wife, who ordered it.

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I had read a number of mixed reviews about Aqua, which I tried for the first time recently. It’s in Howth, which is a beautiful fishing village on the north side of Dublin, closer to the airport than the city centre. As I strolled down the West Pier, passing fish shops on one side, fishing nets and boats on the other, and a drunken Russian sailor swaying somewhere in between, I felt a surge of excitement and wondered why I didn’t hop on the train more often and travel the relatively short distance for this sense of escape.

The restaurant is perched right at the end of the pier, on the first floor of what was once Howth Yacht Club; and two walls of glass look out onto what has to be the best restaurant view in Dublin. The room has a nice feel; crisp white table cloths, not too much formality and a buzz which is possibly a bit too loud.

The early bird menu which is offered from Tues – Sat, is well priced at €30 for three courses plus tea or coffee. The service was attentive; and the menus, a jug of tap water and a plate of really, really good bread was brought to the table very promptly. We both started with the chowder. The serving was generous, the soup tasty if a little thick, but let down by the chunks of salmon which I found a bit too domineering. More shellfish would have been better.

There were about six choices on the mains: hake, salmon, duck confit, steak, pasta and possibly chicken. We went for the pan fried hake with courgette Provencale, and the pan fried wild salmon with mash. The Provencale was very good, but the hake was disappointingly overcooked with a soggy, uncrisped skin. The salmon could have done with a shade less cooking too, but was good enough. A large dish of vegetables with boiled potatoes, broccoli, carrots and those ridiculous baby ears of corn was also brought to the table; so a good place for people with big appetites.

There were three very pedestrian choices for dessert. We went for the tiramisu and warm chocolate tarte; the third option was Bailey’s cheesecake. The tiramisu was served in a slice and was well below par; but the tarte with a crisp pastry base was quite good, if a little too sweet. Our double espressos were dreadful and tasted more like strong filtered coffee.

The food here could be better. There is nothing overly ambitious about the menu, so quality should be achievable and consistent. The servings are substantial, and there is a very generous air to this restaurant; but I was disappointed not to see more of a “fresh from the sea” focus, with perhaps large platters of shellfish and a few more interesting fish on the menu (the ALC also had cod and lemon sole). After seeing what was available in some of the fish shops on the way down, I expected better at the end of the pier, so it was a bit of an anti climax.

But, balanced against what you can get for €30 elsewhere in Dublin; and given the incredible view, the warm welcome and competent service; I do think that it’s well worth the trip. Just be sure to hit in at the fixed price sittings.

There is another restaurant halfway down this pier called Deep, which got a good review in Dubliner magazine, with mentions of generous helpings (obviously a hungry lot in Howth), so might be worth checking out too.


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

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Since the recommendations are all over the place here (not that I'm complaining!) let me suggest a really, really good Indian restaurant which has opened up recently in Newbridge (Co. Kildare). Jaipore is located on Lower Eyre Street, which parallels the main drag that runs through Newbridge. Lovely clean design to the place -- this is about as far away from flocked wallpaper as you can get: light polished woods, etched frosted glass, etc.

And the food is just dynamite. Both beef and pork were on the menu, leaving Himself and me wondering whether the management was possibly Goanese? -- as there are some Goan dishes on the menu. But also Hyderabadi ones (I had the Hyderabadi chicken, it was tremendous...). Even the naan breads and dhal were surprising (the taarka dhal had an unexpected kick, and the naans were fragrant and had more of a bite than usual, and weren't overstuffed). The wine list there is super, and the owner/manager very knowledgeable about the wine he was serving. All other service was extremely courteous as well. Two bottles of relatively high-end wine, two main courses, two starters plus dhal and naan bread x 2 ran us about Eur 95.00. ...We didn't have time for dessert, but we'll look into that the next time, as we will definitely be going back.

(BTW, they also do takeout, as might be expected. The clientele looked to be very much the Giant SUV/Expensive Horsey crowd, who I suspect quickly knew a good thing when they saw it.) :biggrin:

Best! -- Diane


Diane Duane | The Owl Springs Partnership | Co. Wicklow, Ireland

http://www.youngwizards.com | http://www.dianeduane.com

Weblog: Out of Ambit

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I wonder is that a branch of Jaipur which is easily the best Indian restaurant(s) in the country all owned by the one person with decent chefs in all of them.

(Poppadom in Rathgar and Vermillion in Terenure have disimproved significantly of late and I would be curious to hear if anyone has visited Rasam recently)

More interestingly in Kildare is the Richard Corrigan / Tony Ryan (founder of Ryanair) venture in Celbridge (typically cynical Sunday Times Report here). This is due in August they say.

By the way the rumours of Nobu in the re-vamped Shelbourne Hotel are probably unfounded - someone connected with Nobu London helped consult on aspects of the re-fit and this is where the rumour spread from according to my (reliable) source. The shelbourne was due to open in time for the Ryder cup but they will be seriously pushing it to manage this.

Mentioned elsewhere but no harm mentioning again here - Dublin has finally cottoned on to the bistro revolution with two good spaces recently opened - Venu off Anne St. Sth near Grafton St. is an outreach restaurant from Restaurant Patrick Guilbauds with v. good quality bistro food - steak frites, onion soup, Croque Madame, beer batter fish and chips, Foie Gras Terrine etc. and Fallon and Byrne (Deli, Wine Bar, Restaurant) on Exchequer St. has a similar menu in a better room. Fish and Chips are (slightly) better in F&B but desserts are better in Venu and Venu is slightly less expensive.


Edited by ljr (log)

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Corrigan, who grew up in Ballivor, Co Meath, is due in Dublin later this month for A Taste of Dublin, an outdoor gourmet food and wine festival at Dublin Castle. It is understood his latest business venture with Ryan will be unveiled around the same time.

Menus and a theme for the restaurant have yet to be finalised, but Corrigan, who has worked hard to promote Irish produce, is likely to stick with his traditional Irish ingredients.

It will be interesting to see how a restaurant at this level does out of the city centre. Richard Corrigan will be welcomed back home with open arms, but for a lot of potential customers, Celbridge will be an expensive taxi journey.

On the Shelbourne, rumours abound. Most recently, I heard that it was behind schedule and looking shaky for Ryder Cup completion. Have you any idea what is planned from a restaurant perspective if Nobu is completely out of the frame?


Corinna Hardgrave aka "Corinna Dunne"

CorinaHardgrave Twitter

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I wonder is that a branch of Jaipur which is easily the best Indian restaurant(s) in the country all owned by the one person with decent chefs in all of them. 

Interestingly, it's not: it's an independent place. I look forward to trying it again next week when we're back from Pittsburgh.

BTW, thanks for the note about Venu: sounds right up my alley -- will have to give it a try.

Best! -- Diane


Diane Duane | The Owl Springs Partnership | Co. Wicklow, Ireland

http://www.youngwizards.com | http://www.dianeduane.com

Weblog: Out of Ambit

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On the Shelbourne, rumours abound. Most recently, I heard that it was behind schedule and looking shaky for Ryder Cup completion. Have you any idea what is planned from a restaurant perspective if Nobu is completely out of the frame?

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I am going to be visiting Ireland for the very first time. I will be there between Tuesday and Friday. I will be in Dublin and then travelling up to county Armagh. I have been reading the forums for all of the recommended places (Cork, Limerick, Kerry seem very interesting), but given my time limitations and the fact that I am travelling north, what are some of your suggestions for the biggest bang for my buck, so to speak. If it is at all possible, I would love to travel down south.

Right now, I have suggestions to try Clonakilty black pudding, Annascaul black pudding, Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Temple Bar Food Market.

Can you give me suggestions about what I can do and where to go give my time limitations?

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Try The Lord Edward Pub. Their sole is fantastic. It's a three-floor pub (pub on ground floor, informal dining on 1st, and formal dining on 2nd floor). I ate there four times, and forced myself to order a different sole dish each time, which was incredibly hard to do, since the last I tried was so damn fantastic. But it was worth it -- every single one was amazing. It wasn't a cheap place, but an amazing bang for my buck, certainly.

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Reassuring to hear that the Lord Edward is still doing what it does best - the place is blissfully stuck in a time warp and I always have a small fear that someone will try to update it (read spoil things) before I get to Dublin again.

A word of warning - with Irish roads and traffic just forget about heading south from Armagh if you only have four days.

Instead head over to McNean's on the border at Blacklion, Co Cavan which is a family run restaurant with a great chef working from good local materials. If the place was in France he would probaly have a Michelin star but Blacklion is near nowhere (except perhaps Armagh).

I can't attempt to give you directions but try Via michelin - it will be less than 100 km which is about two hours driving in these parts!

In the other direction, Carlingford is a lovely fishing village on the coast - there was at least one good restaurant there a few years ago but it changed hands so I'd prefer to leave it to somebody to give you some more recent leads. It#s a good place for native oysters however.

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When in County Armagh I would try the Manor Park Restaurant in Armagh city, I have heard some great reports about it. If you are near Portadown, then try the Yellow Door deli which is a real gem.

Make sure you pick up some Soda and Poatato Farls and Wheaten Bread, true specialities of the area.

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