L'Gueuleton (Dublin; tel. 01/675-3708)
This place is worth the effort you'll have to put in to book a table well in advance. The cozy dining room is all candlelight, exposed brick walls, polished wood beams, and Prada-clad clientele. The Irish-French menu changes constantly, but includes warming options such as whole roast sea bass with new potatoes and chive beurre blanc, or venison casserole with juniper and organic root vegetables.
Chapter One (Dublin; tel. 01/873-2266)
Arguably the city's most atmospheric restaurant, this remarkable eatery fills the vaulted basement space of the Dublin Writers Museum. Artfully lighted and tastefully decorated, it offers a menu with local, organic ingredients, all cleverly used in dishes like the squab pigeon Wellington style, and the hot cured Clare Island salmon with glazed red pepper and crab. Fabulous!
The Chart House (County Kerry; tel. 066/915-2255)
In this inviting bistro, everyone comes for the confident, simple cooking. Think wonderful comfort food with a flair, such as steak filet with black pudding mash, or roasted pork with brandied apples. And the service is, as the Irish would say, "spot on."
Fishy Fishy Café (County Cork; tel. 021/470-0415)
This superfriendly little restaurant is the place to go for seafood in Kinsale. No reservations, no fuss, just perfectly prepared food, sourced locally. Really local. As in, the waiter can tell you exactly who caught your dinner.
The Wild Geese (County Limerick; tel. 061/396451)
The emphasis here is simple, but perfect: Start with superb local ingredients and build on that. This is clear in dishes such as the Irish duck confit served on wontons with sesame dressing, the Clare crabmeat soufflé, or grilled salmon with tempura vegetables.
Moira's at the Cromleach Lodge (County Sligo; tel. 071/916-5155)
Moira's is well situated in the lovely country house of Cromleach Lodge, with panoramic views of Lough Arrow and environs. The menu changes nightly, depending on what is freshest and best from the sea and garden. It may include such dishes as pan-fried fish of the day with lobster tartare and champagne sauce, or grilled filet of beef with shallot and pancetta ragout and confit garlic mash.
James Street South (Belfast; tel. 028/9043-4310; www.jamesstreetsouth.co.uk)
This fashionable place in Belfast is a hit because of the terrific cooking, which delivers modern classics with an Irish twist. The lamb is always excellent, and shouldn't be missed. Portions are generous, the wine list very good, the crowd rapturous.
Deane's (Belfast; tel. 028/9033-1134; www.michaeldeane.co.uk)
Owned and run by Irish celebrity chef Michael Deane, this restaurant offers his unique approach to Irish cuisine. Using seasonal, local produce and meats, he creates Irish food with an international twist. The seafood is outstanding, and the desserts are unforgettable.
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