Let’s face it: When food-loving travelers talk about great European food cities, they’re likely to get to Hamburg, or maybe Vilnius, before Dublin comes up. What is Irish food, anyway? Smoked salmon, soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew? All perfectly good in their way, but none sufficient to get the average connoisseur’s mouth watering, much less inspire the purchase of an airline ticket.
The fact is, though, that Dublin has become a terrific place to eat in recent years. Is it London, Paris, Barcelona, or Milan? Well, no. And if you’re counting Michelin stars, it doesn’t shine very brightly. It has only one two-star establishment and three with a single star (plus another one-star a little north of the city, past the airport). What it does have is a smallish but steadily growing infrastructure of technically accomplished and imaginative chefs, a few of them French or English but many of them Irish-born — and, even more to the point, some of the finest culinary raw materials in the world.
A surprising variety of fruit and vegetables, cream and butter of astonishing richness (and artisanal cheese in ever-increasing variety), grass-fed lamb and beef (and virtually all of it is), artisanal pork products, abundant seafood — from “black” (i.e., Dover) sole and line-caught turbot to sweet-fleshed West Coast lobsters and Dublin Bay prawns (the same creatures the Italians call scampi)…These are the building blocks for fresh, intensely flavored food both simple and complex — and in recommending Dublin restaurants, the honesty and purity of the basic products is the factor I consider probably most of all.