It can sometimes be quite daunting eating in cafes in strange cities. Dublin has an emerging cafe culture and you are usually assured of a warm welcome, even at busy times. All of the eating houses have been personally tried and tested many times. Comments are particularly welcome - do let me know if you have enjoyed or suffered in these establishments!
Dublin and Irish cooking: I am often asked if there are places to sample Irish cooking. The short answer is "very few" since our own cuisine is not very fashionable amongst other exotic world restaurants. However, we do have our own unique style - here is a short list to look out for:
I am frequently asked for recommendations for the best places for Irish food. Many thanks to Frank B Smith for the following comments: "I noted that you identify Irish Stew as any red meat. I know that when I was in Belfast I got beef in my Irish Stew, but then... However, whenever I'm in the South I've never been served beef, it's always been lamb, and excellent at that. The best Irish Stew I've had in Dublin is at O'Shea's Merchant Hotel on Merchant's Quay (if I remember correctly-- it's right across the street from the Brazen Head). They serve it both in restaurant and the bar/pub. The only warning is that they don't serve small portions."
One restaurant which does specialise in Irish cooking is Gallaghers Boxty House at 20 Temple Bar (Tel. 003531 677 2762). I'm told that the food is good and wholesome although I haven't tried it myself. For something very tasty and different, try the toasted buttered bacon bagels at Cafe Gertrude in Temple Bar, as recommended by Laura Haywood-Cory and her man! Thanks a lot, Laura. NEW
If you walk up Grafton Street from the TCD direction, you'll arrive at Chatham Row on your right before you reach St Stephen's Green. Walk towards the end of Chatham Row and turn left and right before you reach the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama (you might hear this building before you see it!). You should then see Clarendon's board - they open early to about 5pm but don't open on Sunday. You are assured of a warm welcome by the owners Bill and Tracey and, if they're not too busy, you'll get excellent information about the area and might even get a good racing tip from Bill. Incidentally, they're business partners and Bill is always interested in rich widows with dodgy hearts (only joking).
Without question, Ristorante Romano is the best-value Italian restaurant in Dublin. The lunch special is the jewel in their crown - for €9.95 you can have a starter, main course and coffee. My Caesar's Salad was lovely - the lettuce was fresh and the dressing perfect (I have often been given cheap, tangy dressing in far more expensive establishments). For my main course I asked the owner what he recommended and I opted for the lasagna. It was bursting with flavour - the pasta was home made and the meat of very high quality. Service was efficient, yet friendly - I never had a feeling that we were being rushed to complete our meal.
Chatting with the owner Romano Morelli afterwards, I discovered he is more than a restauranteur. Apart from being passionate about his business, he is a big cycling fan (if you arrive on a cycle, he can mind it for you in his back storeroom), and is also a long-standing amateur radio operator (HAM). He was extremely happy to chat for a few minutes between serving.
This is a eating gem and I'm delighted to list it in my guide. It's easy to find - Capel street runs parallel to O'Connell Street to its west, and is near the Jervis stop on the Luas red line. 12 Capel Street Dublin 1 Dublin City. Tel:+353 (0)1 872 6868
I had a mixed recommendation for Quay's restaurant in Temple Bar - my correspondent says "it had a very good seafood chowder with very tasty brown sodabread, and after that Irish Stew. Everything was very tasty but we had to eat too fast. I mean, we only sat down for 5 minutes or so, and they already came to take our order. After another 5 minutes, we already had our chowder and when we finished that, only 5 minutes later, we had our main course. I think within one hour, we had finished our complete meal. That's not what we are used to, when we go out for a dinner in a restaurant, in Belgium usually it takes the entire evening. But it had the advantage that we could visit another pub afterwards".