Whether you experience it once in a lifetime or once a year, an exceptional meal in a first rate restaurant is designed to be savoured and remembered. If you are thinking about Christmas presents, keep this list in mind. Ciara McQuillan reports …
THE DINING ROOM The cool, contemporary, pared-back dining room features flagstone floors and exposed stonework. The ambience at Aniar is relaxed and calm, even when full.
ON THE PLATE On any given day at this one Michelin star restaurant, you can expect simple Irish ingredients – wild herbs, seaweed, wild game, shellfish and wild mushrooms, elevated to a level you couldn’t have imagined. Traditional preparation methods are used in the kitchen with salting, curing, pickling and fermentation part of daily duties. The 20-course tasting menu is served Tuesday to Saturday (€129). It might sound like a marathon, but this is one you will be happy to take part in. A simple-sounding dish of Potato and Egg has never been so thrilling.
WHAT ELSE? Chef patron JP McMahon runs a variety of cooking classes both online and in person for those who want to level up in the kitchen. Classes range from one-off workshops to six-week courses. Aniar, 53 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 091 535 947; www.aniarrestaurant.ie.
CHAPTER ONE, DUBLIN
THE DINING ROOM You could be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a low-key art gallery, with whitewashed walls displaying a collection of Irish art. The recently renovated space is cool and calm, beautifully lit, with natural light spilling in from the vast windows during the day.
ON THE PLATE Autumn is chef patron Mickael Viljanen’s favourite season, when game, ceps and other mushrooms, root vegetables and white truffles are at their best. Irish Coffees from the famed trolley are a must. The three-course lunch menu at two Michelin star Chapter One is among the best value in the capital at €75. A tasting menu is available at lunch (€135) and dinner will set you back €140, with the evening tasting menu costing €175. Lunch is served Thursday to Saturday and dinner is served Tuesday to Saturday.
WHAT’S NEW Mickael’s famous Hare à la Royale is returning to the menu. It’s an exceptional dish which takes a total of 24 hours to prepare from start to finish. THE GLOSS, in association with Gaggenau, held a sold-out dinner with Viljanen and Ross Lewis on November 15. See all the pictures through this link. Chapter One, 18-19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, 01 873 2266; www.chapteronerestaurant.ie.
THE OAK ROOM, LIMERICK
THE DINING ROOM An elegant oak-panelled room with ornate ceilings, The Oak Room is Limerick’s first restaurant with a Michelin star. Tall dinner candles, silk damask curtains and views over the formal gardens make it feel very grand indeed.
ON THE PLATE Michael Tweedie’s cooking is exciting with finely tuned dishes prepared with flair and imagination, using organic produce from small farmers, growers, and artisans, including an array of the best cheese Ireland has to offer, expertly served tableside. The signature menu costs €140 with an optional wine pairing at €100 and is served from Wednesday to Sunday.
WHAT’S NEW This month, gourmet packages include one or two nights in a luxurious Manor House guest room with Michelin star dining on one evening. Prices start at €1,140. The Oak Room, Adare Manor, Adare, Co Limerick, 061 605 200; www.adaremanor.com.
THE DINING ROOM At two Michelin star Aimsir by Jordan Bailey, glass-fronted cabinets display seasonal bounty along a corridor which leads from bar to dining room, a petite, ethereal room with midnight blue textured walls and an open kitchen so you can watch the team at work.
ON THE PLATE There is one set tasting menu at Aimsir comprising 18 courses of varying size. The experience begins with a series of snacks followed by dishes from land and sea before dessert and petits fours. Drinks pairings are something special too; the alcohol option includes beer, cider, spirits and wines while the non-alcoholic pairing includes fruit presses, fresh juices and fresh herb infusions designed to complement the flavours of the food. The tasting menu costs €210; the alcohol pairing €125 and the non-alcoholic option €65. Dinner is served Wednesday-Saturday and lunch is served on Saturday.
WHAT’S NEW Bookings at Aimsir are difficult to come by but a taste of Aimsir is also available in The Lounge, Wednesday-Friday, from 3pm. The menu changes daily but the running theme is garden offerings, house-made breads or crackers and house-cured charcuterie with foraged pickles and preserves, followed by Irish cheese. Aimsir, Cliff at Lyons, Celbridge, Co Kildare, 01 630 3500; www.aimsir.ie.
THE DINING ROOM The interior of one Michelin star Ox, by Belfast creative studio Oscar and Oscar, is light and bright, with turquoise wood panelling, painted brick walls and classic mid-century furniture.
ON THE PLATE Dining at Ox is one of the most memorable dining experiences in Ireland. The two-course lunch is astounding value at £35stg, with not a supplement in sight. Both the lunch and dinner tasting menu are good value at £75stg with the option of a wine pairing adding £55stg. The gougère with Coolattin cheddar and beer is not to be missed. Lunch is served from Thursday to Saturday; dinner from Wednesday to Saturday.
WHAT’S NEW Beside the dining room, OX Cave is the wine bar of dreams. Perfect in its simplicity – the table setting consists of a glass, plate and board – but what delicacies they will hold. Open Wednesday-Saturday, 6pm – 9:30pm. OX, 1 Oxford Street, Belfast, 028 9031 4121; www.oxbelfast.com.
THE DINING ROOM The dining room at recently opened Terre, in Castlemartyr Resort’s 17th-century manor house, is a successful marriage of classic and contemporary. Velvet curtains, gilded mirrors and marble fireplaces sit comfortably with modern art and bespoke furniture by Modet in Kinsale.
ON THE PLATE French head chef Vincent Crepel unveils his menu just before service. You can expect a dramatic culinary journey that begins with an aperitif in the salon, followed by champagne and snacks in the kitchen, where Crepel and team will talk you through the inner workings of a kitchen of this calibre. Kitchen conversations over, you will be seated in the dining room for dinner, withdrawing to the salon for coffee and petit fours. The tasting menu at Terre, a multi-room affair, costs €140 with a wine pairing for €110. Each dinner sitting is three hours; Wednesday-Saturday.
WHAT’S NEW The Terre Experience includes one night in Castelmartyr, dinner at Terre and breakfast the next morning. Prices start at €495 for two. Terre, Castlemartyr Resort, Castlemartyr, Co Cork, 021 420 0193; www.terre.ie.
THE EXPERIENCE At Lignum, nestled among the trees, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in deepest Scandinavia instead of rural Galway. The modern dining room has vast windows making the most of the commanding view, and at nightfall, it’s simply breathtaking.
POSH PLATES The name Lignum (Latin for wood) is a hint. Exciting, refined cooking over a wood fire is the concept and it works seamlessly with the dramatic backdrop. The ten-course tasting menu changes daily and includes the latest produce from Lignum’s seasonal “larder” with aged meats and fish cooked on Argentinian grills over embers of oak, ash and birch. Given its rural location, getting to Lignum can be a challenge, but there are a couple of local accommodation package options with taxis to and from the restaurant included. The ten-course tasting menu with snacks and petit fours is priced at €120 and is served Thursday to Saturday. Sunday lunch costs €55 for five courses. Both alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks pairings are offered, at €85 and €49 respectively.
WHAT’S NEW The team at Lignum will be hosting a dinner on November 20 with chefs Matthew Smith, head chef at Inver in the Highland and Kevin O’Donnell, head of research and development for Kadeau Restaurants in Denmark. Contact Lignum for more information. Lignum, Slatefort House, Bullaun, Co Galway, 087 330 0559; www.lignum.ie.