Food editor Ciara McQuillan’s 2023 vision board will host images of bucket list restaurants that she aspires to dine in this year …
January. The time for New Year Resolutions, attempting to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, and a time for creating vision boards to help us reach our goals, whether personal or professional. I need all of the above, but as ever my most prominent vision board will host images of bucket list restaurants that I aspire to dine in throughout 2023. Some are fine dining, some less so but they all have certain things in common: standout food, atmosphere and my need to go. Last year I managed to tick three off my bucket list, which wasn’t bad going, but the list does appear to be getting longer and longer. In the interests of brevity, here are five restaurants on my wish list for 2023. The other 25 (or so), I will keep to myself.
The Muddlers Club, Belfast
I’m in love with Belfast. It’s vibrant, edgy and the food scene in the city (and indeed Northern Ireland as a whole) is certainly having a moment. To me, The Muddlers Club epitomises all that is exciting about Belfast and showcases the edgy side of the city, albeit with a Michelin star to boot. It’s moody, atmospheric and each and every dish that appears on its Instagram feed makes me wildly envious of those lucky patrons who will be feasting there that evening. www.themuddlersclubbelfast.com.
Pullman at Glenlo Abbey, Galway
Ever since I was a child, a trip on The Orient Express has been on by ‘please, please, please’ travel wish list, much to my parent’s annoyance. As a dedicated Agatha Christie fan, I was entranced by the tales of Miss Marple but more so, Hercule Poirot, the infamous Belgian moustached sleuth. I found the decadence, the glamourous fashion and the lavish lifestyles of the high society to be of the utmost intrigue and to this day, I still do. Sadly a trip on the Orient Express may be beyond my capabilities but a trip to the Pullman Restaurant at Glenlo Abbey might just be attainable. The restaurant comprises of two original carriages from the Orient Express, beautifully restored and perched on the grounds of the hotel, with spectacular views overlooking Lough Corrib. This is splendiferous destination dining at its best. www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie.
Rosa Madre, Dublin 2
As a lifelong Dublin resident, I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never dined in Rosa Madre. Oh I’ve heard the reports and read the reviews, but somehow, it has yet to happen. Bookings have been made, and sadly been cancelled (with appropriate notice given) but 2023 will change all that. I’m not sure if I am more excited about the steaming bowls of pasta, the seafood or the wine, but suffice to say, it’s all very appealing. www.rosamadre.ie.
Cush, Ballycotton, Co Cork
Have you ever felt like a restaurant is stalking you when in fact it’s probably the other way around? For me, the culprit is Cush. Cush lurked on the periphery of my consciousness for quite some time before it eventually launched itself full force into my everyday thoughts. Every single dish on the menu cries out to me and the fact that it has guest rooms overlooking the Atlantic Ocean only serves to increase my obsession. Warm natural smoked haddock with potato velouté and crispy hen’s egg, in 2023, I’m coming for you. www.cush.ie.
Variety Jones, Dublin 8
Yet another shameful admission is that I have yet to bear witness to the delights held behind the door at Varity Jones. Keelin Higg’s Thomas Street restaurant has had tongues wagging (in a good way) since it opened and despite many failed attempts to visit, I have a good feeling for 2023. I enjoy a sharing menu (when it suits ME) so a chef’s choice sharing menu adds instant appeal and reading the sample menus on the website does nothing but add to my angst. For health reasons alone, I will be booking a table this year. www.varietyjones.ie.