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Taste O’ The Irish: Whiskey and Local Flavor in Dublin

September 17, 2015

Dubliners have always been a hungry lot. Spurned on by the economic crisis, the city’s resourceful food scene ate its way back from the brink by looking inward. Restaurants tapped nearby purveyors for cheese, seafood, meat, produce, and spirits to support the local economy and create fresh takes on old traditions. In doing so, the city has become one of the new culinary hotspots of Europe, without losing its leprechaun soul.

Food and whiskey pairings abound, cheese platters are de rigueur, and pubs are going gastro. This isn’t your parents’ fare of rustic stews and chewy soda breads. Here’s where to sate your appetite in Dublin—with a distinctly Irish flavor.

Fresh, foraged Irish produce. (Photo: Chapter One)

Chapter One
Michelin-starred chef Ross Lewis has been supporting Irish food purveyors for nearly 20 years, and his approach has only gotten fresher and more surprising. The simplicity of his pickled vegetables is revelatory; tapioca porridge made rich with locally foraged mushrooms and kelp is both gorgeous to look at and taste. How about a venison medallion with roasted Jerusalem artichoke and braised red cabbage? Order the tasting menu: you won’t mind spending a couple hours in this elegantly modern room, which was recently redesigned using goods from Irish artists and craftspeople. Set in the worth-a-visit Dublin Writer’s Museum, this is a great choice for a fancy lunch or a special dinner.

Feta cheese mousse with salt baked beetroot and bar interior. (Photo: Chapter One)

L. Mulligan Grocer
Located in gentrifying Stoneybatter, north of the River Liffey, L. Mulligan Grocer is a quirky destination with a serious approach. The exterior evokes an old-fashioned pub, but the menus, bound into vintage books, signal you’re in for something creative. The black pudding is earthy and sourced from nearby County Cork. The ploughman’s platter is a great way to discover cheeses (there’s also a vegetarian option). When it comes to mains, anything with a side of chips will do, like moules or chicken Kiev. There’s no Guinness, which would be considered Irish sacrilege, except the huge selection of Irish craft beers make up for the omission, as does owner Saeneen Sullivan’s passion for whiskey and cheese pairings. If your trip overlaps with one of her special whiskey dinners, book it.

(Photo: Four Seasons Dublin)

The Bar at the Four Seasons Dublin

Historically, distilling barley in cooper pots (no blending allowed) gave single pot still (aka pure pot still) Irish Whiskeys their quintessential, robust flavor. The Bar at the Four Seasons in tony Ballsbridge is an essential stop to delve deep into its renaissance. Bartenders provide whiskey tastings while schooling you in its history, production, and best drinking practices—like how to enhance the spicy flavor of the Redbreast 12 Year-Old Cask Strength with a splash of water—and why the velvety, honey smoked flavor of Connemara Single Cask 4293 is shunned by some purists because the barley is dried over peat fires, a practice used in making scotch. If you’re feeling flush, order something off the impressive limited-edition whiskey menu, like a rare 1951 Knappogue Castle Reserve for €142 a glass.

(Photo: Four Seasons Dublin)

Fallon & Byrne

Food emporium Fallon & Byrne is situated right near downtown’s Drury Street, where you’ll find some of the best interior design and gift boutiques in Dublin—and it shows. You might have to eat some traditional soda bread just because it looks so pretty. Presentation may be king here, but quality is top priority. Whether you linger in front of the cheese and charcuterie counter, stop in for a quick piece of cake and coffee, or sit down for a proper meal with wine in the restaurant, your eyes will feast, too.

(Photos: Fallon & Byrne) 

Stacie Stukin is a Los Angeles journalist who’s written about food, design, architecture, bling, and buttocks augmentation surgery for publications like Elle Decor, The New York Times, Saveur, and The Robb Report. You can follow her on twitter @lamandala and on Instagram @sstukin.