Kate Ryan, Flavour.ie
Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford – the five counties that make up Ireland’s sunny south-east and a hive of great producers, fantastic bakeries, brilliant food festivals, and a wonderfully eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes and delis. Choosing just ten great spots was a challenge, that must only be a good thing!
Coastal living and historic towns, castles, Vikings, rivers, canals and rolling green hills all lend this corner of Ireland a well-earned reputation as a place with endless choice in activities and adventures. With so many things to do and great food to explore, you’ll want to come back time and again. So, let’s get started!
Clashganny House Restaurant, Borris
House inside an 19th century millhouse in the picturesque countryside of Borris is Clashganny House Restaurant. At the helm are husband and wife duo, Robert and Karen White, chef and manager respectively who bring with them years of experience in high-end heritage hotel restaurants. The result is classical French-style cooking inspired by the farmers and producers of the region in a romantically wistful setting. Karen’s experienced hand front of house ensures all who come to dine at Clashganny have an unforgettable experience.
Seasonal game dishes of wood pigeon and venison, Kilmore crab and Irish hake, locally raised beef and seasonal vegetables come with a twist to suit modern tastes for flavours, while sumptuous desserts are classic and elegant. At Clashganny House, come for the food but stay for the experience.
Mimosa Bar de Tapas, Carlow Town
When looking for a dining experience that delivers buzz, best to check out where the locals love to eat, and in Carlow that’s Mimosa Tapas Bar.
A wide selection of fishy, meaty and veggie tapas on offer at Mimosa. Influences of Spain are aplenty, but the tapas can also take you hopping around the globe for the tastiest bar bites around. Paella croquettes and cod baja tacos with pico de gallo and lime; beef and chipotle mini sliders or slow cooked Korean short rib tacos with sriracha and crispy onions to liven up the party in your mouth. For veggies, black bean enchiladas and crispy falafels are tapas with thought to being just as satisfying.
Expect generous portions, and even to leave with a doggie bag for some late-night nibbles, too!
- The Fermentary for Plúr Bakery breads and kombucha on tap www.instagram.com/theferment.ary
- Carlow Farmers’ Market, every Friday 9am – www.carlowfarmersmarket.com
Áran Bakery & Deli
Bart Pawlukojc and his wife Nicole Server-Pawlukojc have worked tirelessly to stamp Áran Bakery on Kilkenny’s brilliant food scene. It’s not just incredible breads and pastries on offer here. The onsite deli and daytime restaurant are good aces, and, hot on their heels is the announcement Áran Bakery is commencing an evening dinner service too.
At the time of writing, sample menus for evening service haven’t been released, but if anything like their brunch menu staples of Green Shakshuka, Chorizo Torta, Bibimbap and Butcher’s Breakfast Burrito, what we can expect are hearty dishes fully of punchy flavours and incredibly well sourced and local everything.
Established in 1989 by Antonio and Marion Cavaliere in the shadow of Kilkenny Castle, there’s a reason why this Italian restaurant has served the test of time.
Family owned and run, serving up Italian fine dining classics and freshly made pasta every day, the Rinuccini family invites us to dine like an Italian – take your time, enjoy and savour your food, sip good wine and live La Dolce Vita!
The menu includes Italian classics such as bruschetta from Campagna, porchetta, fresh handmade ravioli with Gorgonzola and squid ink risotto; panna cotta, tiramisu, and a limoncello-soaked rum baba for dessert. To complete your meal, a sip of Italian firewater, Grappa; Rinuccini is home to Ireland’s largest collection of this potent spirit!
- Cake Face – check out its beautiful outdoor seating in a converted old barn or sign up to one of their cookery classes. www.cakeface.ie
- Savour Kilkenny returns after a hiatus this October bank holiday weekend. Timetable to be announced, but this is one of the premier food festivals in Ireland. www.savourkilkenny.com
Prime 74, Tipperary Town
Classic technique meets modern flavours in a contemporary bistro setting, that’s the vibe at Prime 74. Their commitment to working with producers in and around Tipperary, and the cream of the crop from the rest of Ireland, would make any chef envious.
Head Chef Martin Lovell and Chef Barry Fitzgerald say that their mission is to make people happy with the food they serve; good food and great front of house service makes for loyal customers. Dry-aged rib eye of beef, local lamb, mussels roasted with Gubbeen chorizo or spiced roasted monkfish with a shellfish curry, fennel and samphire are all hearty crowd pleasers that deliver a satisfying gutsy dining experience in a venue that is a classy as the food.
Mikey Ryan’s, Cashel
Yearning for great hospitality and delicious local food in a laid-back atmosphere without the five-star price tag of its newest near neighbour, you’d do well to book yourself into Mikey Ryan’s.
A glorious gastropub combining its historic bar with a bright restaurant flooded with natural light, and a garden terrace, the ultimate outdoor hideaway in the middle of town. The ethos is Irish food through and through working with local artisans and farmers with a commitment to using as much organic produce as possible.
Dishes from the evening dinner menu include Cashel blue cheese and poached pear millefeuille and house-cured salmon for starters, pan-fried turbot for mains, and honey flan with toffee sauce, crumble and fresh raspberries for dessert. The full bar supports locally brewed beers from White Gypsy and award-winning whiskey from Tipperary Boutique Distillery.
- James Whelan Butchers – where it all began for this award-winning butcher at Oakville Shopping Centre, Clonmel. www.jameswhelanbutchers.com
- The new Tipperary Food Producers initiative offers food tours of the regions best loved artisans. www.tipperaryfoodproducers.ie/food-tours
And Chips, Dungarvan
There are lots of tasty and delicious things on the menu at And Chips, the brilliant modern chipper beside the water in Dungarvan, but really, we are here for the chips. That sounds a bit disingenuous, and I guess it is a little because everything on the menu is superb; the fish is flappingly fresh, sourced from day boats and prepared each day in house, the sides are cracking, too, etc.
But it’s those hand cut chips cooked in beef dripping that makes them extra special – how chipper chips used to taste, back in the day. Eunice Power has created a chip that absorbs flavour like a sponge, unctuous and meaty and just gorgeous soaked in malt vinegar. Chips worth travelling for.
Momo is a neighbourhood that’s funky, ambitious, and full of personality. Menus for lunch and evening dining are a smorgasbord of different styles and cuisines – no pigeon-holing here, just a curation of things they like to eat and making it as delicious as possible so their customers will like all the things as much, too.
Frequent recipients of awards, including for their Children’s Menu which, refreshingly, treats little ones as capable of enjoying decent, quality food, makes this a favourite with families during the day, and into the evening time, meals can be adapted for smaller appetites without fuss.
The lamb meatballs and slow cooked short ribs are firm menu favourites, but veggies and vegans are well catered for, too with falafel, masala cauliflower steak, and Seagull bakery heritage grain pasta with summer veggie sauce. Finish with a vegan mango and coconut tart or sink into a raspberry chocolate fondant with lemon curd and meringue ice cream.
- Seagull Bakery – a must-visit for all the bread and pastries. www.seagullbakeryshop.com
- GIY HQ hosts Waterford Harvest Festival 9th – 11th September 2022. www.harvest.giy.ie
Frank’s Place 1860
Wine bars serving great wine with small plates is the next great trend to claim its spot in the Irish food scene with great spots in Dublin (Loose Cannon, Mae), Galway (Cava Bodega) and Cork (MacCurtain Wine Cellar, L’Atitude 51), and now Wexford can join the ranks with Frank’s Place 1860.
A menu of small and large plates is designed to be as flexible as the diners need them to be – sharing with friends, individual portions, or pairing each plate with a different wine. Wines are categorised by style with many available by the glass and reasonably priced, too. If the urge to splurge is upon you, the rare and fine wines section starts at €65 per bottle all the way to €240…
Owned and run by husband-and-wife team Paul (head chef) and Edwina (manager) Hynes. Together they delight Wexford locals and visitors alike with a seafood-led menu making the most of their location close to the famous fishing of this coastal county.
A fabulous value-for-money four-course tasting menu is available all week for just €55 and includes local Kilmore scallops and cod, local aged Hereford beef, and citrus cured sea trout. The a la carte provides a few additional options, but the value and quality on the tasting menu will be hard to beat.
They have consistently won awards since opening in 2014, most notably the recipient of a Michelin Plates every year since 2018. La Côte is a gem of a restaurant hiding in plain sight.
- Dine and wander the walled kitchen gardens of the Duck Terrace restaurant and café at the stunning country hotel, Marlfield House. www.marlfieldhouse.com
- Wexford’s Rockin’ Food & Fruit Festival returns this August bank holiday weekend. www.rockinfoodandfruitfestival.ie