Hot Press

THE IRISH FOOD REVOLUTION

Produce, place and people. We’re truly spoilt in all three areas, and it’s getting more exciting by the day. Hot Press takes to the road to sample the very best of what Ireland has to offer; meet some of the people responsibl­e for what ends up on our plat

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We take an in-depth look at why Ireland’s culinary scene continues to get more exciting and eclectic by the day.

Sometimes it takes a tourist to tell you what’s what. This was de nitely the case when Best Of Ireland chewed (among other things) the fat with Blur legend and awardwinni­ng cheese maker Alex James. “The food in Ireland is amazing,” he enthused. “I’ve just bought six Clonakilty Puddings to take back to my friends. The cheese, oh my God, you guys could teach the French and the Italians a thing or two. The quality of the lamb; it’s off the scale. The seafood, again, wow! I hope you realise how good you’ve got it here?”

Yeah, we do, but it’s always good to get confirmati­on from an outsider who knows his onions. And his puddings. Alex James is spot on; these are great foodie times that we’re living in.

Along with such iconic Irish brands as Ballygowan, Kerrygold, Lyon’s Tea, Flahavan’s, Guinness, Kilmeaden,

Tullamore D.E.W., Denny’s, Tayto and the aforementi­oned Clonakilty Puddings, the last decade has seen a massive explosion in craft food and drink businesses here.

A sizeable number of them are driven by the new Irish who’ve helped fuel our

love of everything from Brazilian Coxinha, Japanese Gyoza and Filipino Salt Bread to Korean White Matsu, Vietnamese Pho and Venezuelan Sabanero Cheese.

Of all the arguments we might have had 20 years ago, which Japanese Ramen Bar, Mexican Taqueria or Argentinia­n Steakhouse to go to were not among them. Ireland now boasts a selection of restaurant­s that would be deemed cosmopolit­an in any country.

Also signalling that Ireland’s meat ‘n’ two veg days are well and truly over is the way in which veganism has come out of the margins and into mainstream. Some of the best meals Best Of Ireland have had recently are in eateries where neither sh nor fowl are on the menu. Irish supermarke­ts have reacted accordingl­y, with rapidly expanding vegan sections in Tesco, Dunne’s, SuperValu, Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Aldi. With that has come a nuanced debate about food ethics and sustainabi­lity, which will increasing­ly influence what ends up on our plates and in our glasses.

Barely a week goes by without someone making culinary headlines. There was great excitement before Christmas when Dylan McGrath opened Shelbourne Social, which was joined recently in the impressive One Ballsbridg­e developmen­t by Avoca. Dylan also revealed recently in Hot Press that he’s looking to open a small 30 to 50-seater finedining establishm­ent, which will have a Michelin star – or two – in its sights. Any day now Niall Davidson will be unveiling his as yet unnamed open re restaurant in Dublin’s South Frederick Street, the centrepiec­e of which will be a sunken kitchen.

The Derryman has already taken London by storm with his aming creations, and you wouldn’t bet against him doing it here too. We’re also counting down the days to the summer launch of St. Andrew’s Food Hall, an old church on D2’s Suffolk Street, which will be home to 13 food vendors, two coffee shops and two bars. In addition, there will be a “rotational kitchen” for guest chefs to come in and cook for three months.

New tourist initiative­s like the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ancient East, the Hidden Heartlands, Dublin: A Breath Of Fresh Air and Ireland’s Lakelands all have food and drink as one of their cornerston­es.

In this Best Of Ireland special, we travel to every corner of the country to sample the very best of what the country has to offer. It was, as we think you’ll agree, one heck of a journey!

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