Irish cuisine is famed for being hearty and homely, often featuring basic ingredients including simple meat cuts and potatoes. In recent years, innovative chefs have mixed things up a bit as they put their own creativity and flair into contemporary Irish cooking. But the authentic roots are still very much alive and kicking and plenty of cafes and restaurants in Dublin serve up what could certainly be considered real Irish food. So after you’ve spent the day experiencing the city sights and visiting nearby attractions with car hire from Dublin, settle back and check out the capital’s best eateries.
Traditional Irish Cuisine
Traditional vegetables, besides the ubiquitous potato, include cabbage, kale, carrots, onions and tomatoes. Meat cuts from pig are especially traditional and a reminder of how Irish peasant food evolved in rather less affluent times. Many Irish households would have kept pigs, with dishes including crubeens (pig’s trotters), drisheen (blood sausage) and tripe (pig’s stomach). Offal features heavily in traditional cuisine as few edible parts of the animal were wasted. Cured and salted meats such as bacon became important because of the lack of refrigeration. Beef was less common, with mostly wealthier people eating it, but today various other meats feature in Irish cuisine, including beef, chicken, lamb and mutton. Stews are popular – Irish stew includes lamb and mutton, while coddle typically contains pork sausages, bacon rashers, sliced potatoes and onions.
Few exotic herbs or spices would have been used, so most traditional Irish dishes feature only a few ingredients, though foraged foods including berries, crab apples, wild mushrooms and nuts would have been used in season, and herbs such as dandelion and nettle and edible seaweeds such as carrageen moss and dulse throughout the year. In coastal regions too, there are mussels, crabs, shrimps, limpets, clams and periwinkles to add to seafood dishes.
Various breads are made, including wheaten bread. Potato dishes include boxty, a type of pancake; colcannon, made of mashed potato and cabbage; and champ, mashed potato and spring onions. Barley, oats and wheat are all traditional grains. While whiskey was not traditionally much used, it tends to feature rather more in modern times. Guinness was often added to stews and marinades and remains popular.
Traditional Irish Food in Dublin
Dublin has many great independent cafes and restaurants where you can kick back and enjoy the country’s finest traditional cuisine. We take a look at some of the best below.
The Winding Stair has long been popular for its arty scene. This bookshop and restaurant buzzes with atmosphere and character and has great river views. Wooden floorboards creak while old bookcases line the walls. The food on offer is certainly traditional but rather upmarket, with dishes such as venison with colcannon bake, haddock with champ and cockle butter sauce, pork belly with apple syrup and cider braised cabbage, and potato cake with smoked cheese. The portions are good and you shouldn’t go away from here hungry – but leave enough room for bread and butter pudding for dessert.
In the heart of Temple Bar, Gallagher’s Boxty House is a vibrant and welcoming restaurant where the humble potato is king and customers are treated to a true education in traditional Irish cuisine. The range of stews on offer includes Irish stew with pearl barley, beef stew marinated in stout, seafood chowder and a twist on the traditional coddle with bacon, sausage and chorizo – mop it all up with some soda bread. Other mains, meanwhile, include offerings such as seafood dumplings, traditional corned beef and, of course, a choice of boxty (potato) pancakes.
Award-winning Le Bon Crubeen has some great rustic Irish food on offer, and some with a twist, including a range of delicious salads, fruit chutneys and stuffings, ham hock terrine, beer-battered haddock and chips, and braised beef with beef cheek and herb dumplings.