Best New Entries - 10 of the Best

Featuring an eclectic range of establishments representing the very best food and hospitality throughout Ireland, the new edition of our Best of the Best guide was published in December 2022 - here’s just a taste of the exciting new entries around the country in this edition, to tempt you out and about again…


Loughrea Co Galway
Very much a place with its star in the ascendancy, food lovers have blazed a trail to this unusual restaurant since the day it opened, in autumn 2019. Formerly Slatefort House restaurant, run by chef Danny Africano’s Irish-Italian parents, and also the family home, the house and grounds were reborn as Lignum, which Danny runs with his partner Molly Keane and a talented, highly motivated team. Lignum is the Latin term for wood, which is central to the sophisticated yet rustic makeover and the unique character of the food, which is cooked over local ash, birch and oak. The result is creative, beautiful and seriously delicious fine dining - and the quality of the ingredients so meticulously sourced in Ireland and Italy is exceptional, as is the care lavished on every aspect of this restaurant and its customers. And it’s a work in progress, with new experiences constantly enriching the creative development in the kitchen, the restaurant service and the business as a whole - which includes reviving plans for accommodation, delayed by the pandemic. A young restaurant conveying all the assurance of well-honed teamwork is a joy to behold – and there is a sense of this East Galway gem (our Restaurant of the Year for 2022) taking its place among the great restaurants of Ireland.

Cashel Palace Hotel
Cashel Co Tipperary
Eagerly anticipated after pandemic-related delays, there was much excitement when this gracious 18th century bishops’ residence beside the Rock of Cashel finally re-opened in 2022 following major restoration by its new owners, the Magnier family of nearby Coolmore Stud – who have nurtured it immaculately while also developing the amenities befitting a five-star hotel, including a wonderful spa. A resounding success, the hotel quickly established itself as a must-visit destination, introducing a new cohort of discerning international and domestic travellers to this lovely area. Reception rooms and accommodation are all equally beautiful and Director of Culinary Stephen Hayes creates an exceptionally varied locally-flavoured dining offering, with the vaulted Bishop’s Buttery, an atmospheric Guinness Bar, a Garden Terrace and Mikey Ryan’s Bar and Kitchen (next door) among the beguiling choices. But above all, under the guidance of an exceptional General Manager, Adriaan Bartels, Cashel Palace still exudes that old-fashioned atmosphere and hospitality that modern hotels simply cannot emulate. Another truly great hotel to join Ireland’s top rank, Cashel Palace was our 5-Star Hotel of the Year 2022.

Waterman Restaurant
As part of leading chef Niall McKenna’s grand plan to create a major hospitality hub in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, he closed the excellent Hadskis on Commercial Court in 2022 and moved the whole team here to open a new restaurant at this old Bushmills bonded warehouse - an impressive Grade B listed building that is also home to Waterman House Cookery School along with conference and event spaces. Flavour-packed ingredients-led modern European cooking is the style and, with Hadskis head chef (and former James St. apprentice) Aaron McNeice leading the kitchen and a ready-made following, the high ceilinged, atmospherically pared-back Waterman soon joined its long-established sister restaurant, James St., as one of Belfast’s hottest destinations.

The Glass Curtain
Seasonal local produce cooked with love and a little fire is the motto at The Glass Curtain on MacCurtain Street - fast becoming the food street of Cork. Declaring that ‘flavour is our holy grail’, returning chef Brian Murray also promised that you’ll get to experience ‘lots more flavours’. And it’s a promise he’s been making good on since opening here in in late 2019, in the glass-fronted Thompsons building where much of the city’s bread was once baked. Taking the best of local produce, including some less usual cuts, Murray uses his wide-ranging experience well and cooks with relish. The ambience, cooking and informed, friendly service are terrific, while inventive cocktails and craft drinks give this VQ (Victorian Quarter) gem near Kent Station a different kind of edge - and it’s good value too.

Alumni Kitchen Table & Rooms
Feighcullen Rathangan Co Kildare
Although this unusual venture opened at an exceptionally challenging time, it conveys an air of serene confidence that is very relaxing. Offering an imaginative multi-course tasting menu twice a week, chef Philip Mahon and his wife Kathy have brought a new luxury dining experience to Kildare, serving eight guests around a communal table in their magnificent design-led kitchen. Drawing on Philip’s fine dining background, the high-end cooking is served against a leafy country backdrop in a beautiful contemporary home with four stylish guestrooms. You can sip an aperitif in one of two elegant sitting rooms before dinner, or in the peaceful garden, then take a seat and enjoy the innovative one-man show. With delicious cooking, excellent optional wine pairings, a wonderful setting and a dinner bed & breakfast offer that is very fairly priced for the quality, this is a really special, exciting and fun culinary experience – and a worthy winner of our Newcomer of the Year title for 2022.

Margadh RHA
Dublin 2
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer up bright, traffic-free views of Ely Place in the small and light-flooded Margadh RHA. Café by day and very special wine bar by night, this delightful spot is a very welcome addition to the Mamó stable, of Howth. Chef Glen Sutton serves delicious pared-back seasonally-led plates alongside exciting, good value wines. Kate Ruddy is the quintessential host, a welcoming industry veteran whose easy charm makes dining here so much fun. And, with a great location, exciting wines and a brilliant 8-course tasting menu at night, this may be the best value in town. Quality casual dining has been on the rise for years but the combination of a pandemic hotly pursued by a cost of living crisis has made it the only game in town for many diners – and with its accessible combination of outstanding daytime food and informally ambitious evening dining, Margadh RHA was an obvious Café-Restaurant choice for our Casual Dining Awards 2022. Don’t miss it.

Savoir Fare
Westport Co Mayo
For such a small spot, Savoir Fare packs a mighty punch – café, bistro, deli, purveyors and makers of very fine food indeed. From the understated shop frontage through to the chic wine-themed interior, Alain Morice has created a little piece of paradise here, with more than a nod to his French father. The café, with just a handful of tables, bustles with activity and lively chatter. Seasonal, local and organic are the drivers: soup, Alain’s signature paté en croûte, a hot dish of the day - organic chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and sublime gravy perhaps... The small deli has superb cheeses, French style in-house baking and a seriously appetising selection of charcuterie, terrines and home-cured meats. An interesting and slightly eclectic choice of wines is offered, also platters and picnics, all well priced – and, on those special evenings, the Savoir Fare Supper Club too. A worthy winner of the Café-Deli title in our 2022 Casual Dining Awards - superbe!

Honestly By Drumanilra Farm
Carrick-on-Shannon Co Leitrim
Liam and Justina Gavin’s brilliant little Drumanilra Farm Kitchen in Boyle was rebranded and moved to smart new premises in Carrick-on-Shannon in 2021 - and, with exciting plans afoot, there’s plenty more to come. This intrepid organic farming couple is on a mission to transform the food landscape and the way we eat and connect with producers - and, offering delicious seasonally-driven menus with wide appeal, this beguiling introduction to their own and other like-minded producers’ foods (and worthy Restaurant winner in our 2022 Sustainability Awards) will win a lot of fans. … With sit-in, takeaway and drive-through all available, it’s a bit like an Irish version of Cumbria’s famed Tebay Services Farmshop & Kitchen - and there’s now a smaller new location in Strandhill Co Sligo too.

Kildare Co Kildare
A relative newcomer to this historic town, Firecastle is not only an artisan grocer, bakery, café, delicatessen and gift shop but it has ten cleverly designed guest bedrooms too, offering a unique stay with classy décor, comfy beds, gorgeous bathrooms and views over St Brigid’s Cathedral. Better still, since they’re above Firecastle’s magnificent emporium with its Irish artisan foods and brilliant bakery and café, a delicious breakfast is available there, to take away or enjoy at a table in the covered outside eating area. From freshly baked croissants to a full cooked breakfast and great coffee, it’s the business - and rightly featured in our 2022 Irish Breakfast Awards. Firecastle is reason enough in itself for a visit to Kildare town, but terrific main meals are also available in their sister properties - the esteemed Hartes of Kildare, just a couple of doors away, and also The Dew Drop Inn & Brewhouse at Kill, and, a recent addition to their portfolio, that Ballymore Eustace gem The Ballymore Inn, which joined the group in 2022.

Native Seafood & Scran
Portstewart Co Londonderry
You won’t find a seafood restaurant nearer to the sea than our Seafood Restaurant Of The Year 2022, Stevie and Rebekah McCarry’s Native Seafood, yet it came about almost by accident. Opening first in the old Coleraine yacht club in 2019, their idea was to source sustainable wild fish direct from fishing boats, cook it and also operate as a fishmongers. With Stevie’s creative and fun cooking and Rebekah front of house it was a great success, but the pandemic delayed building work so they opened here in Portstewart as well. The next setback was storm damage, but they soon bounced back and continued to delight locals and tourists alike with their fresh take on seafood. Their ling and lang dog - a homemade ling and langoustine sausage served in a bun with fermented chillis, their own mustard sauce, gherkins and salad - is typical, and there are many other original variations of favourites not normally associated with seafood on the ever-changing menu. A one-off – until their gorgeous new restaurant Lir opens shortly in Coleraine that is …!

Union Wine Bar & Kitchen
Waterford Co Waterford
New name, new location - but the same great team. Stephen McArdle and Morgan VanderKamer moved their wonderful Barrows Keep restaurant from Graiguenamanagh to Thomastown in 2019, and then proceeded to reinvent themselves again in Waterford, where they have a wine bar, kitchen and cocktail bar overlooking The Mall. Wherever they are, it’s a must-visit for any food or wine lover in the south-east. The network of local producers that provides the foundation for Stephen’s terrific cooking remains very much in place and, as always, the talent in the kitchen is complemented by Morgan’s supervision of the room - and the renowned wine list curated by this friendly and engaging Master Sommelier. Working with multiple wine suppliers, she selects with care to encourage guests to try less familiar wines - and she still hosts her popular wine club too. Winner of our Wine & Drinks Award 2022, it’s a great addition to this vibrant city.


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