Talento Gelato – The Best Gelato in Dublin


My corner of Dublin 7 is a mix of the traditional and the new. We have an independent publisher and bookshop, which backs onto a working stable. You can get a cheese toastie and pint of Guinness in Frank Ryans, or clams with sherry vinaigrette and a glass of Txacoli at Fish Shop next door. In April, one neighbour had a notice up in their front window with the local mass timetable. Two doors down, there was a poster urging people to vote yes in the same sex marriage referendum. Sorrento, the chip shop on Arbour Hill, is the perfect mix of traditional and new. It has the same 1970s tiled decor of my grandparents kitchen, and serves traditional chipper fare, with whirly burgers and battered sausages advertised on star shaped neon cardboard handwritten signs. hey also sell the best ice-cream you will ever eat.

I’m not a big ice-cream/gelato fan normally, I find it a bit bland. I’m the type to buy Ben and Jerry’s and then fish out all the non-ice cream bits with a spoon and leave the rest in a puddle in the bowl. My first time trying Talento Gelato was after a few pints in Mulligans, when himself decided on a midnight snack. I have to admit I was sceptical about the sign advertising freshly made gelato. Cristiano, the maker of the gelato was working behind the counter, and apologetically answered our request for pistachio ice cream by explaining the good pistachios were not in season yet, and instead he could only offer buffalo milk and Sicilian blood orange ice cream. Himself bought a large portion for €4. I spent the rest of the walk home trying to wrestle the spoon out of his hand. The gelato was something else altogether, rich and light and full of flavour. If I hadn’t been told it was buffalo milk, I would have spent days trying to figure out what the rich,tangy taste of the gelato base was.

The next time we stopped by the gelato on offer was pistachio, rosewater and saffron made with tender pistachios the size of pinenuts. It was delicate and perfumed, exactly the kind of thing to end a meal with. When we asked him about the gelato he was making, Cristiano explained that growing up in Romania he had never even heard of it, but from the day he first tried it, he was hooked.  He studied to make gelato at Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna and has been making it in Dublin using traditional methods for the past year.  He showed us the ingredients he used, including different varieties of vanilla pod and chocolate from Madagascar and Tahiti which he used to flavour his gelato. It was impossible not to be impressed with his passion for what he did. I should add he did not know I had a food blog when he talked us through all this, he was just happy to explain his craft to anyone with a bit of interest.  Talento di Gelato ice-cream is also on sale at the Temple Bar Food Market. Cristiano is planning to set up his own gelateria in the next year, and to run gelato making classes.Until then, it’s worth a trip to Arbour Hill just to get a taste of the best gelato in Dublin.


Confit Tomato Pesto with Basil and Walnuts (and Marriage Equality)


I turned thirty last weekend, and it seems to be one of those events that makes you stop and take stock of how things have gone so far. Mainly because people keep telling you what a momentous occasion it is, then try and reassure you as they hand you a paper bag to hyperventilate into. In my lifetime, a lot of things have changed. Little things, like I no longer hate tomatoes, and basil, and so can make this recipe, and much, much bigger things. Exciting things, like careers taking off and people I have known for half my life getting married. Watching the country I grew up in change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Saturday will mark a big personal occasion,celebrating the wedding of two lovely people. With a bit of luck, it will also mark a big public occasion, because I really hope that when I wake up on Saturday, Ireland will have passed a referendum which will allow same-sex couples to marry as well. I’m mindful of friends and family who will want to marry, and who currently can’t do so in their home country, as well as those who already have married far from home, and are not recognized as such here. I’m hopeful that we will be our best selves as a country this weekend; loving, brave and open to change. There are a lot of things we can’t alter about Ireland, but this is something within our control. We can be a country that values everyone equally, regardless of our differences. That would be a nice way to start off my thirties, and if I can grow to like tomatoes, quite frankly anything is possible.  So, Irish readers, please get out and vote Yes to Marriage Equality on Friday 22 May 2015.


  • 450g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 head of confit garlic, or roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • 70g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • A handful of basil leaves


  • Chop the cherry tomatoes in half
  • Toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil together with the balsamic vinegar and season well.
  • Roast at 160C for 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours until soft and a little browned and wrinkled.
  • Once they are cooled, add the parmesan, walnuts, basil and top up with olive oil before blending.
  • Check for seasoning.
  • You can make this as thick or as liquid as you prefer your pesto to be.
  • Store in the fridge with a layer of olive oil on top.

A Whirlwind Tour of Galway


When I asked friends from Galway for tips on what to do, I got a laundry list of restaurants, cafes and pubs. “There aren’t really any ‘sights’ in Galway, it’s more a place to eat and drink and wander” I was told. So that’s what we did.We also went for a brutally cold swim in the ocean at Salthill, but mainly we ate and drank our way around town for 24 hours. For a small city, it’s punching well above its weight in culinary terms. We didn’t get to try everywhere I wanted (the universally recommended Kai for example was closed for the bank holiday) but managed a good whistlestop tour of the main highlights:

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Sheridans is a small chain of cheesemongers with a branch in Dublin, and strong presence on the farmers market circuit around Ireland. In Galway, they have added to that with a lovely wine bar above their shop. It’s a welcoming space with large communal tables, high ceilings and big old sash windows looking out at St.Nicholas’ church. They have a number of bottles open at any given time, but they’ll also open any for you that you ask if you want to try a glass, for between €6-8. You can also buy bottles to take away, as plenty of people were doing while we sat there. We went with staff recommendations and got a fruity Malbec and delicate Insolia. To help wash them down, we went with a very ample “small” cheese plate for €10 featuring Irish cheeses like Ardrahan and Gubbeen together with Mimolette, Manchego Tetilla and an unusual blue whose name I’ve forgotten. There was such a lovely relaxed atmosphere, it’s the kind of place you’d stay all evening in if you could.

Cava Bodega

Cava Bodega is one of three restaurants owned by JP McMahon, who brought Galway its first Michelin star with Aniar. As that was a little outside the budget, Cava seemed a great alternative, a lively casual place serving an extensive range of tapas. It seems to be pretty popular with Galway’s glamorous twenty-something women, immediately leaving me feeling underdressed. The staff were friendly, if slightly overworked but it was a nice place to sit and soak up the atmosphere. The menu is huge, literally 50 or so dishes, and we picked a little randomly, ending up with way too much food from 5 tapas shared between two. A highlight was the local mussels with almonds and garlic, and the pork neck with morcilla, migas and piquillo peppers. With some cava, and a very nice carafe of Verdejo, the bill came to just 40 each for more food than we could finish.

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It feels like everyone in Galway stops by Neachtains at some point in the day. After an evening drink there, we were recognising most of the people we passed on the street the next day. An old fashioned pub that still has the counter it used to sell groceries, they have a warren of rooms and snugs, some with fireplaces. There is also a large outside area spilling onto Quay Street for optimum people watching. The Guinness is good, and they have a selection of craft beers and whiskeys too. It feels like the kind of place where secrets are shared over late night drinks, unless you bring the Russian secret service, they will not give away any gossip apparently (yes, someone has really done that).

The Crane

A tip from our B&B, a proper local pub with great pints of Guinness and traditional music upstairs. A regular did try to sneakily take a photo of the boyfriend, hopefully because he mistook him for someone famous or wanted to get the same hairstyle in the barbers, and not for some kind of weird shrine.

Ard Bia

Walking into Ard Bia is like stepping into a little community. The staff are friendly and chatty with everyone, the little rooms are decorated with artwork and fresh flowers, and they were even giving out forms to register to vote in the upcoming referenda on same-sex marriage and presidential age.  The menu is a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Irish styles. Again, the food was excellent, there really were no dud meals on this trip. They offered brunch/lunch on the afternoon we were visiting (they also do dinner). Opting for something a bit more substantial to sustain me for the train journey home, I had a delicious pulled spiced beef with flatbread, carrot slaw, yoghurt and paprika wedges, while himself had hake in a saffroney broth with boiled baby potatoes. They have a great small craft beer list, from which I chose a honey beer I have never seen before in my too extensive time in craft beer pubs. They do take bookings, but we just turned up and didn’t have long to wait. A must visit place!

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The Stop B&B

My only previous Galway B&B experience was in a house where the hostess nearly fainted upon the discovery that she had harboured an unmarried couple under her roof (despite separate bedrooms) and promised to pray for our souls. With that in mind, I wasn’t too eager to go back to B&Bs, but when I saw The Stop B&B on the top 100 places to stay in Ireland list, we had to try it. Recently opened, it’s a short walk from the city centre in a 1930s house with gorgeous decor and lovely hosts. When we arrived, Russell the owner presented us with a hand-drawn map of their favourite shops, restaurants and bars. Our room had a simple and elegant style with nice artwork, design magazines and little details like a vase of elegant branches. The living room was stocked with more books and magazines, homemade cookies and tea and coffee. This is the kind of place you’d stay just to hang out in. In the morning, we were given a choice of breakfasts, with a buffet involving homemade bread, muesli, cheese, apple compote, and a fry up to go alongside. They even make their own ketchup, and drizzled the fry with wild garlic oil. They also agreed to allow us to check out late, and mind our bags for the afternoon. I really hope this is the way B&Bs are going.

The Island Cottage, Heir Island, West Cork

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Before supper clubs and pop-ups became buzzwords to be lobbed around  by knowing foodies, The Island Cottage was offering the perfect pop up restaurant experience on a small island off the coast of West Cork. Every summer for 25 years, locals and visitors make the five minute ferry journey from Cunnamore Pier to Heir Island, walk up the winding lanes past cottages and fields, and find themselves at the front door of John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton’s cottage for a very unusual restaurant experience.

The Island Cottage restaurant seats 22 people in the living room  for a four course set meal cooked by John and served by Ellmary. John trained at the Ritz Hotel in Paris while Ellmary was manager of the restaurant in the Hôtel de Crillon and this experience shows in the wonderful food created from a tiny domestic kitchen, and the efficiency of serving a large amount of people in a quite small space.

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I have been hearing about the Island Cottage for years, as my dad honed his cooking skills at the one on one cooking school run out of the kitchen, and many of my favourite dishes growing up came from here (including Duck Aigre-Douce). As a child and teenager my fussy eating habits would not have suited the fixed menu format, but over the past few years I have learnt to eat pretty much everything. Once you’ve eaten bull testicles, you’ve pretty much crossed the fussy eating rubicon. On this visit,kindly sponsored by my parents, we were blessed with the kind of  beautifully sunny evening that makes West Cork the equal of the Cote D’Azur or Amalfi. We started off with drinks in the herb garden behind the cottage, with views across the evocatively named Roaringwater Bay to Mount Gabriel, and Jeremy Iron’s pink castle. When dinner was ready, Ellmary ushered us inside and provided me with some aloe vera lotion for my recently acquired sunburn, while guiding the various tables through the menu. Depending on your party size, you may have a table by yourself as our group of four did, or you may share with others

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The meals at the Island Cottage combine classic French cooking with great local ingredients.Our starter was a delicate cured salmon with home-made mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and delicate little loaves of brown bread. I have a challenging relationship with salmon, I love it raw and hate it cooked, and this was just perfect. Brown bread similarly would not be high on my list, but we ended up polishing off ours so quickly we were supplied with a second helping. The main was cod with a creamy mushroom bonne femme sauce and potato pureed with olive oil. The cod having been handpicked that morning by John from the fish market at Union Hall was immaculately fresh. It was delicate and melted into perfect little bites at the touch of a fork. This was followed by a slice of local Gubbeen cheese along with a tart fresh beetroot garnish that perfectly complimented the nuttiness of the cheese. Our dessert was a white chocolate mousse with passionfruit and raspberry sauce. I was the only person at the table who actually likes white chocolate but this again was devoured by all. It managed to capture the sweetness and creaminess of white chocolate, without the cloying feeling it usually leaves.

At midnight, our dinner complete, we wandered down the pitch dark lanes (bring a torch) of the island to our waiting ferry and made the trip back across the bay under the millions of stars that are never visible in inner city Dublin. It was the kind of evening to savour in your memory for a very long time.


The Island Cottage

Heir/Hare Island


Co Cork


The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co.Waterford

Cliff House 1

“I think we tip the guy who carried our bags….wait, where did he go?” So started our Saturday at The Cliff House. One of the side effects of graduating in a recession is a 20s of arrested development. Internships, temporary jobs, study, temporary homes, student houses with mice as unadvertised housemates and a general inability to be a proper grown-up. My generation seem to suffer a serious case of impostor syndrome when it comes to adulthood.Which is inconvenient when you find yourself in a place as distinctly grown up and sophisticated as this.


As someone who only recently made the leap from Hostelworld to Airbnb, staying in a luxury boutique hotel is a bit of a change of pace. I’m not entirely accustomed to places where they trust you with slippers and a bathrobe. But there were joint birthdays to be celebrated, one of them a big one (fortunately not mine, not quite yet) and a grown up weekend was in order.The Cliff House hotel is also home to a Michelin starred restaurant, which was the main draw for the stay. Martijn Kajuiter was previously head chef of my favourite Amsterdam restaurant, De Kas and I was dying to see what was on offer in Ardmore. He recently released a beautiful but stunningly intimidating cookbook with lists of ingredients coming close to 100 and diagrams to explain how to plate the food. It really is don’t try this at home stuff.
We started off with a walk around the eponymous cliff, conveniently located just beside the hotel, and followed it up with an outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the sea. The other draw for the hotel is the amazing view. Every room in the hotel looks out over Ardmore Bay with floor to ceiling windows. We rounded off with a drink on the hotel terrace, which also overlooks the seaweed baths, leading the two ladies below us to have a less than private spa experience.
Cliff Walk

We booked a late dinner to take full advantage of the hotel, and may have had a bit of (Lidl) champagne which does not contribute to the best of recollections of the meal. I also used my cameraphone so the photos are fairly pants. The amuse bouche bore quite a resemblance to that in The Greenhouse, featuring a beetroot macaron with goats cheese, beetroot marshmallows covered in tiny bacon fragments and an asparagus panna cotta. The highlight, odd as it sounds, was an amazing baby potato baked in clay topped with a delicate mayonnaise.  This was followed by a scallop starter, with three huge  scallops pan fried with seaweed and served with “textures of celeriac” and a spinach jelly. This was accompanied with a ceviche of scallop with Dutch salad (more of a mayonnaise then a salad)  and Irish herring caviar.

Cliff House


My main was a delicious stuffed rose veal with sweetbreads and bluefoot mushrooms. This was followed by an interesting carrot sorbet. It has to be noted here that the portions are far more substantial than you’d expect for a Michelin restaurant, and we were both very full by the time it came to dessert. I opted for what turned out to be an incredibly generous cheeseboard, complete with six Dutch, French and Irish cheeses, dehydrated grapes, all manner of lovely homemade crackers, and a really fresh tangy salad. Himself went for an incredible berry and white chocolate panna cotta. This was absolutely Michelin worthy cooking, exciting, different, but with just enough touch of comfort to feel really luxurious.

Cliff Restaurant

All this was washed down with some very unusual but lovely wine pairings served by an exceptionally young but very knowleadgable sommelier. Our dishes were served with wines from Greece and Morocco, along with some more traditional regions. Saturday being a busy night, we were seated in the private dining room, which I have to say did not have the same appeal as the main room, and I’d definitely request that going back. The next day, we were seated there with the Sunday papers for a gorgeous breakfast of fresh pastries, fruit salad and a traditional Irish fry-up which helped prepare us for the journey back to reality.

The Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford



Singapore (ish) Noodles

Singapore Noodles

Singapore noodles are a stalwart of Chinese takeaway menus the world over. They are also a contender for most misleadingly titled dish, as they have nothing to do with Singapore and are apparently unheard of there. Apparently they’re actually a traditional Cantonese style dish in Hong Kong, so where the name comes from is anyone’s guess.

Every year on St.Patrick’s Day I find another culinary mystery: corned beef. Every American food blog and website features this, and it is as far as I can tell *the* definitive dish for St.Patrick’s Day among Irish-Americans. I’ve never actually seen it or tasted it in Ireland, but then again we also don’t have green beer.The closest I am getting to celebrating Paddy’s Day this year is using green and orange highlighter pens on my study notes, but it’s lovely to watch it being celebrated all over the World. My former homes of Australia, England and Denmark have joined in, with the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the Little Mermaid turning green. Last week, Amsterdam city council sent letters to all of it’s Irish residents in Irish to invite them to vote in their local elections. As a nation, we seem to turn up everywhere you look.

At least my Singapore noodles are Irish(ish) featuring green peas, white leeks and orange carrots. There are a million different recipes for Singapore noodles, none of them the same. The one defining feature is the curry powder which gives a distinctive taste and a yellow tinge you will spend ages washing off your bowls and frying pan. You can really use any veg you want, but these are my favourites. I’m not a fan of eggs, but they can be added and usually are. If you want a vegetarian dish, skip the bacon. Serves 2

Happy St.Patrick’s Day!


  • 175g very thin rice noodles or vermicelli noodles
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful of fresh peas/cooked frozen peas
  • 65g bacon, diced (optional, omit for a vegetarian version)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • Some chili powder or chopped fresh chili pepper (optional)
  • A teaspoon or two of neutral oil


  • First, leave the noodles to soak in boiling water for just under a minute until softened, but not completely soft.
  • Leave to dry in a sieve or colander for at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally so they don’t clump.
  • Thinly slice the veg (I usually peel the carrot into thin strips using a potato peeler).
  • Combine the rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and half the curry powder in a bowl.
  • After thirty minutes, toss the noodles in the soy sauce mixture to coat completely.
  • Mix together the curry powder, tumeric, ginger,garlic and chili.
  • Cook the bacon in a large wok or frying pan big enough to hold all the ingredients with a little bit of oil (you shouldn’t need much, the bacon will give plenty of grease).
  • When the bacon starts to crisp, add  the ginger/curry powder mix and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn (burnt garlic has the worst smell and taste that will haunt your kitchen).
  • Add the veg,mixing well with the bacon/garlic/ginger and cook until they’ve softened and reduced to about half their size (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the noodles and sauce and cook for a remaining 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

#MyHomeTownGuide – Five Gourmet Spots in Dublin

Fiji Water Hometown Guide

Partner Post

Dublin’s culinary scene has gone through a boom over the last few years, with new restaurants opening every week in the city. The strength of Irish food lies with fantastic ingredients like organic beef, freshly caught fish and artisan cheese. Dublin has a lot to offer foodie visitors these days, and there is more than can be included here to try, but these five places represent some of my favourite things about Dublin’s gourmet scene right now. What are your favourite places in your hometown? Add your favourite photos to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #myhometownguide to win.

1. L.Mulligan Grocer

L.Mulligan Grocer is a truly Irish gastropub. The idea of serving anything other than a toasted cheese sandwich has not traditionally found much favour in Dublin, but L.Mulligan has mastered the art of high quality casual dining in a cosy pub setting. The pub sells craft beer only (no Guinness) along with a careful chosen selection of wines from small producers and whiskeys from all over Ireland and Scotland.The menu features traditional Irish dishes like cockles and mussels and boxty with a gourmet flair, each with a suggested craft beer pairing.  In the past few months, this has almost become a second home for me and the welcome there place is always great. You can pop in for a drink, a bite to eat, or both.

L.Mulligan Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

L Mulligan

L Mulligan Grocer

2. Temple Bar Food Market

The Temple Bar Food Market has been an institution in Dublin over the past twenty or so years. Run every Saturday in the heart of Dublin’s slightly touristy Temple Bar quarter, the market showcases the best in Irish food. You can buy anything from Irish artisan cheese, to organic vegetables to locally fished oysters. The market sells both ready to eat food and ingredients, and is open rain or shine. You can sample one of Ireland’s less celebrated culinary inventions, the breakfast roll, here if you dare. It combines all the ingredients of an Irish fried breakfast into a baguette, and is not for the faint of heart.

Temple Bar Food Market, Meeting House Square, Dublin 2

Temple Bar Market

Temple Bar Market

3. Etto

Etto is a recent addition to the Dublin scene and has been receiving rave reviews left right and centre. The owners and chef have recently returned from London and have brought with them some great inspiration. Small plates with an Italian flavour or larger mains are served, like chicken liver and lardo terrine, and gnudi with brown butter and sage. The menu changes regularly, but my favourite pork belly and smoked eel croquettes are a definite must-try. The wine list is well chosen, and they are pioneering the idea of excellent wines and proseccos served on tap. The perfect place in Dublin for a relaxed, casual meal.

Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

Image Courtesy of Jenny Mattews

Etto: Image by Jenny Matthews

4. Fallon & Byrne

Fallon and Byrne has everything a foodie could possibly want. They combine a gourmet supermarket, deli, wine bar, cocktail bar and restaurant across three floors in their city centre location. You can get every possible ingredient on the ground floor, along with some great coffee, sandwiches and cake while the upstairs restaurant offers a more formal setting in one of Dublin’s loveliest dining rooms. My favourite part personally is the huge wine cellar in the basement where you can enjoy a glass (or a few) of wine along with some cheese and charcuterie plates for a reasonable price.

Fallon & Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Fallon and Byrne

Fallon and Byrne

5. The Greenhouse

To celebrate special occasions, the Greenhouse is my favourite spot in Dublin. Chef Mickael Viljanen combines flavours from his native Finland with local ingredients to create a fantastic modern Irish cuisine with a Nordic flair. Dishes are complex with contrasting and complimenting flavours. Great use is made of local seafood, and foraged ingredients. The lunch menu is particularly good value for the level of cooking on offer. Although it doesn’t have a Michelin star (Yet!), this is my favourite place to experience real Irish fine dining. A place to push the boat out.

the Greenhouse, Dawson St, Dublin 2

Foie Gras Royal

Foie Gras Royal at The Greenhouse

Show us your favorite spots to eat, stay and play in your hometown and win a getaway to any of the US cities featured in Earth’s Finest City Guide! To participate, just upload an image of your favorite spot in your hometown to Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #myhometownguide and tell us where you live and what makes the image special and you will be entered to win automatically

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Fiji Water as part of their #myhometownguide campaign.

Fish Shop, Dublin

Fish Shop

It seems to be a problem of mine that whenever I am preparing to leave a place, I find a great local spot. A week before leaving my childhood hometown for the unfamiliar streets of North Dublin, I visited Fish Shop in Blackrock. Peter and Jumoke brought their talents from the London street food scene back to Dublin, setting up a lovely kitchen at the back of Blackrock Market selling home made fresh fish and chips from an upcycled outbuilding. The fish is locally sourced and delivered each morning, so the menu changes from day to day. There’s a focus on the environment, recycled wood was used to make the fish shop and its outdoor seating area, and all of the take away packaging is compostable.

Mussels Al Ajillo

When we visited, mussels with ajillo and battered haddock jumped out from the menu. We added some home-made chips with tartare sauce for good measure. Peter and Jumoke chatted away to us as they made the food in front of us, even whisking up a batch of beer batter for the fish then and there. There are benches made from recycled pallets at Fish Shop, but we decided to bring our food down to the small seafront to enjoy the view. The mussels were fresh and juicy, with the garlic and wine adding enough flavour to complement without overwhelming. The haddock and chips were light and crispy, with a fresh clean taste. The tartare sauce had that lovely yellow colour and thick consistency that you only get when its properly homemade. Best of all, the fish and chips didn’t leave you with that greasy, heavy feeling that a lot of fish and chips can.

Fish and Chips

Since we visited, they’ve opened up a pop-up kitchen in the Grape Escape Wine bar in the market, serving dinner from 7-10 Thursday to Saturday. I’ll definitely be finding my way back to South Dublin to give it a try.

Fish Shop, Blackrock Market, Blackrock, Co.Dublin

085 704 1542

Spotted by Locals – Dublin

Dublin Sept 022_phixr


When I started this blog in 2010, I planned on it being purely for recipes. I was living as a student in Leiden, a small city with expensive restaurants, and couldn’t really afford to get out much. A lot has changed over the last years again, and although I am now a student (of sorts) again, writing recommendations for nice places I’ve tried has become a part of the blog I really enjoy.

As a natural progression from that, I am now also writing for Spotted by Locals. Spotted by Locals is a great travel site with guides to a number of cities around the world, written by locals. It means you can avoid that annoyance that comes from seeking out a place recommended in a travel guide, only to find it has closed down because the guide is three years old! You can also download an app for each city with the guide.

I will be writing about my favourite places in Dublin, both culinary and otherwise. I’ll still be writing some reviews and recommendations up here, but for my full Dublin recommendations, you can find me on Spotted by Locals here.




Etto, Dublin


I have recently returned to legal studies, and in my lectures, we’re told to summarise our point at the start of giving advice to a client. This seems like a good idea for writing in general so to start I will simply say this: Etto is serving some of the best food I have tried in Dublin.

Walking home along Merrion Row on Wednesday evening, I noticed a bustling new restaurant a few doors down from Bang and The Unicorn. An hour later, I saw a an update on Facebook from Coppinger Row for Etto’s opening night. A family dinner was in the formative planning stages for the following evening, and I steered it in the direction of Etto after a look at the unusual menu.

Etto is run by Simon and his partner, Liz, have recently returned from London, and it shows in the innovative food and lovely interior design. The space is small but carefully thought out with a wine bar area at the back and restaurant at the front with distressed vintage tables, and white walls. The Borough Market favourite of Nduja features in dishes on both the lunch and dinner menu. Good quality ingredients are used in simple but unusual ways throughout with nods to Italian, Dutch and Scandinavian influences. Between four people we managed to sample quite a lot of the menu. There wasn’t a single dud among the dishes we tried.

Etto (1)

I went for ricotta gnudi with brown butter and sage, creamed kale with pancetta and chestnuts. At the last minute a smoked eel and pork belly croquette was added out of sheer curiosity. The ricotta were light in texture and rich in flavour, perfectly accompanied by the brown butter and fried sage leaves. The croquette consisted of lightly bound cubes of pork belly and tasted pleasantly smoked without an overwhelming taste of eel (i’m not the biggest fan of eel) . The perennial health food favourite,kale, was turned into a rich and nourishing dish with crispy chunks of pancetta and slices of chestnut.

I also had a taste of my families choices of chicken liver, prune and lardo terrine, veal and pork meatballs, steak tartare, triple cured salmon, mozzarella with grilled pears and walnuts, crispy potatoes with pecorino and aioli. They were all absolutely outstanding, especially the meatballs which were beautifully juicy with little chunks of meat rather than completely minced. Although the dishes look small, they are very filling. I finished off with a generous slice of gorgeous Coolea cheese served at the perfect temperature along with a slice of quince jelly. It was so good, my cheese hating brother actually asked for a second taste.


Simon came and explained the great wine list to us. Along with lots of unusual wines, Etto has excellent house wines and prosecco on tap! The wine is stored in a special cask which keeps it ready to drink for sixty days. Fingers crossed some Dublin bars follow suit, wine on tap is just a fantastic idea. We went for two Spanish red wines, a Garnacha called ‘Plic, Plic, Plic’ and the unusual ‘Gaba de Xil’. Everyone working there was friendly and enthusiastic, and although we had one ordering glitch, it was swiftly remedied.

The bill came to €163 for four people for a really exceptional meal. If you try one place in Dublin, this is the place to try.

Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2