Food, Glorious Food:
When you think about European cuisine I wouldn’t blame you for thinking of Italian pasta and pizza, French coq au vin and croissants, a German bratwurst or Spanish Paella. When you think about Irish food I would bet $100 the first word that comes to your mind is potatoes. And that the second word is also potatoes.
The Irish cuisine section of the supermarket
Yes, it is true that Ireland has a huge history associated with the potato (a quarter of the population died or emigrated during the Potato Famine of the mid 1800s) – but I’m here to convince you there is more to food here than just this humble vegetable.
Coming from New Zealand I found the food to be incredibly… the same. Years of British colonialism does that to you, with classic meat and three veg reigning supreme, your favourite fast food chains on every corner and the normal mix of international restaurants and cafes found at home. However, there is one difference. In Ireland, the pub dominates everything. There is a pub everywhere you turn in the city, suburbs, small village and sometimes in the middle of the countryside. An entire area in the central city is even named after a pub, of course the famous Temple Bar. While you think these pubs might be places just for a quick pint of Guinness after a long day, they do some incredible pub food, too. Which let me tell you – it is just what you need on a cold night. So here’s my rundown of the top 3 Irish pub foods that you are guaranteed to get everywhere…
- Fish n chips. You can’t go wrong here with fresh fish, the ubiquitous potatoes and a side of mushy peas (which are actually a lot nicer than they sound).
- Beef and Guinness Stew. There is only one word to describe this traditional Irish dish, and its hearty. Simply beef, potatoes, celery and carrots all swimming in a delicious gravy almost always served with fresh bread.
- Shephard’s Pie. Inevitably also served with potatoes and vegetables, just what you need to warm the heart and soul.
You can find these foods anywhere, but some of my favourite pubs have been in the smallest of villages in the Irish countryside filled with locals where it almost seems like you can taste the tradition in the lively atmosphere, or even just enjoying a simple Fish n’ Chips from the takeaways at the seaside.
Fish n chips in a pub in a seaside town just out of Cork
Hearty beef and Guinness stew, and pie
You can’t go wrong with Fish n’ Chips by the sea!
Talking about Irish food wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention the desserts, and the importance of the humble bottle of Bailey’s.
From a Bailey’s cheesecake to a Bailey’s hot chocolate or an Irish coffee (actually made with whiskey) there are some really delicious ways to finish a great meal. Even if you don’t like coffee, it should be at the top of your list of foods to try in Ireland. And this is coming from a non-coffee drinker myself!
Bailey’s cheesecake with an Irish Coffee
There is of course a rise in gastro-pubs which offer a more modern and fancier twist on these pub classics, and there’s a huge range of fantastic European and Asian restaurants across the city giving a real multicultural feel – where you can find something that everyone will like!
To be honest… the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had!
Perhaps most peculiarly, Dublin has recently got a taste for, of all things, burritos and doughnuts. With Tolteca, Boojum and Zambrero to name a few there is a bunch of places you can go for all your taco bowl needs, and you can stop off at Empire Donuts, The Rolling Donut or my absolute favourite Off Beat Donuts for a sweet treat after. These fast and delicious places are taking the city by storm with the most incredible doughnut creations and a Boojum food truck practically living permanently on campus. Speaking of campus, there are a bunch of food options for lunch or dinner any day with cafes, Subway, the Centra convenience store (you have to try the chicken fillet roll for only €2.95) and a food court style restaurant, so there’s never a shortage of new food to try everywhere. So when you get sick of potatoes, I hope I’ve given you a few ideas of food to try if you ever find yourself in Ireland!
Heaven on Earth at Off Beat Donuts
Who knew Oscar Wilde was such a fan of doughnuts?