Eating local food is an essential part of the travel experience, and it would be a shame to miss out on a great culinary experience just because your budget forces you toward the neon signs of those international chains. Fortunately, a shortage of cash should not prevent you from trying the new style of creative Irish cuisine, driven by artisan producers and chefs working with top-quality ingredients. Read on for some of the best cheap restaurants in Ireland:
Winding Stair, Dublin City
Located beside the Ha’penny Bridge, on Lower Ormond Quay, the Winding Stair is a charming little book shop with a cosy contemporary restaurant upstairs (yes, it is a winding staircase) where they serve no-frills food of impeccable quality. Lunch offers the best value, with a three-course menu for €23.95. Locally-sourced organic food is a specialty, with lemon-braised chicory with Crozier Blue cheese and Mourne Seafood mackerel paté on dillisk (seaweed) bread among the delights.
Tea Rooms, The Clarence Hotel, Dublin City
Tell your friends you ate at U2’s hotel and dine at the Tea Rooms at the Clarence Hotel on Dublin’s Wellington Quay. With such stellar associations, you would expect sky-high prices, but chef Mathieu Melin manages to perform culinary miracles in this graceful temple to good taste without charging stratospheric prices. The menu combines French classics with quintessentially Irish produce, so expect anything from beetroot carpaccio and ballotine of chicken mousse to soup with homemade soda bread and roast lamb. The early bird set menu starts at an incredible €19 for two courses.
Star Anise, Cork
At this cosy little restaurant on Cork city’s Bridge Street, chef Carolyn Buckley conjures up Mediterranean and contemporary French dishes from the best of local and seasonal produce. Her daring approach to presenting complementary flavours and textures in new ways is not matched by cheeky prices, however. The early bird €23 menu is available until closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and features generous portions of classics with a twist, including chicken and ham hock terrine with quail egg and tarragon or duck confit with apple-spiced braised red cabbage.
Ard Bia, Galway
Located at Galway’s iconic Spanish Arch, Ard Bia is a rustic restaurant that invests great energy and imagination in delivering first-rate local produce in creative and exotic ways. As a result, scallops from the Atlantic are infused with tart sumac and a pomegranate cake is topped with decadent Irish cream. None of this creativity comes at a high price, however: An all-day menu of filling brunch dishes starts at under €10 and dinner main courses are available for under €20.
Pay As You Please, Kerry
Enjoy a touch of theatre at Killarney’s Pay As You Please, a restaurant whose name tells you everything you need to know about the owners’ belief that people are basically trustworthy. Take your seat at one of the mismatched chairs and tables and enjoy the eclectic surroundings, with the battered piano, old movies projected onto the main wall, and a hip jazz-heavy soundtrack. Fellow diners could include families devouring the succulent pizza, elderly ladies in for lemon polenta cake and tea, or a gang of friends launching an evening out with feta, aubergine, and pomegranate bruschetta. Pay what you think the experience was worth at a collection box just inside the door.
Aoife O’Carroll is a staff writer for Nova Car Hire, a convenient website for arranging car rental in 26,000 locations worldwide, includingcar hire in Ireland.