There’s a pub for every county in Ireland in the new Michelin guide to Eating Out In Pubs (Amazon), though unfortunately not every county sees representation. Also, there’s no new entries in this year’s publication.
While the standard of fare in Irish pubs and bars continues to rise, competition is healthy, chefs are improving, pubs are getting better reputations for food above the old “pub food” moniker, does that mean there’s still a bit of work to do in some counties to get their establishments in the guide?
How does the guide come together?
In the simplest of terms… “Trained, anonymous Michelin inspectors choose establishments ranging from country inns to urban gastropubs based on the quality of their food. This is the guide for finding quality food in an informal setting.” (via Michelin)
Of the 32 establishments listed, 25 are in the south of the border, the remaining seven in Northern Ireland and all are listed with links below.
All that said, are these the best pubs to hit for dinner in Ireland, north and south? Do you think your local has been overlooked?
Billy Andy’s (Mounthill, near Larne)
What the guide says: It used to be the village store as well as a pub, and although the groceries are gone, this place still seems to be all things to all people. Cooking is filling, with a strong Irish accent. They offer a fine selection of whiskies, there are four modern bedrooms and Saturday music sessions pack the place out.
What the guide says: Smartly refurbished pub in a small coastal village; its terrace overlooking the river and the castle ruins. The menu may be simple but cooking is careful and shows respect for ingredients – locally caught fish and shellfish feature heavily. Bedrooms are modern and they have bikes and even a kayak for hire.
Vaughan’s Anchor Inn (Liscannor)
What the guide says: Family-run pub in a picturesque fishing village; the pleasantly cluttered bar comes complete with a small grocery shop. Dishes are a step above your normal pub fare and local seafood plays a big role; the seafood platter is a real hit. Smart bedrooms feature bright local art and colourful throws.
Wild Honey Inn (Lisdoonvarna)
What the guide says: Three-storey building at the end of a short terrace, located close to the limestone landscape of The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Menus stick with the classics and champion local produce, particularly seafood. Flavours are bold and presentation is modern. Bedrooms are simply furnished; two open onto the walled courtyard. Have breakfast overlooking the garden.
Linnane’s Lobster Bar (New Quay)
What the guide says: Simple but likeable place, with peat fires and full-length windows which open onto a terrace. They specialise in fresh, tasty fish and shellfish; watch the local boats unload their catch – some of which is brought straight to the kitchen.
Mary Ann’s (Castletownshend)
What the guide says: Bold red pub set up a steep, narrow street in a sleepy village. Dine in the rustic bar, the linen-laid restaurant or the lovely garden; be sure to visit the art gallery. All-encompassing menus often feature seafood and several Asian dishes.
Poacher’s Inn (Bandon)
What the guide says: Cosy neighbourhood pub that’s popular with the locals. There’s a snug, a wood-panelled bar, and an upstairs restaurant which opens later in the week. West Cork seafood takes centre stage and you can buy homemade bread to take home.
What the guide says: An appealing pub in a picturesque hamlet, offering lovely views out across the bay. Its gloriously dated interior is decorated with maritime memorabilia. Menus are dictated by the seasons and the latest catch from the local boats.
What the guide says: In the family since 1970, a classic Irish pub now run by the 3rd generation. Interesting artefacts and boxing memorabilia. Unfussy seafood dishes feature local produce. Limited opening in the restaurant, which offers more ambitious fare.
Toddies at The Bulman (Kinsale)
What the guide says: Rustic pub with maritime décor and excellent bay views; look out for the Moby Dick mural and the carved Bulman Buoy. Lunch is in the bar and offers simple pub classics and more ambitious blackboard specials; dinner is in the more formal restaurant and presents carefully prepared, globally influenced dishes.
The Pheasant (Annahilt)
What the guide says: Sizeable creamwashed pub with Gothic styling, Guinness-themed artwork and a typically Irish feel. Internationally influenced menus showcase local, seasonal produce, with seafood a speciality in summer and game featuring highly in winter.
The Poacher’s Pocket (Comber)
What the guide says: Modern-looking building in the centre of a small village; the best seats are in the two-tiered extension overlooking the internal courtyard. Wide-ranging menus offer rustic, hearty dishes; come at the weekend for a laid-back brunch.
The Parson’s Nose (Hillsborough)
What the guide says: Characterful Georgian property built by the first Marquis of Downshire. The restaurant sits above the rustic bar and overlooks a lake in the castle grounds. Unashamedly traditional menus and generous portions; the daily fish specials are a hit.
The Plough Inn (Hillsborough)
What the guide says: Family-run, 18C coaching inn that’s three establishments in one: a bar with an adjoining dining room; a café-cum-bistro; and a seafood restaurant. Dishes range from light snacks and pub classics to more modern, international offerings.
Pier 36 (Donaghadee)
What the guide says: Spacious family-run pub set on the quayside, opposite a lighthouse, overlooking the picturesque harbour. Extensive menus feature a mix of classic, modern and international influences, with good weekday deals and plenty of fresh, local seafood. Bright, modern bedrooms; some with great sea and harbour views.
Balloo House (Killinchy)
What the guide says: Characterful former farmhouse with a smart dining pub feel. Lengthy menus offer a mix of hearty pub classics and dishes with more international leanings. Pies are popular, as is High Tea, which is served every day except Saturday.
The Old Spot (Ballsbridge)Not long open and straight into the guide, this is one to check out next time you’re knocking around D4.
What the guide says: The appealing bar has a stencilled maple-wood floor and a great selection of snacks and bottled craft beers. There’s also a relaxed, characterful restaurant filled with vintage posters, which serves pub classics with a modern edge.
Chop House (Ballsbridge)
May as well be next door to The Old Spot (in the grand scheme of things). Not bad going to get two eateries within a stone’s throw of each other. On the go since 2009.
What the guide says: Imposing pub close to the stadium, with a small side terrace, a dark bar and a bright, airy conservatory. The relaxed lunchtime menu is followed by more ambitious dishes in the evening, when the kitchen really comes into its own.
Moran’s Oyster Cottage (Kilcolgan)
What the guide says: Attractive whitewashed pub with a thatched roof, hidden away in a tiny hamlet – a very popular place in summer. It’s all about straightforward cooking and good hospitality. Dishes are largely seafood based and oysters are the speciality.
What the guide says: Busy pub in pretty harbourside town; popular with tourists and locals alike. Owned by the O’Dowd family for over 100 years, it specialises in fresh, simply cooked fish and shellfish. Sit in the cosy, fire-lit bar or wood-panelled restaurant.
O’Neill’s The Point Seafood Bar (Caherciveen)
What the guide says: Traditional pub in a great location by the ferry slipway; run by the O’Neill family for over 150 yrs. Locally landed seafood arrives in generous portions and includes salmon smoked nearby. Unusually, they don’t serve chips or desserts.
What the guide says: Have a local artisan beer in the snug open-fired bar or kick things off with a gin tasting board; then move on to tasty, well-prepared dishes with modern twists in the small restaurant with its large mirrors and exposed brick walls.
The Ballymore Inn (Ballymore Eustace)
What the guide says: Remote village pub with a small deli selling homemade breads, pickles, oils and the like. The owner promotes small artisan producers, so expect organic veg, meat from quality assured farms and farmhouse cheeses. Portions are generous.
What the guide says: A ‘proper’ bar with a long wooden counter and a flagged floor; albeit one with a boutique colour scheme! The experienced chef offers a wide range of dishes, from pie of the day to grilled salmon, followed by tasty homemade puddings.
The Oarsman (Carrick-on-Shannon)
My mother’s favourite spot for food up Leitrim way, or so I’ve been told.
What the guide says: Traditional family-run pub set close to the river and filled with pottery, bygone artefacts and fishing tackle; it’s a real hit with the locals. Flavoursome cooking uses local produce. The upstairs restaurant opens later in the week.
What the guide says: A hugely characterful pub on the coast road, at the foot of the mountains, featuring beautiful flower displays and a wealth of memorabilia. Extensive menus list hearty, flavoursome dishes; specialities include local steaks and seafood.
The Tavern (Murrisk)
What the guide says: Vibrant pink pub with designer colours, leather banquettes and quirky basket lampshades. Wide-ranging dishes display a touch of refinement; the meats and seafood are local and the daily cheesecake is a must. Staff are smart and attentive.
Cronin’s Sheebeen (Westport)
What the guide says: Pretty pub with lovely bay and Croagh Patrick views. Hearty, unfussy dishes feature shellfish and lobsters from the bay, and lamb and beef from the fields nearby. Sit outside, in the rustic bar or in the first floor dining room.
Hargadons (Sligo Town)
One of the best spots in Sligo for sure – whether it’s for a pint, the food, the pop-up burger bar, come what may.
What the guide says: Hugely characterful pub with sloping floors, narrow passageways, dimly lit anterooms and a lovely “Ladies’ Room” complete with its own serving hatch. Cooking is warming and satisfying, offering the likes of Irish stew or bacon and cabbage.
What the guide says: Thatched pub in a charming loughside location. The traditional interior boasts original fireplaces and old flag and timber floors – and plays host to folk music and Irish dancers. Unfussy dishes feature plenty of fresh seafood.
Lobster Pot (Carne)
What the guide says: Popular pub filled with a characterful array of memorabilia. Large menus feature tasty, home-style cooking. Fresh seafood dishes are a must-try, with oysters and lobster cooked to order being the specialities. No children after 7pm.
Byrne & Woods (Roundwood)
What the guide says: Arguably the second highest pub in Ireland, set up in the Wicklow Mountains. ‘Byrne’ is a cosy bar with a wood-burning stove; dimly lit ‘Woods’ has leather and dark wood furnishings and a clubby feel. Cooking is fresh and straightforward.
Wild Honey Inn (Lisdoonvarna) and Toddies at The Bulman (Kinsale) both retained an “Inspectors’ Favourites” commendation, described in the Guide as ‘establishments found to be particularly charming and which offer something extra special’.
Note on photos: Photos sourced either from the bar/restaurants own website or Facebook pages (see links for each restaurant). Photos copyright of their respective owners. If a photo needs to be removed or updated, please let me know.