Along with the rest of the nation, we are buzzing for the Oscars this year. Our little island has a record 14 nominations, and whatever happens on the 13th March, it will be a historic day for Ireland. While we’re busy watching as many of the Oscar nominated films as we can, we’re also reflecting on some our favourite movies that centre on our favourite subject – food.
This selection is just a few of the films that have inspired us over the years to either get into the kitchen, pop open a bottle, reserve a table, or book a flight. With each of the movie choices, we also thought we’d give you a steer on where you might want to eat in Dublin right after the end credits run. Pass the popcorn.
The Menu (2022)
Ralph Fiennes plays a celebrity chef in this comedy horror, joined by Hong Chau (excellent in The Whale, earning her an Oscar nom) as his front-of-house manager, and alongside Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and John Leguizamo, who play diners attending his exclusive restaurant. This definitely rests in the not so joyful category of food movies, but one which parodies the world of fine dining deftly – paying eye-watering amounts of money to be served questionably edible food in a strained atmosphere. Let’s just say it brought to mind this recent article by Farrah Storr in The Times.
Where to go in Dublin: If The Menu hasn’t turned you off fine dining completely, you won't get much better than Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen for an incredible high-end experience – with none of the gore.
Big Night (1996)
Written, directed by, and starring Stanley Tucci, this Italian-American comedy drama set in the late 1950s is a heart-warming story of a restaurant run by two Italian brothers. Under pressure to bring in cash, their flashy restaurateur neighbour offers to invite a famous jazz musician, Louis Prima, to dine in their restaurant. They then embark on a quest to prepare a spectacular dinner and make one last ditch attempt to keep their American dream alive.
The cast is superb, with Tucci starring alongside Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Allison Janney and Tony Shalboub. From seafood risotto to timpano – a drum-size cake of pasta, meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, and sauce, to the beautiful simplicity of an omelette, Big Night is also even credited with kicking off a revolution in American food culture, as the type of Italian authenticity in the movie was relatively new to Americans in the 90s.
Where to go in Dublin: When we think about family-run, authentic little Italian restaurants in Dublin, Terra Madre on Bachelor’s Walk immediately springs to mind. Great for antipasti, authentic meat dishes and pasta, including the most perfect black truffle & cheese fondue ravioli, and a solid wine list (sadly we’ve yet to see Timpano on a menu anywhere, but we'll keep looking).
If you’re looking for a feel-good movie with a great cast, a banging soundtrack and scenes that will have you running to your nearest food truck, look no further. Chef tells the story of a head chef (Jon Favreau) who quits his day job, triggered by a viral video where he publicly confronts the restaurant critic who panned his cooking.
With his career seemingly in tatters, he gets the opportunity to refit an old food truck with his old colleague Martin (played by a fantastic John Leguizamo), and his young son. The movie turns into a raucous buddy road trip movie as they take the truck across America, with some eye-watering food scenes including the 'Mojo Pork' - essential to crafting the famous Cuban sandwiches their food truck sells. There's a pretty epic grilled cheese scene too.
Where to go in Dublin: We couldn’t suggest anywhere other than La Cocina Cuevas, the Californian Mexican street food truck in the Naul – mainly because Jeremy Cuevas combined his love for this very movie with family inspiration to cook Mexican food. ¡Qué chido!
Babette’s Feast (1987)
This Oscar-winning Scandinavian film is the ultimate film about food, and a deeply beloved, timeless cinema classic. It also happens to have one of the best feast scenes in cinematic history, featuring a seven course menu consisting of turtle soup, blinis with caviar and sour cream, quails in puff pastry with foie gras and truffle sauce, endive salade and a rum sponge cake with figs and candied cherries.
Adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, it's set in late 19th century Denmark and tells the story of a Parisian housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings an exquisite meal to a family and congregation of villagers. The lavish banquet tempts the family, who usually renounce pleasures such as fine food and wine (can't relate), and shows how good food can help heal and reconnect.
Where to go in Dublin: If you're lusting after Babette's seven course feast, head to sophisticated French restaurant Dax on Pembroke Street Upper. Located in the cosy basement of a Georgian townhouse, Dax serves elegant French food in a refined, underground atmosphere.
This Oscar-winning Pixar creation tells the story of Remy the rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt), who appreciates good food and has quite the refined palate. Via the TV in an unsuspecting farmhouse, Remy becomes a superfan of chef Auguste Gusteau (inspired by real-life chef Bernard Loiseau, who died of a broken heart after his restaurant, La Côte d'Or, lost a star).
When Remy ends up in a sewer beneath Gusteau's restaurant, he sets out on an adventure to realise his dream of becoming a chef. Ratatouille was also voted one of the 100 greatest motion pictures of the 21st century by the BBC, and we would tend to agree – c’est magnifique!
Where to go in Dublin: If you’re inspired to eat some deliciously decadent French food after watching Ratatouille, try La Maison on Castle Market for size. From confit duck to Coquilles St Jacques, coq au vin to poisson de jour, La Maison will tick the French craving box.
Fair warning, you’ll want to have a bottle of wine in close proximity when you’re watching this movie - ideally not a Merlot. A struggling writer and wine enthusiast played by Paul Giametti takes his soon-to-be married friend on a trip to wine country for his last days of singledom. It soon transpires that they have very different ideas of what they’re looking for out of the trip, and soon there’s plenty of drama involving two great performances from Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen.
Sideways received widespread critical acclaim and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the film was also credited with being a boon for Pinot Noir, with production increasing by 170% in the decade after Sideways was released. It’s also likely responsible for depressing the merlot market based on the classic line: “If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f****** merlot!”
Where to go in Dublin: If you’re thirsty for a glass or two of wine after this movie (you will be), head to Loose Canon on Drury Street, and sample some of the natural wines they have on offer, with a cheese toastie or small plate on the side.
Julie & Julia (2009)
A movie written and directed by Nora Ephron, you say? Starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci? About the life and work of the legendary cooking teacher, author and TV personality Julia Child? Sold. This is a biographical comedy drama, based on a novel (based on a blog!), contrasting the life of Julia Child with a young New Yorker, Julie Powell, who decides to work her way through every one of the 524 recipes in Child’s 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
There’s plenty of fantastic food scenes, whether it's making Hollandaise sauce or meringue, pastry rolling, and the recipe that plays the biggest part in the movie - the Boeuf Bourguignon (hot tip: dry the beef in paper towels or it won’t brown. Thank you Julia).
Where to go in Dublin: We’re not sure anywhere in Dublin does a Julia Child-level Boeuf Bourguignon, but Bresson in Monkstown is a good place to start. You'll find French onion soup, duck rillettes, and Black Sole Veronique on the menu amongst much more. Ooh la la.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
The only documentary on the list, this beautiful and thoughtful Japanese-language film follows Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, previously a Michelin three-star restaurant. The restaurant has just 10 seats, serves only sushi, and is located in a Tokyo subway station.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama joined Japan’s then-PM Shinzo Abe and said it was the best sushi he had ever eaten. Indeed, it was this exclusivity and difficulty in getting a seat, likely exacerbated by the film, that saw the restaurant dropped from the Michelin guide in 2019. The film follows Jiro’s two sons, who are both sushi chefs, and is a gorgeous meditation on work, family and the art of perfection, and it will definitely have you craving sushi by the end.
Where to go in Dublin: Look, we all know that great sushi is not Dublin’s strong point. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, get in the car and go to Wa Sushi (formerly Wa Café) in Galway, or Ichigo Ichie in Cork for something more Netflix worthy.
A truffle-foraging recluse and former chef, played by Nicolas Cage, goes on the hunt for his stolen pig in this mystery/thriller/comedy. When the trailer hit the internet back in 2021, there was a massive reaction – equal parts joyful and confused – about the Nicolas Cage missing pig movie, but the film has received rapturous reviews and a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes no less, and has heralded somewhat of a comeback for the actor.
Like ‘The Menu’ it takes some digs at the pretensions of high-end dining, but the message running throughout the film is the power of food to connect, to heal us and to release long suppressed emotions.
Based on the novel by Joanne Harris, Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) who arrives in a picturesque little French village at the beginning of Lent with her six year old daughter Anouk, and opens up a small chocolaterie. Vianne’s presence causes quite a stir and soon influences the lives of the somewhat repressed townspeople.
The Comte de Reynaud (played by a brilliant Alfred Molina) is the opinionated curé of the parish, and highly disapproves of this display of temptation. As Easter Sunday approaches, Vianne prepares for a chocolate festival and Reynaud is desperate to win back his flock. There’s so much chocolate to lust after in this movie, but one scene that always springs to mind is when Vianne prepares a hot chocolate that you can almost taste through the screen – it's rich, dark and smooth, uplifted with vanilla and the warmth and spice of ground chile.
Where to go in Dublin: Thankfully we have no shortage of great Irish chocolate producers, many of which are widely available in retailers across the city. For your cocoa fix, try Koko Kinsale, Cocoa Atelier, Bean & Goose, Arcane Chocolate, Skelligs Chocolate, Hazel Mountain Chocolate, and current ATF fav Bon Chocolatiers.