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The Best Things We Ate In The Past Fortnight

We've eaten a lot lately. No judgement okay, it's all research...

A Fianco

We were first in line for a seat at 'A Fianco' the new Italian 'wineria' in Stoneybatter from the guys behind Grano. It's petite, meaning seats fill up fast, but there's a clever standing counter which we'd happy pass some time at before parking our bums on those leather seats.

Wines are unique, small production and special, and we fully recommend letting them choose for you. Plates are small and simple, with some Grano favourites like polpette and the deconstructed canolo. There's plenty of cured meats, cheeses and things on toast, and we're coming back to go all in on seafood - Lisa

Dim Sum From Good World

A quick dim sum lunch at Good World on George's Street involved the discovery of Grade A soup dumplings in our own fair city, and we've been looking for a while. Char siu cheung fun and char siu buns also hit the spot. Make sure to ask for chilli oil, and the dim sum menu - it's not always handed out on arrival.

The Summer Menu at Sprezzatura

Finally got around to sampling the new additions to the Sprezzatura summer menu last week, and the arancini menu alone has doubled since my last visit so I had to try the new spicy sausage with orange and tarragon aioli. It had a surprisingly had a good kick to it, and paired with a herby and zesty aioli it was a nice change from the usual rich cheesy options… Who am I kidding, I already regret not ordering the “Four cheese of Ireland” version.

While a couple of their pasta dishes are in need of a lighter summer update (we miss you spaghetti vongole), the prawn tagliatelle really stood out, huge (and not overcooked) Dublin Bay prawns in a white wine, chili and garlic butter, exactly the kind of pasta dish you crave in the heat. Best pasta shape award goes to the Malfadine, and it’s not just a pretty face. Served in a creamy Cashel blue sauce with caramelised onions and roasted walnuts, the flavours and textures were on point - Rachael

Lunch at Chapter One

I'm not sure how many times in a year is too many times to go to Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, but I have a problem and can't stop. A recent cancellation for the €65 lunch meant we got to try new some dishes. Foie gras with cherries, wet almonds and Banyuls vinegar involved a game of 'guess which one is an actual cherry' (not the one we thought), and BBQ Wicklow sika deer calf in grilled butter with carrot, citrus and sauce poivrade was described by a younger member of the party as "like steak but better". Never a truer word spoken.

Castletownbere cod with 'gnocchi' (no actual potato, just some form of wizardry with flour), girolles, pike roe and shio-kombu beurre was dazzling, and put the all too often watery, flavourless fish into a new realm of flavour excitement. Despite being days from their summer break the team here was riding as high as ever - Lisa

From Fish Shop in Smithfield to Ox in Belfast

I don’t know any craving as compelling as the one for a good fish and chips: once the idea’s settled into my mind, I just don’t feel right until I’ve given in. That’s one of the reasons I’m always so grateful for Smithfield’s Fish Shop and its pristine seafood plates dished up alongside a great selection of wine. As much as the fish burger scratched that itch for another while, it’s the simple snack plate of squid and capers on toast I can’t stop thinking about: a dream of delicate texture and perfectly balanced flavour. I think I feel another craving coming on…

It was back in (just!) pre-pandemic 2020 that I first visited Belfast’s Ox, proud home to one of the city’s three Michelin stars, and I couldn’t find fault with it. This time, though, a mismatched summer tasting menu managed to drop the ball more than once, with a mid-meal series of dishes overpowered by big and bold, dominant flavours. Those misfires are highlighted all the more by the one perfect plate: sun-dried heirloom tomatoes, whipped St. Tola goat’s cheese and beautifully fresh broad beans bring the best of the season to bear in forkfuls, then spoonfuls, then tip-of-the-finger-fuls of salty-sweet joy - Ronan

Pastries From The Rock Bakery

A spin to Skerries to try out The Rock Bakery's August menu saw calamansi Danishes, malteaster choux buns, sausage rolls, and spicy apple pie Danishes. All were devoured greedily. If only every village had one - Lisa

Recipe's From Ixta Belfrage's New Cookbook

Ixta Belfrage co-wrote 'Flavour' with Ottolenghi, has her own Guardian cookery column, and has just released her first book 'Mezcla', meaning 'to mix' in Spanish (a nod to her Mexican, Brazilian and Italian heritage). I've cooked maybe 10 recipes from it so far, and each one has been a flavour-laden banger, including garlic yoghurt with crispy herbs, giant cheese on toast with honey urfa butter, ricotta dip with hot sauce pine nuts, crispy fried eggs with porcini mushrooms, and mackerel udon. A lot done, a lot more to do... Lisa

Ice-Cream from Muckross Creamery, and nothing on the train

Honeycomb and salted caramel brownie ice-cream from Muckross ice-cream parlour in Killarney. It's a small family-run business making the creamiest ice-cream from their own herd. You'll find tubs of their ice-cream in selected outlets accross Kerry, but during the summer they open a pop-up from a converted cottage on their farm. Well worth a detour, and at €5 for a massive waffle cone with two giant scoops, fantastic value.

And finally, nothing on Irish Rail. A three-hour train trip at 07:30 meant not even a bottle of water was available. With rising energy costs and a need to look at greener modes of transport, they're not making it easy to leave the car at home - Helen


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