Ireland Food and Drink

Long gone are the days when a meal in Ireland was something to be faced with trepidation. Irish produce is increasingly well regarded, with special focus given to its local meat, poultry and seafood products – Dublin Bay Prawns and Skeaganhore Duck being two specific examples. The coastal waters and inland lakes and rivers offer a trove of fresh fish, including salmon, trout, lobster, mussels, periwinkles and, of course, oysters – a foodstuff Guinness could almost have been created to accompany.

Local ingredients are at the heart of the culinary boom which has taken hold of Ireland in the last decade or so. It’s not as if artisan and organic dishes now dominate the nation’s dinner tables, of course, but those in search of genuinely good food won’t have to search too far to be well rewarded. Unsurprisingly, this is especially true in major cities. Dublin in particular has a significant number of Michelin stars.

Cookery schools have sprung up around the country, offering classes all year round, ranging from professional training to smaller, informal courses run by enthusiastic chefs in rural restaurants. Soda bread, Dublin coddle (pork stew) and Irish stew are among the dishes that can be perfected.

Specialities

• Dublin Bay prawns.
• Oysters, served with Guinness and soda bread.
• Irish stew, traditionally made with mutton or old sheep, now mostly made with lamb or juicy beef, and usually served with potatoes, stock, onions, carrots and garlic.
• Crubeens (pigs' trotters).
• Colcannon (a mixture of potatoes and cabbage cooked together).

Things to know

Table service and self-service are both common. 'Tea' is often almost a full meal with sandwiches and cakes. Pubs, of which Ireland has plenty, are sometimes called 'lounges' or 'bars', and there is often a worded sign outside the premises rather than the traditional painted boards found in the UK. The measure used in Ireland for spirits is larger than that used in the UK; an Irish double shot is equal to a triple by UK standards.

Tipping

The customary tip in Ireland is 10-12%. Many hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill. It is not customary to tip in bars unless you have table service.

Regional drinks

• Whiskey: popular brands are Jameson, John Powers Gold Label, Hewitts, Midleton, Old Bushmills, Paddy, Reserve and Tullamore Dew.
• Irish coffee is popular (a glass of strong black coffee, brown sugar and whiskey with cream).
• Guinness, one of the most famous and distinctive drinks in the world, is omnipresent across the country.
• Other popular alternatives to Guinness are Murphy's and Beamish, both brewed in Cork.
• One of the most popular lighter ales is Smithwick's, also available everywhere.
• Liqueurs such as Bailey's and Irish Mist are both made from a base of Irish whiskey.

Drinking age

18, although some bars will insist that patrons are over 21 and carry ID. Children under 18 years must leave establishments by 2100.

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