My parents moved to Kildare town just over a year ago and it swiftly became clear that they’d never be short of places to eat and drink in the town and surrounding county. Kildare boasts many national treasures – most notably St. Brigid, patron saint of dairymaids and brewers whose legacy of feasting is ever-present in the county, and Arthur Guinness, patron saint of the black stuff. The town and surrounding county is awash with first-rate food and drinks, independent family-run businesses, super guesthouses and activities a-plenty. Trains that stop in Kildare town itself are so frequent I rarely check departure times from Heuston anymore, although some of them run direct from station to station in just 30 minutes. Buses to and from Dublin Airport are also frequent making it the perfect destination for an overnight break, midweek stay or even just a quick day trip for those seeking a rural experience without sacrificing the hustle and bustle of modern life. Below is just a drop in the ocean of places to satiate your Kildare cravings in a county locked in on all sides by land but by no means limited by it. Here’s a guide to the best cafés, stays and restaurants in Kildare.
Walking ten minutes from Kildare train station on the outskirts of the town, you’ll find yourself standing in the picturesque Market Square, flanked on all four sides by numerous local, family run businesses like Firecastle, Strongs, Hartes and Boyles. Make a beeline for Square Coffee, not only for their local micro roast coffee but also for their sweet treats and bakes. Established in 2017, their aim is “to serve the best, most consistent coffee” and their coffee is definitely best in show in the town. They are also big advocates of supporting sustainable, fair trade and local produce and they source their beans from PS Coffee Roasters in nearby Kilcullen, who also have cafés in Naas and Clane. Little Brew in Kilcullen town also serves coffee from PS Coffee Roasters, as well as toasties and treats and is worth a cuppa if in the area.
Dubh in Newbridge is a neighbourhood café and restaurant in Newbridge that dishes up “seasonal grub and good vibes” run by husband and wife duo Emma Spain and Shane Byrne. The menu is ever-changing depending on what’s in season and available to them and prices are reasonable, averaging around €12 a dish. The wine list has a welcome selection of low-intervention wines perfect for a brunch tipple.
The Green Barn is an award winning restaurant nestled amongst the mature estate of Burtown House & Gardens in Athy. Having brunch or lunch there should be top priority when visiting Co. Kildare. Their ethos of sustainability and seasonality is evident throughout and their supply of herbs and veg come directly from the walled garden, four acre field plot and some polytunnels all on site. You can also buy this fresh produce in their artisan food shop alongside other top quality wares from Irish producers they know and trust. You could easily while away an entire day here, pottering around the one hundred and sixty acre farm and wildflower meadows and perusing the artisan shop. With charming accommodation on site you might actually find it hard to leave.
Neighbourhood opened its doors in December 2022, with Gareth Naughton, formerly of Circa, at the helm as head chef. With a strong emphasis on quality, seasonal cooking using only Irish ingredients, they work in tandem with Castleruddery Organic Farm to “select the absolute finest artisanal ingredients.” Expect to spend approximately €130 for two small plates, two mains and two desserts. There’s a great deal to choose from on the wine list, starting at €37 for 2021 Cantina San Marziano ‘Tre Fili’ Pinot Grigo, a light, fresh and zippy expression of the grape to €147 for NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne for the sparkling-inclined diner.
If you’re looking to blow the budget, look no further than Alumni Kitchen, Rathangan. An overnight stay, breakfast and dinner for two at the kitchen table will set you back €225 per person with the option of wine pairings for €125. Dinner consists of a 12 course tasting menu so you’ll be glad you don’t have far to roll at the end of the night. They are admittedly aiming for Michelin from the outset so you can expect silver-service standards. This is unquestionably a luxury overnight country-side experience and availing of the entire package will set your wallet back €700 for two.
Set in the quaint, canal side village of Sallins, Two Cooks is run and owned by husband and wife, Nicola Curran Zammit and Josef Zammit. There is a marked emphasis on vegetables, seasonal ingredients, fermentation and organic produce. The room, overlooking the canal, is beautiful and relaxed, service is attentive and friendly and the food is hearty yet fresh. They serve a range of menus from early bird for €49 to mussels and steak for two for €120 to afternoon tea for €38 per person.
Like any country town worth its muster, you won’t be hard-pressed finding a fireside to sit by savouring a well-earned pint or two. JJ Mahons has been a family run pub since 1949 with a traditional bar and lounge, an open fire and top notch service, craic and creamy pints.
The Pavilion is a recent addition to Kildare town, with a great selection of pints and spirits. Walk through the main bar of Cunninghams that has an open fire, bar food and big screens for sports and you’ll find, nestled out the back, a cosy, cabin-like bar with old-timey lamps and curios, a real pastiche of the Prohibition Era.
For the wine-inclined, Ely Wine Bar, Maynooth is an obvious choice of destination. Doubling up as a wine bar and café, it is another one stop shop for good quality wine and food in Kildare.
In case lavishing yourself with a great deal of food and drink isn’t your primary pastime, there are plenty of options in Kildare for alternative pursuits.
From May-September the grounds of Saint Brigid’s Cathedral are open to the public and a trip up the Round Tower is an essential on the to-do list, although not for the faint hearted. With views spanning across the town land it serves as a good way of getting your birds-eye bearings as well as breathing some fresh Kildare air into your lungs for €4 per person.
The National Stud Farm and Japanese Gardens are a short 10 minute walk from the Square and are definitely worth a visit. The Irish Racecourse Experience, an award-winning, interactive experience, is an extra €5 and worth every penny. You become the owner, trainer and jockey of a chosen horse, learning about every step of thoroughbred life as you go and ultimately putting your new-found knowledge and stud skills to the test as you race your opponents on simulator horses at the end.
There are several walking trails in the county for those wishing to work up a hunger – The Arthur’s Way Heritage Trail is a 16km trail which walks you through the life of Arthur Guinness in about three and a half hours, from his birthplace in Celbridge, to Leixlip where he established his first brewery, to his final resting place in Oughterard.
The Stable Yard at Burtown House in Athy can accommodate up to 8 people, has an aga, open fire and library of books and will set you back approximately €125 per person per night.
Firecastle is a family run high-end grocers, café and bakery in the heart of Kildare town, run by the same family who own Hartes, a gastro pub a few doors down, The Dewdrop Inn and The Ballymore Inn. As well as an array of local Irish produce, beautiful homewares, homemade cakes and bakes, Firecastle is also home to ten stunning equine themed boutique rooms that cost around €135 per person for their standard double rooms which overlook the cathedral grounds or €155 for a double deluxe room that overlooks the hustle and bustle of the market square. Across the square, The Rooms at Cunninghams will set you back €147 for an overnight stay in a deluxe double room for two.
Cliff At Lyons, is home to two star Michelin restaurant Aimsir, a four star hotel and also several luxury self-catering cottages in remarkable rose-clad buildings. A restorative weekend at La Forge Cottage would set you back €1120 for a two night stay for four people with two ensuite bathrooms, four poster beds, views of the Aimsir gardens and a private canal terrace.
There are a wealth of places to visit in Kildare and whether living there, visiting, thrill seeking or in the pursuit of a weekend to unwind, you are bound to find it in the Lilly White county. It is the perfect gateway to exploring the surrounding towns and villages and whether seeking breakfast, lunch or dinner you will be overcome with choice throughout the county.
Note: Prices were correct at the time of publication
The Taste Guide: the Best Cafés, Stays and Restaurants in Kildare
Philippa has worked in many facets of the food and wine industry since she was 18, from cheese shops to wine bars to restaurants to grocers. She spent a year in New York training as a cheesemonger in the Bedford Cheeseshop and has completed her level 3 WSET in Wine. She is fiercely proud of the quality of Irish produce and not only does she love to eat it and sell it but she loves to write about it too. Philippa is also a food guide for Fab Food Trails and when not working enjoys a dip in the sea, drinking wine and mildly obsessing about her dog (sometimes in quick succession).
The Taste Guide: the Best Cafés, Stays and Restaurants in Kildare