Where Chefs Eat – Where Do Ireland’s Top Chefs Dine Out For Under €100?
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No longer are we satisfied by simply visiting fantastic restaurants to feast on the culinary inventions of our favourite chefs. We are more intrigued by these innovate creators, following them on social media to see where they spend their hours outside of their crisp chef whites.
When choosing where to dine, it is not just inspectors and critics we trust, our faithful chefs have become instrumental in shaping our dining habits – if it’s good enough for award-winning chefs, it’s good enough for us!
Allocating a hypothetical €100 to each chef, we sat down with some of Ireland’s most revered chefs to find out where these culinary kings and queens dine when they are not in the kitchen whipping up delectable delights.
Neven began his culinary journey in the kitchen of his childhood home, cooking alongside his mother Vera in MacNean House and Restaurant, or MacNean Bistro as it was known at the time.
A familiar face on the Irish food scene, the chef behind MacNean House & Restaurant inspires us with his many TV shows and cookery books.
A household name, the chef also owns the Neven Maguire Cookery School, with classes taken by Neven himself, allowing budding chefs to learn top tips from one of the country’s finest chefs.
When I asked Neven where he would spend €100 dining out in Ireland, he jokingly says he’ll spend the €100 in his own restaurant, with which I wholeheartedly agree – I’d drop €100 dining in the award-winning restaurant myself.
For lunch, Neven chooses Etto saying, “they do a superb value lunch, the food is excellent”. I agree, a 3-course lunch is a steal at just €25. Similarly, the midweek tasting menu is also great value at just €35.
“In Etto, I love all the snacks and the whole combination of flavours”. It’s “superb cooking” in this kitchen, Neven says.
Some of the snacks Neven refers to are tasty morsels of Crispy Pork and Veal Stuffed Olives, Hake and Morcilla Croquettes and Tomato and Smoked Mozzarella Suppli. If the snacks are this good, the main dishes can only get better.
By his own admission, Neven is greedy, splitting his €100 over two meals, proclaiming “food is my life”. Personally, I think this is a fantastic idea, one has to eat regularly of course, and why not do so in two fantastic restaurants rather than one?
For dinner, Neven is heading to One Pico, spending the remainder of his €100 dining on culinary delights from the kitchen of Ciaran McGill. Neven says “Ciaran is one of the most talented chefs in the country”, so it’s no wonder why he chooses this restaurant.
One Pico’s set dinner menu is fabulously priced at 3 courses for €55. Dine on a heavenly dish of Lamb Breast Croquette, Smoked Yoghurt, Aubergine Caviar and Dill or one of Neven’s favourite dishes of Thornhill Duck.
“Ciaran cooks superb Thornhill duck”. The dish in question is served with White Turnip, Lincolnshire Smoked Eel and Roast Shallot.
Praising Ciaran, he says he is “a very talented and humble chef who should have a Michelin star in my opinion”.
L’Ecrivan was first awarded its Michelin star in 2003 and has held onto it ever since, which is no easy feat in the world of fine dining.
Run with his wife Sallyanne Clarke, Derry has been patron chef at the award-winning restaurant for nearly 29 years. His passion for using fresh local produce is evident in the changing seasonal menus at the restaurant.
The renowned chef has written two cookbooks, as well as appearing in numerous TV shows, sprinkling his Michelin star magic around the nation.
When I ask Derry where he would spend his €100, he says without hesitation that he is headed to China Sichuan on Ballymoss Road in Sandyford.
Owner Kevin Hui serves an authentic Sichuan experience using the best Irish produce. Offering guests tasty Chinese classics, this restaurant was recently recommended by the Michelin guide.
Clarke describes China Sichuan as “highly recommended in my book”, which coming from such an accomplished chef is priceless.
The menu is simply mouthwatering, with each dish sounding as good as the next. To start your Sichuan meal, choose from starters such as “Chin Si Haw Quin” – Crispy Prawns wrapped in Shredded Keftafi Pastry, or “Hon Yu Guozi” – these Poached Chicken and Pork Wonton Dumplings are served in a Spicy Red Chilli Broth and sound like a comforting bowlful.
The chef recommended dishes are just as tempting. Dine on Sichuan Camphor Smoked Duck, flavoured over jasmine tea and camphor wood.
Other specialities range from Pan-Fried Rabbit with Roasted Green Tea Leaves and Chilli to Pan Fried Monk Fish in Yellow Bean Sauce.
This restaurant, now run by the third generation of the same family, is a regular stop for the Clarke family, with Derry confirming “this is a favourite of ours especially on a Sunday”.
Not only is the food fantastic but so is the price tag, with Derry telling me: “€100 would buy me a wonderful dinner with wine for 2 people”, which is a steal in the dining world. It’s no wonder why the restaurant is beloved by the chef.
It seems the Michelin star chef isn’t the only one privy to this culinary hot spot, with Derry saying: “We meet many other chefs and their families there too.”
It’s clear Derry is a regular here, as the chef tells me of the fantastic value lunch menu. With 3 courses for just €20.50, he says “€100 would buy me a lunch menu for four people”.
While I peruse the lunch menu, I am immediately drawn to the Cripsy Mushroom Fritters with Wasabi for starters and the Fried Ramen Noodles with Sliced Duck & Pac Choi for main. For the dessert, the Chocolate Tart sounds too good to pass up. I can see why this is a favourite dining spot for Derry, the food is simply moreish.
Singing China Sichuan’s praises, Derry finishes by saying they provide “wonderful tasty food and great service”. He adds that the restaurant is also “not far from our home and just off the M50”, showing us that you need not go too far to get brilliant food – simply head down the road!
The queen of pastry, Aoife Noonan, perfected her skills working as a pastry chef in Ireland’s two Michelin star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.
She then went on to work as executive pastry chef at SMS Luna for the John Farrell restaurant group. These are the people behind Luna, Dillinger’s, The Butcher Grill and 777.
When she isn’t cooking up a storm at cookery demos or gracing our TV screens, Aoife can be found at Glovers Alley, where she is the executive pastry chef at Andy McFadden’s newest fine dining venture.
“I would go for a meal in Forest & Marcy. There is a Farm to Forest Menu available on a Sunday, which champions organic vegetables from the McNally farm in Dublin.”
The Farm to Forest menu Aoife speaks of is inspired by Patrick and Jenny McNally’s organic family farm. “The menu is amazing value with such innovative and exciting flavours,” says Aoife, who can appreciate the restaurant’s commitment to using fresh ingredients.
This seasonal menu is only available on Sundays, which for a working chef is more than ideal. Aoife notes that “quality restaurants open on a Sunday are few and far between”, which for a chef can limit their options to dine in decent restaurants.
“As a chef, Sunday is the day I want to unwind and eat good food in a relaxed atmosphere with good wine and good company”, Aoife tells me.
Chef Ciaran Sweeney has created a 4-course menu for €44, which includes Roast Courgette, Basil, Salt Cod and Bisque and Tomato, Goat’s Curd, Duck Ham and Olive. Admiring the fellow chef, Aoife notes that “Ciaran cooks with such flair and ingenuity, which comes across on every plate.” It’s clear Aoife admires the innovative cooking from Ciaran as she praises him, saying: “He is doing amazing things and every time I eat there I have an outstanding meal.”
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Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.
If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.