My first trip to Ireland was eye-opening: we were blown away by the quality of the produce and fish. A vegetarian can eat quite well in Dublin, and the fresh local beer – Dublin is home to Guinness – makes the city a true foodie destination.
Guinness and potatoes are what first comes to mind when you think of what to consume in Dublin, Ireland, but this country abounds in produce and local fish, and is really a vegetarian paradise. My husband, daughter and I, all fish-eating vegetarians, recently spent four days in Ireland and ate great fresh, local food at every meal.
Since we had a limited time in Dublin, we booked a Food Trail instead of a pub crawl. This tour, which visits different locations depending on the size of the group, includes a discussion of Irish farming, history and the potato famine.
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On the tour we took, we went for appetizers to Gallagher & Co. Bistro. There were three vegetarian choices of the four appetizers on offer. I had excellent carrot ginger soup, served with the ubiquitous brown brown, a hearty multigrain that is habit forming.
My husband and daughter had the arugula salad with sun dried tomatoes and goat’s milk cheese. We realized that goat’s milk cheese is really the proper name for what we called goat cheese. There was also a small serving of fish and chips, on a bed of smashed peas.
With our appetizers, we could have a stout, a dry cider, wine, or the delicious red ale we all chose.
At our next stop, Boxty House, there was a sampling of three stews; beef (made with Guinness), lamb and fish. We were given fries, about eight tiny dumplings that resembled gnocchi and a cube of potato pancake with a smear of goat’s milk cheese, plus an excellent IPA.
We had been warned to come hungry to the meal, but my husband left still needing more dinner; our next stop was dessert. I didn’t need to overeat, but one more savory dish was needed, considering the price (55 Euro, about $62).
A Bit of Fun
Our tour guide taught us the traditional Boxty rhyme:
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Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, You’ll never get a man. This has been somewhat updated for a more feminist time: if you don’t eat boxty, you’ll never get a man.
At the dessert restaurant, in another feminist twist, the men learned how to make Irish coffee: sugar, hot coffee, quite a bit of Irish whiskey and hand shaken whipped cream. Served by the guys, it was rich and delicious.
Vegetarian in the Boonies
We found an excellent organic vegetarian cafe, The Happy Pear, after the Cliff Walk from Bray to Greystones. The weather had promised to be sunny and mid-60s but by the time we got to Greystones, the sky had turned completely grey. It was raining and cold, and The Happy Pear was the perfect antidote.
The self-service cafe is owned by twins who have another cafe in Bray. Among the offerings were two soups, chili, and other hot main dishes, plus a few salads. I had shredded beetroot (beets are ubiquitous in Dublin, though they are called beetroot) with spinach and a warming broccoli barley soup. This huge cafe has an attached juice bar and produce stand.
Across the street at The Butlers Pantry, we got thick chocolate chip cookies and granola for my muesli-deprived daughter, who has been living in Spain since August.
Even Pub Food Has Come Around
On my first trip to the UK, over 30 years ago, I found that the only vegetarian thing I could eat at pubs was tomato soup.
I hate tomato soup.
We went to a pub, the Hairy Lemon, that had spicy vegan curry, chickpea vegetarian burgers and hearty salads (often with berth and goat’s cheese). We ate all of the above.
Dinner at the Farm
Farm Dawson St is a family owned restaurant near Trinity College, with another branch just outside the city limits. The restaurants specialize in organic, locally sourced produce, fish and meat; the menu includes a list of farms. There is plenty here for meat eaters and vegetarians alike; we had several choices. My daughter had the vegan curry, with butternut squash, my husband had the local fish stew topped with mashed potatoes, and I had peppers stuffed with quinoa, cauliflower and broccoli, and topped with brie. We even had a local gin with a hint of apple.
Eating at the Hotel
We stayed at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, which had a huge breakfast buffet featuring hot dishes cooked to order. The fresh eggs were a stand-out. We also ate at Citron, one of the hotel’s three restaurants. The beetroot salad, with goat’s milk cheese, of course, was perfect, as was the local wild salmon with huge peas and broad beans, and local cod with kale and artichokes. The strictly vegetarian gnocchi was accompanied by a bounty of fresh vegetables.
I would have loved to spend more time in Dublin, but I would have had to be rolled out of the country.