A Culinary Renaissance Sweeps Ireland

The Earl of Dunraven’s decision to build neo-gothic mansion Adare Manor in the mid 1800s was a boon to County Limerick, sustaining local craftspeople during Ireland’s potato famine—a blight that devastated a country dependent on the starchy South American import. 

Now that the house has been converted into an award-winning hotel, its flagship restaurant, the Oak Room, champions the much greater diversity of quality Irish foods and ingredients available today—including cod and trout, game, and award-winning cheeses from Galway Goat Farm—through prix fixe, customizable multicourse dinners emblematic of a culinary renaissance sweeping the Emerald Isle.

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It’s a movement that’s attracting attention far beyond the country’s borders. Over the last 10 years, the number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Ireland has more than doubled, with 16 listed in the 2019 guide. Galway’s two-day annual Food on the Edge international symposium on the future of food evokes noma chef René Redzepi’s acclaimed MAD festival, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Even within the tiny neighboring namesake village Adare, dining options evidence the shift. Wade Murphy, chef-proprietor of that town’s rustic-chic seasonal restaurant 1826, left acclaimed kitchens in London and Chicago after realizing he could procure better products at home; since he and his wife, a Limerick native, opened the establishment in 2013, they’ve garnered awards from Food & Wine magazine, YesChef, and Michelin.

"Moving back here was always the plan,” Murphy says. “I'd get chicken in the U.S. that was supposed to be the best, and I’d think ‘It’s nothing like what we have in Ireland.’ The produce here is incredible.”

Oak Room chef Mike Tweedie says innovation goes hand in hand with tradition in the modern Irish kitchen. His exploration of new products includes wasabi grown on-property and a truffle farm that should produce its first crop in about seven years.

“We’re trying to keep it modern and fresh—keeping up with current trends and setting our own at the same time,” he says.