The Celtic nations are often overlooked as culinary destinations – most travelers think of Italy or France first when it comes to good food. However, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Galicia and Bretagne have all found a place at the table in recent years. Today, the Celtic nations serve up scrumptious seafood, duck, beef, chicken, and more – often paired with an assortment of local, season vegetables and house wines.
The Three Chimneys ~ $$$
Aptly named, and beautifully situated on the stunning seashore of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, The Three Chimneys is a quaint, family-managed eatery that highlights traditional Scottish dining and hospitality. Founders and full-time directors, Eddie and Shirley Spear, began their business in 1984 as a seasonal, stand-alone restaurant. More than thirty years later, and after a number of awards – including The Good Food Guide’s U.K. Restaurant of the Year 2018 – The Three Chimneys has evolved, refining their menu and adding a 5-star retreat, The House Over-By. Meals are inspired by Scotland’s rich heritage, and also celebrate the country’s ancient Nordic connections. Enjoy a cozy and candlelit dinner, and choose from a display of delectable dishes, including Skye Venison and Dunvegan Langoustine and Crab – all prepared by esteemed head chef, Scott Davies. Finish the night off in style with wee tumbler of Three Chimneys Small Batch Gin.
Eipic ~ $$$
To be an “Epicurean” is to be a “person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially derived from food and drink.” Recently voted Best Restaurant in Northern Ireland, Belfast’s Eipic celebrates that culinary philosophy with a magnificent melange of fine dining and elegant design. Along with his talented team, head chef Alex Greene is the man behind the magic. Greene has an impressive resume; along with his time at the Michelin-starred eatery Deans, he has put in countless hours behind the grill at Gordon Ramsay’s hotspots Petrus and Claridge. At Eipic, diners can choose from £30 and £65 main courses, as well as a £65 pound vegetarian course, and include locally produced artisan breads, seasonal vegetables, and choice of meat. At meal’s end, satisfy your sweet tooth with an array of amazing desserts, including cheesecake, chocolate and fruit. For those looking to hone their wine pairing skills, in-house sommelier Didier Nyceront is happy to lend a helping hand.
Ynyshir, the award-winning, up-scale restaurant on the edge of Snowdonia National Park – a 6-minute walk from the RSPB Ynys-hir Nature Reserve – is an absolute must for those visiting Wales. Patron Chef Gareth Ward describes his food as “ingredient led, flavour driven, fat fuelled, and meat obsessed.” Diners will enjoy a truly interactive experience at the revamped eatery, as the kitchens are open to the dining room, and the culinary team are eager to explain how the food is sourced and prepared. Menus are personalized for individual tastes, and average about £110 pounds per person for dinner and £55 per person for lunch. Enjoy a variety of fresh, local and seasonal dishes – including Welsh lamb and Welsh Wagyu – and seal the meal with a healthy slice of Tiramisu. Complete the experience with a proper option from the ever-evolving wine list, which includes Chef Ward’s own selections from around the world.
Alba ~ $$
Alba first opened its doors in 2002 and has since become the go-to spot in Cornwall for affordable, 5-star dining. Head Chef and proprietor Grant Nethercott has designed the menu himself, pulling inspiration from French and British cuisine, and creating a hybrid kitchen that he calls “modern British style.” With a focus on fresh and local produce, line-caught seafood, and seasonal ingredients, the diverse menu includes a succulent selection of eclectic, reasonably-priced meals. For those interested in a truly regional experience, be sure to sample the Cornish Grass-Fed Beef Fillet and the Wild Line-Caught Seabass, and pair your plate with a the driest Martini around or glass of wine from Camel Valley Brut, Cornwall’s largest vineyard. Alba is a family-friendly space, with a specially crafted menu for the little ones, including pasta and fish dishes, and brownies and ice cream for dessert. While reservations are recommended, no bookings are needed for the cosmopolitan A Bar located downstairs, which serves up small plates, drinks and coffee.
Isle of Man
Little Fish Café ~ $$
Little Fish Café, a relaxed eatery in Douglas, might be less than four years old but it has already made a name for itself amongst both locals and visitors as a casual culinary hotspot on the Isle of Man. Just a short walk from the capital city’s center, and facing the scenic quayside harbour, Little Fish Café is an ideal and idyllic place to stop for a quick and cozy breakfast, brunch and lunch, or after a full day of sight-seeing and scouring the quaint Manx countryside. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients make for simple and delicious dishes, including Queenies, Curry, Local Crab, Ligurian Fish Stew and a spicy Vegetarian Jumbalaya. For lighter fare, enjoy a sandwich and side plate, then wash it down with one (or several!) bespoke “house drinks” or a fine fair-trade coffee, before following up with a prime pudding or other delectable dessert options, including the mouth-watering Mars Bar Sundae!
Asbastos 2.0 ~ $$
Menus don’t get much more seasonal and fresh than Abastos, a cozy Galician restaurant in Santiago de Compostela. The renowned restaurant works closely with local food vendors, as the eatery’s team of chefs travel to surrounding markets each morning and – depending what they find – design the day’s menu accordingly. Patrons will enjoy their experience in an up-scale, urban environment, with ample seating and superior service. Each meal includes an appetizer, fish, meat, and vegetable, and can be tailored for small or large groups, as the culinary crew caters to preferences in palate. Those new to the legendary locale, and to Galician cuisine, will want to sample the “dComer” (€50) – a multi-morsel platter which includes a little taste of everything that the region has to offer. With one of the most crowded terraces in the city, often busy with visitors making the spiritual pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago Trail, reservations are recommended.
L’Absinthe ~ $$$
Given its rich French culinary heritage, Bretagne might dish out the very best food throughout the Celtic nations, with L’Absinthe in St. Malo leading the way. Tastefully designed, and located in a recently-refurbished 17th-century building, the world-class eatery serves up chic and contemporary cuisine for both lunch and supper. Head Chef Stephane Brebel – whose resume includes lengthy stints at a number of notable restaurants, including several 3-star Michelin sites owned and operated by Les Maisons de Bricourt – shines the spotlight on local and seasonal ingredients. The venue’s core menu is made up of €29 and €38 plates, which include a variety of entrée, main and dessert options. Another popular choice is a €27 dish that has been designed especially for “locavores” – i.e: diners who only eat local food. Many excellent local and regional wines are available upon request. Both a la carte, and healthy selections for young eaters are available as well.