This week I am in Ireland

and spent a few days in Dublin. Highlights? Many. Most notable was EPIC, the Emigration Museum, which tells the stories of Irish emigration. Actually tells stories. This is not a museum with objects, but with images of people who tell their stories. Emigration was the determining factor of much of Irish history, long before the great famine sent people away. Every major battle with the English seemed to end with Irish leaving – as in the 1400 or so soldiers who were allowed to leave Ireland after a decisive defeat, and who went to France early in the 17th century. Most of them ended up in or around Bordeaux, which explains the Irish presence and names in Bordeaux. Think Langoa-Barton, and Haut-Brion, which would have been O’Brien.

The other way the English had of controlling Irish men was to make them part of the army, since they were considered good fighters.

The museum traces emigration patterns, to Australia, Canada, the US, and notes the success of immigrants in those countries. A surprising number of US presidents claim Irish ancestry. That was one of the things that emerged from the Museum – that Irish ancestry is something held on to.

The director of the museum is Patrick Greene, who was until recently the director of the Museum of Immigration in Melbourne. EPIC? It starts for Every Person is Connected.

Eating in Dublin Heaps of places. My favourites? One was The Fish Shop, fish-shop.ie on Benburb St. It has a sister restaurant round the corner in Queen St, which I didn’t get to. The Fish Shop is fundamentally a fish and chip shop with a few extras, and a good drinks list. That doesn’t go near explaining how good it is. This is the very model of fish and chips. There might be four different fish available on any night, and when they run out, that’s it. We were left with plaice and halibut, which is a pretty good selection.

And then – this is where I realised that a good batter protects fish from heat, so that the fillet steams inside the batter in the time it takes to cook to golden-brown. This batter was light, but heavier than tempura, and crisp – and the cooking temperature was so perfect that the batter was dry to the touch, and the fish inside had the unmistakable flavour of fresh plaice. Sounds simple. But mostly the freshest fish is not used for fish and chips, and the cooking temperature is not quite right. The wines? We had a glass of Txacoli, the Basque grape, while waiting, and to go with the smoked haddock croquettes. Could have had oysters. And then there was a bottle of a particularly good Spanish white by Telmo Rodriguez, made from godello grapes. The downside is that it seats about 12. The sister restaurant, which is more formal and has a set menu, seats not many more.

The other favourite was a pub called The Legal Eagle https://thelegaleagle.ie  on Chancery Place, Inns Quay. It’s one of a group called the Winding Stair. Seriously good food – imagine fried green tomatoes with dollops of sheep’s milk curd and green fronds of salad leaves and delicate pickles. Or fried cod’s cheeks with caperberries and radish slices and a cod roe cream (not unlike taramasalata). The drinks list is spectacularly good, and takes in wines from pretty much every wine-producing countries, as well as having an exceptional list of whiskeys and gin. We loved dinner so much we went back for lunch the next day: a roll with roast beef, and three salads (cauliflower, ancient grains, mixed green). It cost a bit less than 13 euros. Add extra for good Irish beer.

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