Cuisine: Mediterranean

Drinking is the priority at this wood-furnished, hidden-away bar; the food — a bonus. Its nightly-changing blackboard menu offers only about six tapas-size dishes which, after a pink-salt-rimmed grapefruit Mezcal margarita (cocktails are liquor heavy), you will inevitably try. Ibrahim Kasif, formerly of Fish Face, cooks everything in an offsite kitchen and plates it here. Lunch is braised meat and vegetarian sandwiches and salads; dinner might be a tartare potato salad topped with cubed ocean trout, dense with flavour but delicate to eat $14; then the garfish, textured with a dewy salsa of pine nuts, celery and raisins $16 and a village salad of baby leaves, radish and banana chillies $10. The first basket of Luxe Bakery Turkish bread is free, leaving budget enough for rice pud or more boutique wine and beer.

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Cuisine: Mediterranean,Irish

We do love this snug little terrace and the food Sean Mulligan serves up in it. It’s a fixed-price menu, $45 for two courses and more for dessert, but believe us you’ll not have room for dessert after tucking into a starter of boxty potatoes made with bacon and that secret ingredient (we can’t prise it out of him but it’s probably potatoes) or Mrs Mulligan’s black and white pudding with bacon. The main of Castlebar pie is beef and Guinness in puff pastry, and there’s always a special of the evening. Wednesday and Thursday nights you eat with a psychic (at least I hope that’s what they said) and you’ll be pleased to know they won the city’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2009 and 2010. They’re hoping for a hat-trick.

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Cuisine: Mediterranean,Irish,Bistro

The old Duck & Swan has been not so much tarted up as tarted down to a cosy chic look, all light wood and big windows, and renamed The Duck Inn. Behind the big bar is a long dining room serving comfortable food in a friendly fashion. A chicken liver parfait with cornichons, caramelised onions and brioche $14 was just what the heart doctor ordered. Also good was the rump of lamb with couscous, toasted almonds, sultana and yoghurt dressing, the lamb pink in the middle, crunchy and salty on the edges. We could have had one of four good-looking desserts but no room. It’s not a gastropub — the food’s not out there enough — but we wish it was nearby so we could just duck in.

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