It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, setting you up for whatever lies ahead. If you’re visiting Ireland, your day ahead may well involve exploring beautiful coastlines, uncovering ancient sites and having the craic (fun) with memorable locals, and a great breakfast is the perfect way to fuel your day!
From greasy spoon cafés where you can get a traditional full Irish grill or Ulster fry to trendier eateries specialising in veggie and vegan delights, here’s what's on the menu for breakfast in Ireland...
The Europa Hotel, Belfast
Traditional Irish breakfast
First up, what exactly is in a traditional full Irish breakfast? Drum roll please... sausages, bacon (rashers as we call them), eggs, white AND black pudding (pork and blood sausages, respectively), baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns (potato) and soda bread or toast! That’s a hearty morning meal if ever there was one. Of course, not everybody will like all of these items, and most places will let you pick and choose what you do and don’t want on your plate.
Regional variations do apply. An Ulster fry, for example, is served in Northern Ireland and will include potato farls, a type of potato bread or cake that’s usually pan-fried... and delicious! In fact, an Ulster fry is generally all fried together in the one pan, while in other parts of the island, items are often grilled instead. In Waterford, you might be served a traditional blaa bread, a soft white bread roll that dates back to the 17th century. Along the Wild Atlantic Way, you’re sure to come across other little additions and local takes on the Irish breakfast; it’s part of the fun of ordering it in different places around the island. To accompany the fry, tea and coffee are usually served, along with orange juice.
If you like the sound of this meaty morning feast, then you’ll love Fermanagh’s Black Bacon, a farm-to-fork initiative by a local farmer that involves a “Pig Island” amid the shimmering beauty of the Fermanagh Lakelands.
The Pantry Café, Nenagh, County Tipperary
Tasty breakfast alternatives
Of course, vegans and vegetarians will want alternatives to the traditional Irish fry. Beanhive in Dublin serves up both a vegetarian and vegan Irish breakfast, which replaces the sausages, eggs and bacon for roasted vegetables, baby spinach and a vegan cheese board. In Galway, The Lighthouse Vegetarian Café does a few variations on the classic Irish breakfast, including a full vegan fry and a yummy sounding beans and greens dish. Want more? Check out these vegetarian and vegan places to eat in Ireland, which include a colourful café by the sea in Wicklow and an award-winning bakehouse on the Causeway Coast.
Then you have eggs. All kinds of eggs – boiled, poached, fried, scrambled... we know our way around this farm staple. Usually, they’re served atop various freshly baked breads, including sourdough and soda bread. Most spots do the classics such as eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine and so on, but what elevates these dishes in Ireland is the freshness of the locally sourced produce. To sample our wide variety of such produce for yourself, head to a local farmers’ market and get some produce directly from the source.
Porridge is another staple breakfast in Ireland. This traditional oatmeal recipe involves warming up a mixture of Irish oats and milk until it’s piping hot, then serving it in a bowl with an array of different toppings. Irish honey or sugar is often added for a little sweetness, along with a sprinkling of freshly chopped fruits, such as banana, apple and strawberries. If you’re staying in a hotel or B&B here, you’re bound to see porridge on the menu, and it’s a warm and filling way to start your day.
The Address Connolly, Dublin
Top breakfast spots
So, where are the best places for breakfast in Ireland? In Dublin, Kingfisher on Parnell Street is a popular local spot for a traditional full Irish breakfast. Wuff in the trendy neighbourhood of Stoneybatter also does a very good fry up, as well as a host of other dishes such as crêpes and eggs royale. Queen of Tarts in Temple Bar is the place to go if you’re after something lighter like a freshly baked scone with butter and jam.
Heading to Belfast? Don’t miss these essential Belfast coffee shops to start your day the caffeinated way. Neighbourhood Café is also a great shout in the heart of the artsy Cathedral Quarter. From porridge brûlée to scrambled eggs rāyu, this hip joint takes old favourites and reinvents them in delectable new ways. Causeway Café on the Donegall Road is a well-established eatery that’s long been known for its Ulster fry, but recently they’ve added a vegan breakfast menu, too.
To find more top breakfast spots around the island, Georgina Campbell’s leading independent food and hospitality guide is a good place to start. Recent award-winners in the breakfast category have included Kelly’s Kitchen in Newport, County Mayo, where the fry features homemade bacon, pudding and sausages cooked to perfection. Arán Artisan Bakery and Bistro in Kilkenny is another top spot that won for its all-day brunch menu – why not try their Filipino breakfast sandwich or hygge French toast?