Looking forward to 2019 made us realise how many great dishes we indulged in during 2018. Here, Jordan Mooney talks about the best things she ate last year, both in Ireland and across the pond.

In 2018, I tried totally new foods and went to several of my bucket list foodie locations, so all in all, it was a pretty good year for my tastebuds! When I decided to write a list of the best things I ate, it took me ages to actually narrow down what I’d loved throughout the year as I had tried so many amazing dishes.

Owing to my background as a chef, I love to see food that experiments with wild flavours, innovative techniques and exciting presentation, but I’m also a firm believer that even the simplest things when done well can surprise you. My best dishes of 2018 were a total mix of high-end dining, casual grub and everything in between, but I can tell you that each and every dish was absolutely delicious!

Monkfish, burnt butter, cauliflower, hazelnuts and aioli from Kai in Galway

Kai was one of my bucket list restaurants; I’d been dying to visit the Galway restaurant for so long, but for some reason or another, I’d never made it to the West to actually try it. Instead, I just religiously checked Jess Murphy’s Instagram page to keep up with the drool-worthy food being served from the Kai kitchen.

When I finally did make it to Kai, the menu was so good that it was hard to order, but I eventually decided on the monkfish – and I was so glad I did. With perfectly cooked fish resting on a silky smooth aioli, accompanied by golden roasted cauliflower and crunchy hazelnuts, this dish was a true joy to eat. I’m so glad I finally made it to Kai, as this was easily the best dish I ate last year! If you haven’t been, you need to head there ASAP!

Monkfish from Kai

Monkfish from Kai

PBJ toastie from The Harbour Bar Toastie Festival, Bray

Over 4,000 people arrived at The Harbour Bar Toastie Festival in 2017 looking for a sambo so I didn’t even manage to make it through the door, but I was luckier in 2018 and managed to visit TWICE (to make up for 2017 of course).

The clear winner, in my opinion, was the PBJ toastie. Even though I’m a sucker for anything peanut butter related, this toastie was really balanced, with just the right amount of sweetness from the strawberry chilli jam alongside the saltiness of peanut butter, The Harbour Bar house cheese blend and crispy pancetta. This sambo was so good that I already can’t wait for the 2019 festival. I have my fingers crossed that the PBJ makes another appearance!

Bottomless brunch at Cleaver East, Temple Bar

I am 100% a brunch gal; if you ever ask me what my weekend plans are, nine times out of ten, my response will be ‘brunch club with my friends’. This year for my birthday, I rounded up the gang and we headed to bottomless brunch in Cleaver East, which I’d heard was always a solid choice.

There was something to suit everyone on the menu and for €40 each, we had two courses with bottomless mimosas or bellinis, which was great value. I had the truffle mushrooms with whipped ricotta and a fried egg on toast to start and the garlic and bacon fried potatoes for my main, but most of my friends went with the fried chicken and waffles or the massive Hereford burger and none of us were disappointed. It was a great way to spend an afternoon and as we all enjoyed ourselves, I’m thinking of making Cleaver East’s bottomless brunch a yearly event to celebrate my birthday.

Mushrooms with whipped ricotta from Cleaver East

Mushrooms with whipped ricotta from Cleaver East

La Cartelua arepa from Arepazo Bros at Camden Market, London

An arepa is fried Venezuelan cornbread, fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside and kind of similar to pita bread, in the sense that you can slice them open and fill them up. This arepa contained shredded chicken, fried plantain, avocado and melted cheese and it was so good that I had it twice in my four day trip across the pond. I seriously cannot recommend this dish enough – ask any of my friends who’ve gone to London, as I’ve annoyed them all to try an arepa while they were there and they’ve all loved it!

La Cartelua arepa

La Cartelua arepa

Creamy mushrooms with streaky bacon, a fried egg and pesto from The Pigeon House, Delgany

As I said, brunch is my thing! This dish was so good that I’ve had it several times from The Pigeon House and it has gotten better each time if that’s possible. Easily the best part of this dish is the egg; the bottom is fried till it’s super crispy, but the yolk is still nice and runny, which is the way all eggs should be served in my opinion. I've heard that mushrooms on toast are going to be 2019's avocado on toast, so get ahead of the curve and try them now!

Creamy mushrooms from The Pigeon House

Creamy mushrooms from The Pigeon House

BuJo Burger from BuJo, Sandymount

I am a die-hard Bunsen burger fan and I never thought I’d find another burger as good as theirs. However BuJo’s burgers are truly amazing and they definitely equal Bunsen’s (they might even surpass them, but don’t tell anyone I said that!). When I visited, I was super impressed with the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability, their Americana-style decor and the seasoning shakers that allow you to customise your chips, but it’s obviously the burger that is the standout. With its extreme juiciness, perfect cooking and perfect seasoning, this burger is one of the best I’ve ever had.

BuJo burger with cheese and bacon

BuJo burger with cheese and bacon

Hot chocolate with handmade torched marshmallow from Chin Chin Labs, London

While Chin Chin is best known for its ice cream (the burnt butter caramel with chocolate crack and caramelised white chocolate chunks very nearly made it onto this list!), it was the signature hot chocolate that impressed me most. Made with super-rich 70% Valhrona chocolate, there’s nothing better to warm you up on a cold day in Camden Market. I opted for the version with handmade marshmallow, which is slathered on top and torched in front of you. While this insta-worthy drink is delicious, it’s really rich so you’re better off sharing a cup – that way you can make room for the fab nitro ice cream too!

Belted Galloway steak at FX Buckley Steakhouse, Dublin

There’s something to be said about an FX Buckley steak, but I could specifically write volumes about the Galloway steak I had at the Pembroke Street location. Perfectly cooked and tender, this beef was unlike any other I’d ever tasted; there was a definite butteriness to it alongside herbaceous, savoury flavours. Aged for a minimum of 28 days, these steaks are truly something else.

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Belted Galloway is on the menu again. Our Belted Galloway is from the Oinri Jackson Brittas Estate, Nobber, Co Meath. Former Home of Captain Bligh no less. Belted Galloway is primarily raised for their quality marbled beef although they are sometimes purchased to adorn the fields of farms due to their striking appearance. This is a lean and tasty meat and we have it on the menu for the next week at our restaurants. #Steak #Dublin #Meat #lovemeat #Irish #Ireland #Irishfood #Steakhouse #beef #dryaged  #LoveDublin #LovinDublin #Travel #SundayRoast #huffpostfood #lovinDublin #Dubliners #VisitDublin #Foodie #wine #cocktails #Irish #Food #Foodie #meatheaven #buzzfeast #irishfoodblogger

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Patatas bravas from Cava Bodega, Galway

Even though they can probably be found on every tapas menu in the world, it was the patatas bravas from JP McMahon’s Cava Bodega that impressed me the most during my visit. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and super fluffy, but it was the sauce that was the best part: not claggy or too tomatoey, this bravas sauce was light and fragrant, with an aioli-like consistency. Even though I sampled several amazing dishes, like the ridiculously flavourful turf smoked salmon, it’s the patatas bravas that would bring me back to this Galway eatery.

Cava Bodega patatas bravas

Cava Bodega patatas bravas

Slow roasted carrots from Hey Donna, Dublin

I was heartbroken when Hey Donna closed in December as I had only tried their slow roasted carrots for the first time that week. The waiter told me that they had been slow roasted in their skins, before being served with toasted hazelnuts. Even though I had ordered a sharing platter that included lamb, chicken and beef, it was this veggie side that stole the show and I have been dreaming about them since my first bite. Fingers crossed that the Jo’Burger Group is brought back to life soon with these carrots at centre stage!

Hey Donna slow roasted carrots, credit: Tripadvisor

Hey Donna slow roasted carrots, credit: Tripadvisor

What was the best thing you ate in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.