While it’s a wonderfully lush and popular tourist destination, Kerry is very much Old Ireland, a place built on both tourism and farming, and home to the pub lunch, the roast dinner and a great deal of love for the old-school meat-and-two-veg. With the influx of tourists brought to the county by anything from the Ring of Kerry to Other Voices with a stop off at Star Wars, however, the variety of the place has grown, and a genuine effort to meet the needs of vegetarians has settled into the culture.
Here are our favourite spots to grab a meat-free meal, then, in the glorious south-west corner of Ireland.
Manager and co-owner Kevin O’Connor told us of his restaurant, “I am sick of serving stir-fries and pasta with tomato sauce,” and boy, can you tell. With a complex and enticing vegetarian menu, this classy joint in Tralee has a broad selection for vegetarians. Options include an incredible 28-ingredient salad, a spiced red cabbage steak, broccoli and wild mushroom tempura and a goat cheese dish served with a fruit gel selection. They’ve gone big, essentially, and it’s well, well worth a detour to check them out.
Not just a vegetarian restaurant, but an entirely vegetarian hotel, too. The Phoenix Restaurant has a host of gorgeous meat-free specialties, ranging from curries (based on tofu and chickpea) to butternut squash, pasta with herbs from the garden, and a truly sublime afternoon tea. There is a fish option, too, but this is one of those places you really can’t go wrong. They have their own cookbook and cookery classes, and you’ll probably want to get involved. The setting is fantastic, too, as green as its cuisine. Open Easter to September only.
A daytime restaurant in Tralee, Yummy Cafe Market is based on local ingredients, ranging from porridge to soup, via a range of flatbreads and vegan sandwich options. This place is fast-paced compared to most of the other options here, but if it’s quality of food you’re after, it more than holds its own and is distinctly popular locally as a result. Expect healthy, taste-filled dishes ideal for breakfast and lunch on the go and a true taste of what Kerry farms produce.
Hotels are a popular food option in Ireland, especially on weekends, in rural areas and for anything slightly high-end. The Kenmare Bay Hotel ticks all those boxes, and offers some impressive veggie options along the way. The à la carte menu includes a colourful citrus salad, cheese boards, a bright beetroot panna cotta, afternoon tea and a must-try Guinness bread option. It’s not specialist vegetarian, but you’ll have no trouble filling up in a classy-feeling place. If you want to explore the town a little more widely, there’s a popular food trail to uncover, too.
With all the beautiful gourmet stuff farther up in this article, we figured vegetarians might like a bit of throwaway fast food, too, right? The vibrant Dingle Diner is lightly inspired by an American brand of diners and does a fairly similar range, though they are a little better for vegetarians than you might expect. In among the standard burgers and pizza, you’ll find an array of salads, a veggie burger, a soup of the day, nachos, veggie pizza and more different options for fries than you can shake a stick at. Simple, but with plenty to offer.