The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit in Ireland over the past two years. Restaurants have had to close their doors, cope with staffing shortages, and branch out to create outdoor seating areas, coffee hatches and even food trucks.

In 2022, we all want to do our best to support local eateries, but it can be tricky to know where to go. Even in the best of times, it could be a struggle to find out a mid-week date spot that wouldn't break the bank or a Sunday brunch that was central enough for all the gals.

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Thankfully, food blogger and cookbook author Nicola Halloran (aka The Wonky Spatula) has stepped in to help us with our social diaries. With her new Instagram page, Dublin Plates, she is providing tips for dining out in Dublin and an incredible Google Doc that lists a heap of restaurants along with a price guide and handy notes.

For example, if you're looking for looking for a bite to eat before heading to the Aviva, you may enjoy Asador; if you want a cocktail with friends before heading out for the night (when restrictions allow), you should check out Fika in Bray; or if you're looking to splash out on a special date night, Bresson in Monkstown may be the ticket.

We caught up with Nicola to find out more about her impressive project.

How did the idea for Dublin Plates come about?
When hospitality began to open up again during the summer, I found myself naturally making lists of places that I wanted to return to or visit for the first time. At the same time, I also found myself giving lots of recommendations to friends and family so I decided to start compiling a central list.

The idea to flesh out the detail and open it up to the public was really to be able to support the industry in some shape or form. We have so many amazing restaurants that deserve to be celebrated and with so much uncertainty on such an on-going basis, anything we can do to support be it big or small is sure to be appreciated.

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Is this free for anyone to access? What makes this project worthwhile to you?
The list is totally free, no strings attached. You can access it via Google Sheets - I especially like how it appears on the app on my phone as you can easily browse on the move.

You can go on and filter by location, cuisine, rating - you name it! For example, if you wanted to see all restaurants in Dublin 2 you simply select from the location filter. From there you can then filter down further, for example, if you were in the mood for bites & cocktails.

What makes it worthwhile to me? Being about to contribute in a small way to helping the hospitality industry get back on its feet, and hear from people who try delicious new places too!

How do you decide which restaurants make the cut?
At the moment I've included a list of places I have been to recently, easily 95% of which have been during Covid times. It's important for me that the list is up to date and relevant.

Of the very small percent that were pre-Covid, they were iconic places that I just had to include such as The Greenhouse. I'm really interested to see where they go next and as it was honestly one of the best meals of my life I couldn't write the list without it.

You'll see the future hit-list tab, which lists places that are soon to be added. These are a mix of places that I've either been recommended to try or have extensively stalked on Instagram!

I would love, over time, for users of the list to share their recommendations with me too so that we can create a really lovely community of food lovers.

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How does the rating system work?
The ratings are all my own opinions based on my experience of each location, I take a number of things into consideration, such as the price (value for money), location, venue, atmosphere, food, and overall experience to arrive at my score.

It's also worth noting that the ratings are based on the categories so you could have a 10/10 for a burrito joint and a 10/10 for a fine dining tasting menu - both of which excel in their own niche but would be vastly different experiences.

I've made a conscious decision that if I arrive at a rating of five or less they won't make the list - I want it to be a positive place for people to get inspiration. Of course, I will share my feedback with the venue privately so that they can learn and address it. and will gladly consider returning to see if my feelings change as I do believe things can happen on the day and everyone deserves a second chance.

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Anything surprise you about the restaurants in Dublin?
I adore the pace at which the Irish food scene is evolving, you could go out every night for a year and not eat the same meal twice.

For me, a really interesting one to watch is the pace at which burger and sandwich offerings are popping up, it feels like a total 180 from three or four years ago when it was salad bar season - and I'm not complaining in the slightest!

any tips for people dining during Covid?
Definitely, I would encourage everyone to make bookings and call in advance as there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, particularly where some restaurants have taken extended Christmas breaks.

How often will you be updating the Google Doc?
Weekly, if I can! Currently, I have 88 restaurants on the list and another handful that I have ready to add. Then the plan from there is to tick off the hit list one by one.

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What are your favourite gems at the moment?
A stand out meal of late has to be Pichet, we were there a few weeks ago and it was absolutely flawless from start to finish; Harry Quinn is doing a stellar job and the floor staff we so lovely, as always. We really were treated like royalty.

Alongside this, I have to say hot on my list is Bastible. We did the dinner box a little while ago and I am dying to get back in for an in-person feed.

I'm also not behind the door in sharing my love for a good burger or sandwich - Hush Rathmines is the place to go for both. I had the opportunity to collab with them on a charity sandwich in the summer so got a feel for what goes on behind the scenes too. it's a great place and definitely one to watch for 2022 as they release more of their test-kitchen creations.