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The Millenials are in the restaurant marketplace. Ignore them at your peril, says John McKenna

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Traditionally, a person knew they were getting on in years when the policemen they walked past on the street looked disconcertingly youthful.
That’s bunk, these days.
These days, you know the years are catching up with you when you look around the restaurant where you are having lunch or dinner, and everyone else is younger than you.
Thing is: they won’t just be younger. They will be much, much younger.
Take three Irish restaurants, in three Irish cities.
Here’s the excellent Sooty Olive, in Derry, on a Saturday evening, late in 2017. The place is buzzing, the food is excellent, the service could – and really should, given the creativity of the cooking – be a whole lot better. But, once again, it’s a very fine dinner indeed, and proof that chef Sean Harrigan and his team are real players, and that Derry as a destination for eating and drinking just gets better and better.
But what’s amazing about the Sooty Olive, on a busy Saturday evening, is the fact that the cutomers are so incredibly youthful. Twenty somethings, the lot of them. People who don’t even need to worry about a babysitter, because there’s no baby.
We are, by the length of the Peace Bridge – the oldest people there.
Joe’s + Bros is on Gilabbey Street, in Cork city. This is student land which means, by rights, that it should be dive bars and Subway. 
Even after it was only open a week, J+B was packed, all day long, with students, and young ones, all of them eating classy, smart food, in a funky room with great style.
But students don’t have money for proper food, surely? So why are they all in here? And why are they also getting takeaways from Miyazaki, and black pudding sausage rolls with a flat white from Alchemy? 
Has nobody told these millenials that if they spend their meagre money on good food then they will never be able to afford a house.
Oh. They have been told that. And they don’t care.
They want the avo on toast with feta and mint, no matter what.
Hey Donna is in Rathmines, and before serial restaurateur Joe Macken made it over, it was a Jo’Burger.
Today, it’s Ottolenghi for Millenials. Sharing plates. Cool decor. Med and North African food. Really hip.
And full of young people. Macken calls it an all-day canteen. There isn’t a dish over €20, and only one cocktail crosses the €10 barrier. You can get 375 ml of wine in a carafe for €15.
Macken serves his poached eggs with sumac.
The lesson of these three restaurants, and the lesson of 2017, is simple: a whole new Irish restaurant audience has emerged. Millenials and students want to spend their meagre money on good food, and they want to enjoy it in a good room, whether they are in Derry of Cork or Dublin. 
Catch that millenial audience, and you are catching the newest wave in Irish food.

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