"I fell in love with Dublin," says Ketty Quigley, explaining why she relocated to Ireland from France in 2004. "And I fell in love with an Irish man," she adds with a smile. "What I didn't fall in love with was Irish food."
Thankfully, much has changed during the intervening years. The recession in 2008 closed many of the city's high-end restaurants and those that survived were forced to reinvent themselves. The result was a reinvigorated casual dining scene with a focus on local produce.
Quigley was so impressed that in 2012 she started a food blog called French Foodie in Dublin. Since then, she's been named the SHEmazing! Food Influencer of the Year, has become a judge for the Irish Restaurant Awards and is one of Tourism Ireland's Irish food champions. Not bad for something she started as a side project because she was bored at work.
Fast forward six years and, in between studying for a masters in gastronomy, Quigley now runs walking tours that visit some of her favourite spots in the city.
We start at Wigwam, a curious mishmash of Brazilian rum bar, ping pong venue and specialty coffee maker. It's a good example of the space-sharing arrangements many businesses adopted to survive after the recession. Vice Coffee was started by Tom Stafford after he spent two years living in Melbourne. "The coffee scene in Dublin is blossoming," he says, pouring me a creamy, floral espresso shot made with Brazilian and Ethiopian beans. "We've got lots of great cafes and roasters in the city now."
Our next stop is Camerino, a cute-as-a-button bakery on Capel Street, just north of the River Liffey. Once a seedy montage of sex shops and second-hand stores, this part of the city has become a foodie hotspot thanks to trailblazers such as Camerino and Brother Hubbard, a Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant a few doors down.
Owner Caryna Camerino originally started "stress baking" as a respite from her high-powered job in human resources. However, she got such positive feedback from friends and colleagues that she eventually quit corporate life to open the bakery in 2014. Everything is made fresh on the premises and queues regularly stretch out of the shop for her award-winning raspberry cheesecake brownies and glazed Jewish challah bread. I sample a homemade scone topped with raspberry jam and discover a heavenly pillow of buttery deliciousness. Quigley assures me they're the best in Dublin.
From Camerino, we cross the river and plunge into one of Dublin's most notorious areas – Temple Bar. Famous as a raucous venue for hen and stag parties, this historic cobblestoned neighbourhood is also home to a surprising number of cultural venues plus some unexpectedly good restaurants.
Gallagher's Boxty House is the brainchild of chef and potato fancier Padraic Gallagher. A passionate advocate for traditional Irish food, he's created modern variants of old-fashioned Irish staples such as stews and boxtys (potato pancakes). I try a stew sampler, which includes a traditional beef stew (marinated in stout); an Irish stew with lamb, barley and potato; and a Dublin Coddle. This last concoction is a delicious medley of bacon, pork and black pudding sausage that was allegedly made by Dublin housewives to sober up their husbands when they came home from the pub.
I'm as full as a drum and we still have three more stops to go. I grit my teeth and somehow find room for a scoop of homemade ice-cream flavoured with Dingle sea salt at Murphy's, a pungent slice of washed rind Milleens cheese at Sheridans Cheesemongers and four shots of Irish whiskey at the Celtic Whiskey Shop.
Along the way I also amass numerous recommendations from Quigley, who generously shares many of her favourite bars, restaurants and cafes. I waddle back to my hotel, content in the knowledge that when I eventually wake up hungry again in three days' time, I'll have no shortage of places to try.
Rob McFarland was a guest of Tourism Ireland.
Delicious Dublin Tours run Wednesday to Sunday, last about 3½ hours and cost €60 a person. Private tours are also available on request. See deliciousdublintours.com