Crumbs of comfort: Chapter One's Ross Lewis (left)

The country may be mired in the worst recession in living memory, but there is good news at last for some of Ireland's top restaurants, with bookings increasing substantially over the last few weeks.

Ross Lewis, the Michelin-starred chef/proprietor of Dublin restaurant Chapter One, said the industry had started to pick up again recently and he had high hopes for the future.

"We are starting to get a good range of clientele back, including business people who are entertaining and dining again," he said. "It is clear that people are still very conscientious with their money but there has certainly been a boost over the last month or so and there is also a more buoyant atmosphere."

Neven Maguire, the award-winning chef and owner of MacNean's restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan, is completely booked up at weekends for the next six months.

"Demand in the restaurant is incredibly high," said a spokeswoman. "MacNean's is bucking the recessionary trend and it is continuing to grow and expand with Neven currently investing in a new bar area. It is a great source of pride for him and his team that the restaurant is consistently booked up six months in advance."

She also said if the restaurant was to accept reservations for beyond six months, it could easily be booked out for longer.

The former enfant terrible of the Irish dining scene, Dylan McGrath, who recently opened a new venture, Rustic Stone, on Dublin's Aungier Street, is also seeing a surge in bookings. "The amount of people we have coming in is really very high, it is going fantastic," he said. "It has got to the point where I have had to turn business and some customers away, sometimes on a nightly basis, due to demand, which isn't something I am particularly comfortable with."

McGrath, whose previous restaurant Mint is now defunct due to the economic downturn, said customers were deciding to eat out again as there were more budget-conscious offers available than ever before.

"The customer wants value for his or her money, but still the same superb quality. We have adapted and we are seeing more customers return now. It is a very different climate this time around, but the atmosphere is very good."