The best Dublin restaurants I tried in 2015
Dublin restaurants, how I love you so... I am a big – nay, huge, fan – of eating out or, at least, I was before I began my "lifestyle change" and started to eschew all forms of fattening, and joy. (I kid, I kid – it's been swell. I swear.) In the past nine weeks, I've lost two stone, entirely changed my attitude to food, and gone from eating out around four times a week, to a single cheat meal – and otherwise choosing the healthy options. What these changes have done, aside from the weightloss factor, is given me a whole new perspective on eating out. I won't go for lunch somewhere I "kind of" like any more; in order for me to spend my money and my macros, that cafe had better be seriously damn delicious. It's also made me really discerning about my cheats; if I'm cheating, I'm choosing the very best cheat possible – and I'm going all out while I'm at it.
With that in mind, I wanted to do a round-up of the best places I've eaten in Dublin for a variety of meals – you'll see that brunch features fairly heavily, as do meat and, oh yeah, black coffee. I'm not a restaurant reviewer, and I haven't been to every joint in town, so this list is not exhaustive – but every restaurant you're about to see featured comes highly recommended by this 30-something woman who really loves food.
For kitsch breakfast... The Bakehouse
The Bakehouse is the cutesy Bachelor's Walk cafe with the pink picket fence and (I'm told) the best pancakes in town. I've gone there for seriously good post-training breakfast of spinach and mushroom omelette. My favourite part of the whole experience? The waitress was so beyond lovely when she was answering my irritating questions: "Is there sugar in that?" "Can I get that without the goat's cheese?" "Does this come with extra spinach?"
It might seem like it goes without saying, but wait staff are not always so patient – on some occasions, I've been lucky to come away with just an eye roll and a sarcastic cough! The cupcakes, if you're into that kind of sugary poison, look delish too.
For coffee and catch-ups... The Considered Café
This is such a weird one because, really, I shouldn't like it. Owned by Dunnes Stores, the Considered Café on Drury St is a sort of hybrid café-cum-homewares shop selling items from the insanely good Helen James line. When I say "insanely", I'm talking about myself; I threw a serious temper tantrum the other day when my boyfriend refused to go halves on a set of copper pots that we most definitely do not need (but very definitely do want).
The coffee is top-notch, the seating is communal which I really like (although it won't be to everyone's taste) and the people-watching, if you get a spot by the window, is second to none. Plus, I remember from my pre-#fitfam days, the croissants are perfection.
For date night... Taste at Rustic
Now that we don't eat out every second day, eating out for date night becomes more of an occasion. You know, instead of ambling down to Eddie Rocket's in my ripped jeans, with my pyjama top under my hoody (what? Don't act like you've never done it), I tend to treat a meal out as an excuse to get a little bit dressed up and really relish the occasion.
Taste at Rustic, a relatively new "food experience by Dylan McGrath" (his words) above Rustic Stone on Dublin's South Great George's St, is an "occasion" restaurant. It kind of has everything I really like in a restaurant: good food, great cocktails (again, pre-#fitfam...), interesting flavours and – wanky foodie speak incoming – the chance to really discover things at dinner.
The whole menu is based around the idea of contrasting flavours, and with influences from Japan, South America and Spain, it's a selection you won't find anywhere else. Unless you live with three people who happen to be Japanese, South American and Spanish, and they cook hybrid meals together. But, y'know, what are the chances?
I've been to Taste at Rustic twice this year, and I would have given both meals five stars. It's the kind of restaurant you think about for your birthday dinner, or Valentine's Day. (Cringe, I know.) Oh – and I should mention, it's not cheap. Be warned.
For sandwiches... 147 Deli
Is it very Irish to really relish the thought of a great sandwich, or is that just a human thing? Either way, 147 Deli on Parnell St – a very challenging two blocks from my house, and the one great threat to my dietary progress – is where it's at for sambos. They slow roast their meat on site, sometimes for 24-48 hours, and the flavours really prove the work that goes into them.
My favourites are the Meatball Sub and the BBQ Pork (above) – but the icing on the sandwich cake is the fact that, Thursday through Saturday, they stock doughnuts from Dublin Doughnut Company, so you can have a side of sweet carbs with your savoury carbs. I'm currently allowed to have one cheat meal per week, and in nine cheat meals, three of them have been from 147. That's a commitment, right there.
For Italian... La Dolce Vita
This was one of those accidental finds; I wanted to go to Queen of Tarts for lunch one day, but it was full up – so a friend suggested trying La Dolce Vita, next door. I hate spontaneity so was very much against this plan, but time was against us and in we went... Me, to eat my words – and the most gorgeous Caprese salad I've ever had outside of Italy.
I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that we just don't get tasty tomatoes in Ireland, what with the weather and the travel time and the refrigeration, so this salad – topped with super-creamy mozzarella and a sprinkling of pesto – was a revelation. If I recall correctly, it's also pretty good value, and the service was weird, which added a very authentic, Italian edge. Love.
For Instagram-friendly brunch... The Marker
Full disclosure: I was invited to try Drunch at The Marker Hotel, along with every other blogger in town, but I'll try my best to be super honest about my experience. You with me? Okay.
This was about two weeks into my new life, so I was opting for the healthy choices: a protein burger (basically, a beef burger) with no bun; sweet potato fries; steamed kale and, er, black coffee (as per usual). My boyfriend went for a pulled pork burger with a side of onion rings, and he had a Bloody Mary which, in a really cute touch, the waiter came over and mixed by our table. I love those little interesting moments in restaurants – it makes them really memorable.
My favourite thing about it, I won't lie, is how gorgeous those marble tables are – and, in the super-bright ground-floor restaurant area, Instagramming is a cinch! But my meal was really good, too, especially (bizarrely) the kale, which was buttery and garlicky and delicious. Himself wasn't so blown away with his onion rings, but his burger was really tasty.
For traditional fare... The Vintage Kitchen
The Vintage Kitchen was the location of our work Christmas dinner – and it's one of those places I'd heard loads of good things about (in fact, only good things) but had never been myself. Looking at the menu beforehand, I wasn't too sure, either; would it all be a bit too fussy? Would it all be way too heavy?
My worries (happily) proved to be unfounded; it was one of the best meals I've eaten this year, hands (forks?) down. I went for pork belly in a basil and sweet potato casserole for starters (amazing), followed by roasted lamb shank with treacle gravy and roasted root veg. Not strictly on the #cleaneats menu, but for Christmas, I made a slight exception. (Sorry, I "forgot" to ask for the treacle gravy on the side and then ate it all.)
Portions are massive and everything looked very, very good – apparently they're booked up for weekend tables until the end of February, and I can totally understand why. Another one I'll be returning to ASAP.
For brunch with a twist... The Meeting House
This is another one my fella didn't really like that much; The Meeting House in Temple Bar is a Burmese-influenced restaurant, which basically means its menu is a bit weird. Blueberry pancakes come with coconut soy yoghurt; glazed pork belly is served with two poached eggs and a toasted coconut bun. (If you're anti coconut, steer clear.)
For me, though, that's the draw; it's food you won't get anywhere else, a bit like Taste at Rustic, and the bao (a kind of steamed bun) are so very, very tasty. My fruit salad, too, was delectable – and the coffee was really good, which always helps. Plus, again, it's really Instagrammable. What? I'm shallow when it comes to social media!
For menu options... Mayfield
This one's a little out of town – Mayfield in Terenure is a café and deli with a small shop attached (selling lovely, overpriced birthday cards, for example) and, due to its proximity to a good friend's house, I've been there loads of times. It serves brunch and dinner from midday every day, and does a seriously good carrot cake too.
I've had the nachos (amazing), the French toast (made with brioche, my personal fave and so good) and (above) the spinach and feta salad, which I dicked around with and had without feta and with the addition of chicken – and they were incredibly lovely and gracious about it.
It's the kind of place I'd go for brunch and the chats with my girlfriends, and my mum loves it too. Plus, in the summer it's super dog-friendly; Coileán loves it.
For sheer choice... San Lorenzo's
You know those days when you're going for brunch, but you feel like one thing and your friends feel like another? Or, worse, every single one of you wants something different? This is where San Lorenzo's comes into its own. I've gone there for eggs and lobster; I've had jerk chicken tacos (above); I've eaten coco pops French toast (yes, this is a real thing and yes, you have to try it and no, it's not too much); I've opted for steak. This is the restaurant where you can pretty much have exactly what you feel like having – which is kind of a rarity when most places are kind of "themed". You know, like good at eggs but not many other options.
It's a great venue for brunch with a group because it's loud and buzzy and the music is always great. Not so good for? Brunch with mother, or severe hangovers (although the Bellinis – I remember from the past – are top notch).
Three Dublin restaurants I'd like to try...
Aside from return visits to pretty much all of the above, I have a long list of foodie places I'm dying to try out. Here are the top three:
- Aungier Danger – this doughnut joint sells out every single day, which (yes, I'm a sheep) makes me really want to try it. I even had a dream about it one day, so, y'know, I must experience the hype for myself.
- Avenue by Nick Munier – another restaurant that has been shouted about sufficiently to make me seriously convinced I need to go there.
- Chameleon – this is a weird one because it's been open forever, and I keep meaning to go, and I never have. I ate the most delicious meal of my life in an Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam about four years ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. Maybe 2016 will be the year I try to repeat that joy in Temple Bar. Only time will tell!