There’s a lot to like about Dublin’s food scene. But you’ll just need to put up with the fold-out Ikea tables and chairs for little bit longer. While a few of the casual dining crowd have bitten the dust in recent years, there remains a deluge of quirky and interesting places to help make a trip south, aside from the high-profile Michelin-starred eateries which have helped put the city’s food credentials on the map.
There’s definitely a different atmosphere at the moment with the restrictions around indoor dining. It’s positively fuelled by the unseasonably boiling temperatures — bringing people out on to the streets, especially around areas such as South William Street and Capel Street, where many of the bars and restaurants have packed as many tables and chairs as possible outside to avail of the weather and custom.
One of the jewels in the Dublin craft beer scene, Galway Bay’s Black Sheep on Capel Street, is a good start for a decent brew, and something simple to fuel a few hours ahead.
Go for the double IPA, Foam and Fury — also available in its sister pub Northern Lights in Belfast — but watch it, given the 8.5% ABV. A serving of punchy buttermilk chicken, tangy hot wings, and very crisp sweet potato fries is a solid start.
A lunch or dinner option, L’Gueuleton on Fade Street, offers up a host of well-executed French classics, and big flavours.
The truffle and parmesan fries put almost any I’ve had closer to home to shame. A perfect thickness, rich, brown and deckled, salty, and crisp. Stick them on the list.
A beef tartare is all clean, mineral beef, punctuated by fresh herbs, punchy wasabi mayo, along with the crispness from thin matchstick potatoes — it’s great with the fries, too.
Scallops with melon salsa, Jerusalem artichoke puree, and hazelnuts are a marriage of the soft, subtle taste of the ocean and flavours of the woods — nutty and unctuous.
Taking a touch of the East with them, the duck croquettes — topped with a plum sauce — are moist with a crunchy exterior, making way for a soft rillette filling. A success all round.
Close by is Loose Cannon, focusing on natural wines, Irish cheese and decent toasties. A glass of ‘È Orange’ orange wine is bright, fresh and funky, with Brett character and hints of something akin to a Breton cider.
A decent walk along the Liffey towards the docks will help burn off the Gallic lunch in the baking heat (I can’t promise the weather will be this favourable when you visit) and you’ll find the behemoth of BrewDog Outpost. It’s by a long distance the largest bar in the Scottish brewery’s portfolio I’ve been in, and has ample seating outdoors.
There’s a decent selection of their own brews, as well as some welcome guests from producers such as Cloudwater and Lervig, as well as a chance to try deep fried Oreos. Think doughnut batter coating the chocolate US favourites. They pair well with a big imperial stout.
Not far away, and heading back towards the city centre, is Urban Brewing, located in the CHQ Building.
A series of small plates include Iberico Secreto —served with chilli and herbs, boasting clean, pork flavour, and set off thanks to the char on the fattier parts.
A Lambay lobster dish is a piece of light, clever cooking. Fresh chunks of tail and claw meat cut with acid, herbs and fat from the long piece of well-toasted brioche crostini. A soy-cured tuna dish is also a winner, while fattier pork belly ticks all the right boxes.
For a quick bite, Bunsen remains among the best burgers to be found in the city (and now in Belfast). A menu which couldn’t be simpler, a focus on the meat — cooked pink if that’s your preference — affordable, big on flavour, and consistent.
As an outdoor dinner option, bar, restaurant and karaoke venue Ukiyo serves up a range of modern Asian dishes — although the singing is on hold at present.
Two pieces of tuna sashimi provide a solid start, while okonomiyaki (a puffy Japanese pancake) topped with beef, tonkatsu sauce, cabbage and scallion, is a hearty and rich sharing option. Crisp, deeply-browned Korean fried chicken is a big savoury hug of garlic and ginger.
There are many pub stalwarts in and around the city centre, some opening with outdoors already, some shuttered. Slatterty’s, Grogans and Swan Bar are all currently serving, and worth a visit for a decent pint.