There is a time and place for adventurous eating, chasing down the latest opening or queuing for the new hot spot. But then there are nights when you’re just looking for a really great restaurant — good atmosphere, great food and overall, a nice time. That’s where these stalwarts come in. Reliable without being boring, these ten places are some of my most recommended restaurants in Dublin — tried and tested dinner spots, that for me, always deliver.
Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2
Etto is the critics darling, they’ve even been name-checked by Nigella Lawson and Ottolenghi and with good reason. In a chic, compact dining room they serve a pared back, Italian leaning menu which usually features grilled fish, pasta or risotto and something meaty. The sharing Cotes du Boeuf with perfect roast spuds for dipping in the accompanying bowl of Bernaise is a must. There are also excellent wines by the glass and carafe and make sure to try their famous dessert of red wine prunes with vanilla mascarpone (it’s Nigellas favourite).
Piglet Wine Bar, 5 Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
Instantly add a bit of amore to your evening in this tiny, sometimes chaotic, Italian wine bar that oozes charm and has one of the finest and fun wine lists in the city. The changing menu has something for everyone. Local suppliers and seasonal foods are the order of the day with simple suppers and small plates, which lends itself well to snacking and sharing. It works just as well for date night or livelier catch ups. On weekends, smouldering live music fills the cosy gallery seats and outdoor terrace.
Locks, 1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin 8
The version of fine dining that Locks delivers is probably my favourite in the city. The stylish, canal-side dining room feels like an elevated local with an impressive food offering. There’s all manner of options menu wise throughout the week, small refined plates such as ham croquettes, duck hearts, cod brandade soft boiled eggs and masterpiece mains that deliver on presentation & flavour. Push the budget and get the matching wines and a tasting menu for a really wow evening.
The Legal Eagle, 1-2 Chancery Place, Dublin 7
The Legal Eagle has been a wonderful addition to the Dublin dining scene — it ticks so many boxes. Inside the smartly restored pub, they serve an extensive menu celebrating Irish food with a plethora of options for lunch, dinner and the rest. There is lots of seafood, meat platters, daily-changing roast-in-a-roll and the brilliant Irish potato flatbreads with toppings like bacon & cabbage or oxtail, truffle & turnip. Drinks include twenty craft beers, classic cocktails and a wine list to match the extent of the food. And did I mention the bar snacks? Pickled eggs, pork scratchings and homemade crisps are all on hand for the ultimate pub experience.
Delahunt, 39 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2
This effortless & cool contemporary Irish restaurant is a design lover’s dream, from the impeccably restored Victorian interiors to the chic sitting room cocktail bar upstairs. Then there’s the food — an always interesting menu full of local, seasonal goodness woven with old school classics. Think home smoked salmon on Guinness bread, treacle pudding and plenty of game dishes when it’s around. Make time to visit the delightful cocktail bar upstairs before or after your dinner and if there’s just two of you, get your booking in early for their coveted 2 seater window table.
Mr. Fox, 38 Parnell Sq. West, Dublin 1
For informal fine dining in dapper surrounds, Mr Fox will deliver. The menu, as the name may suggest, features plenty of brave, bold meaty plates like beef cheek, venison and pheasant but there is also a dedicated vegetarian menu. It’s an absolute must for nostalgic dessert lovers with palate pleasers like homemade ‘Iceberger’, the Clementine Super Split and delightful walnut whips. A cunning spot indeed.
Uno Mas, 6 Aungier Street , Dublin 2
One of the most hotly anticipated restaurant openings of last year was Uno Mas. Brought to you by the team behind Etto they have managed to create similar vibes in that it is stylish, simple and became an instant favourite of foodies around town. Expect a well-executed menu from chef Paul McNamara (Ettto, Locks) with Spanish leanings including Iberico pork, roast octopus and a perfectly wobbly flan. The wide and approachable wine list is a joy to work through.
Chameleon, 1 Fownes Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
This is a restaurant that’s been open 25 years and still features on every ‘best’ and ‘top’ list in town, so you know they are doing something right. Tucked away on a cobbled Temple Bar street, Chameleon’s twinkly lights and cushiony surrounds are bound to set the right mood for any dinner. An extensive, aromatic Asian tapas list and a brilliant choice of set menus mean ordering is easy — plus, they cater for veggies, vegans and the rest. It works great for groups, they have wine on tap and a fun cocktail list to work through.
The Pig’s Ear, 4 Nassau St, Dublin 2
Faultless cooking and spot-on sourcing always make for an impressive dining experience at The Pig’s Ear. The name implies there is an emphasis on meat here, and the carnivores will be very happy with Irish beef tartare, bone marrow and Wicklow game, but they also know how to elevate their vegetables. And don’t miss the playful desserts for a dose of delicious nostalgia — the Pig’s Ear coconut snowball arrives in a pink and white candy striped paper bag, ready to be opened to oohs and aahs. The impressive views from the dining room over Trinity are an added bonus.
Pickle, 43 Camden Street, Dublin 2
The unique sourcing and knowledge of spices from Sunil Ghai mean you literally won’t taste anything else like Pickle in Dublin. The focus is on their versions of traditional Indian dishes, offering an extensive and enticing menu and creating much-praised classics along the way. The goat curry, slow-cooked, delicately spiced goat mince served with maska pao, a toasted sweet brioche-like bread, has garnered many fans. And the chaat starter is a must try. No matter what you order, you’ll leave feeling like you need to come back.