December is fast approaching and no doubt diaries are filling up - but what happens when you’re the one tasked with making the dreaded December booking? Picking the date can be hard enough but then it’s finding a spot that suits. It is, without doubt, the busiest month of the year for bars and restaurants and while I can’t guarantee you’re going to get exactly what you wanted (that means booking in August sometimes!) I have collated a few tips that might help and a list of restaurants that might still have space - hopefully this means you won’t go hungry this festive season!
Picking the date
Avoid hundreds of WhatsApp messages you can’t keep track of and use an online poll. There are lots of free resources for this: Doodle and PollsGo are handy for WhatsApp. You pick the date options and then circulate by email or text. Everyone responds with their preference and the most popular date will appear. And then you just have to go with it - remember you can’t please everyone and you will lose your mind trying to.
Picking the venue
Of course, start with your favourites. But don’t just fire off an email - everywhere is filling up, so pick up the phone and call for an instant fix. Some great resources for booking when you are baffled by where you might go are Open Table and ResDiary. Between them, they cover a lot of Dublin restaurants. You simply search by date, time and then location, restaurant or cuisine - if your preferred restaurant is not available, they will offer alternatives.
FINE & FANCY
When you’re looking for something special, Luna can tick all the boxes. They extend their opening hours from December 7th, serving lunch, dinner and on Mondays too. Expect decadent set menus perfect for a glamorous group.
If fine dining is what you're after, this canal-side spot delivers without the fuss that usually comes with fancy fare. An elevated Christmas menu is less turkey and ham and more scallop & venison. One for the food lovers.
This will be a very coveted booking, but worth a try for their menus full of local, seasonal goodness, woven with old-school classics. Group dining menus are available (lunch bookings too), and make sure to book into their chic sitting room cocktail bar upstairs.
A charming venue for a Christmas gathering, Mr Fox is offering good value lunch and dinner set menus, with great meat and veggie options and include their nostalgic desserts.
The Cliff Townhouse is an elegant Georgian dining room and in perfect proximity to Grafton Street. This is one for seafood lovers, with fish-focused menus and for champagne fans, they have an excellent wine menu. They can cater for up to 120 people with festive menus running from November 26th with lunch, dinner and canape options.
The Stephens Green location and the sumptuous interiors at Glover's Alley are made for Christmas parties. Fine dinings fan will enjoy a booking here for a luxury, seasonal 4-course Festive Menu, which includes canapés and petit fours. There are private dining options also.
Right in the centre of town, Pichet is a marvellous choice for lots of reasons but most of all, for its great food, done well. They cater for big and small groups with festive lunch and dinner menus to choose from and some great drinks.
Faultless cooking and spot-on sourcing always make for an impressive dining experience at The Pig's Ear, and their Christmas offering is no different. Enjoy a simple, seasonal menu in the chic and charming wood-floored restaurant. They book up fast, so get on this one.
Casual, Cosy and Craic
Great wines are just as much a part of Christmas as the cuisine. Head to this Italian wine bar that oozes charm and has one of the finest and most fun wine lists in the city. An escape from the set menus, you can order simple dishes and small plates, which are perfect for snacking and sharing.
This bustling street food market has had a Christmas makeover and is open from November 22nd - covered, heated and full of hygge. They cater for groups of all sizes, you can pre-order fondue from Meltdown and there’s festive specials from all vendors, including favourites The Big Blue Bus pizza and Box Burger.
Hey Donna is a bold, creative take on an all-day canteen with Middle Eastern slant and a welcomed vegetable focus. They take bookings but you can also be lucky with a walk-in. The menu is made for sharing so it’s the place to go with good friends. Plenty of great cocktails and wine on offer too.
Tucked away on a cobbled Temple Bar street, Chameleon’s twinkly lighting and cushy surrounds seem perfect for a Christmas get-together. What’s even more perfect is their extensive, aromatic Asian tapas menu and a choice of set menus, meaning easy ordering. They also cater for veggies, vegans and the rest.
Anywhere with pizza, pasta, great wines and cocktails on the menu is bound to be a crowd pleaser, Osteria Lucio happens to be excellent at all of the above to boot. Given their proximity to Silicon Docks, they are always busy with bookings, but it’s worth picking up the phone to try and secure a spot here.
There are plenty of options on Capel Street for tasty, casual food but Arisu is especially great for groups. Dishes are packed with flavour, there’s plenty to choose from and the Korean BBQ is great fun. The meat arrives raw and is cooked on a grill built into your table, then you build your own bites with crunchy lettuce shells and scoops of kimchi.
Anyone who likes a good night out knows Ukiyo does it well. They do group deals which are a no-brainer and take the hassle out of organising. Sharing dishes, tasty cocktails and karaoke in your own dedicated room with a playlist of 40,000 songs - what’s not to love?
Head to this uber-hip Francis Street bar for Christmas with a twist, with a BYOB cocktail bar and Christmas buffet menu options.
For turkey with a twist, check out Fowl Play where all their free range meats are cooked over live fire, including their specially sourced bronze turkeys. With a great list of drinks from the adjoining Square Ball, this a great option for a fun and casual Christmas catch up.
The new kid on the Temple Bar block, but it’s from the team that run The Sussex Restaurant on Leeson Street and they’ve definitely thrown a few Christmas shindigs there. Crow Street does comfort food well and the menu has wide appeal along with some superb cocktails.
Great for Groups & Gatherings
Slick surrounds, excellent cocktails and waterside setting make for a great party venue. Charlotte Quay are also going great value set menus and canape and bowl food party options with in house entertainment on Thursday and Friday nights.
The hotly anticipated Shelbourne Social is due to open its doors on November 30th but bookings are already live and filling up fast. It’s the latest opening from Dylan McGrath and the team behind Fade Street Social, Rustic Stone, Bonsai Bar, Taste and Brasserie Sixty6. They say to expect a ‘modern restaurant offering, with a relaxed and informal style of dining’
I recommend this spot for so many occasions and they seem to have it sorted for Christmas too - serving food and a Christmas set menu from 12 midday until 10.30 pm in their cosy bar, dining room and with some private dining options. Plenty of drinks to choose from too - cocktails, craft beers and a stellar wine list.
This bar & restaurant is the place for the gang who likes to catch up over good food. Perfect food for group dining with something for everyone, well-balanced cooking and downright tasty dishes. They have Christmas lunch and dinner set menu options.
Ely Wine Bar is perfect for smaller bookings offering festive menus for lunch and dinner, from the 19th of November. They have a private dining room for 30 also. Ely CHQ can cater for up to 250 guests for drinks and canapes and they have sit-down festive menus also.
With five locations around town and a great reputation for group dining, it’s worth looking at FX Buckley's. Their Christmas menus are pared-down versions of what’s on offer, still with something for everyone and there’s a considerable drinks list of good wines and cocktails.
Located in the historic CHQ building, this smart-casual restaurant is well suited to intimate small tables, social gatherings or larger groups, with a capacity of up to 250 people. There is also a very well equipped bar with over 200 beers and plenty of cocktails to keep the party going.
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