Lizzie Gore-Grimes gets you in the mood for a proper night out with her pick of the best places for eats and beats.
Luna has finally landed (formerly SMS pop-down) and she's looking swankier than ever with moody lighting, sink-in-soft leather booths and a 'swelegant? 1950s Italian American feel. The menu plays into the mood perfectly with a simple approach - amazing steak, a selection of fresh seafood, homemade pasta and some inspired sides. The majority of the meats are cooked on the charcoal grill (as they await a proper electricity supply to fit their full convection kitchen) and the results are eye-rollingly tasty. Go for the osso bucco bomb with soft polenta (to share), the hanger steak with creamed spinach or the homemade pasta with ragu and parmesan capelletti and you won't be sorry. Executive chef Karl Whelan is working his magic in the kitchen and has recruited young chef Hugh Higgins (formerly of Forest Avenue) to the team so skill levels in the kitchen are running at max. While front of house is headed by Declan Maxwell (after 16 years with Chapter One). To drink they serve a mean spritz and will be whipping up stiff martinis, negronis and other amped up libations as soon as the full liqueur licence kicks in. The atmosphere is super-charged, slinky and sultry so dress to impress. In fact, go in full black tie, why not, the wait staff are.?They are now also offering up the venue for private hire to big groups - so plan ahead and nab it for your Christmas party. Open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday. 2-3 Drury Street, Dublin 2. 01 679 9009;
East Side Tavern?
East Side Tavern is seriously high on the hipster factor. All the essentials are there: bearded blokes behind the bar, interesting selection of craft beer, distressed timber and plenty of random salvaged stuff. But there is much more to this gastro-bar than good looks and a great soundtrack. Apart from the mesmerising slope of backlit bottles behind the bar (featuring over 250 different whiskeys and craft spirits), the trump card here is in the kitchen. Namely chef Niall O?Sullivan, former head chef at Isabel's and co-founder of foraging collective Nadur. Those familiar with Niall's signature 'duck ham? dish will be delighted to see he's brought it with him to EST. If you're wondering what's that? Then you'll just have to go along and try it for yourself. This talented chef loves to experiment with fermenting and curing and the results are intriguing. He also has a way with vegetables ??his salt baked beetroots with Wicklow buttermilk are a triumph of simplicity and perfection. Also not to be missed are the pig's head croquette and slow cooked beef cheek. With hunger abated you can now turn your attentions to that mesmerising bar. East Side Tavern, 104-105 Leeson Street Lower, Dublin 2. 01 678 9529;
Xico is the latest puppy in Alan Clancy's stable of Dublin nightspots and restaurants (including House, 37 Dawson Street, Meet & Meat and more) and it's a feisty one. They have it tagged as a Mexican dive bar and that's pretty spot on thanks to the basement location and distressed, dimly lit interior. The designers based the look and feel of the place on La Bodega Negra in London with a dose of Mexican rave mixed in. If you're looking for somewhere to party with pals into the wee hours this is definitely the place to come. But aside from the high-octane cocktails they also serve seriously tasty food (the folk at 777 consulted on the menu). After a few bracing Mayahuels (Tequila, Angostuura bitters, agave) we devoured our rounds of crispy soft shell crab taquitos (with avocado and chipotle aioli); Salmon tartare tostados (with coriander, shallots and horseradish crema); Incan salad (loaded with quinoa, fresh mint, goats cheese and diced tomato and cucumber) and platos of zingy tuna ceviche. Before the table was cleared, lights were dimmed and the revels were roused. Xico, 143 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin2.