As a visitor to Dublin, it’s easy to become a pub regular—the city has so many of them that often ‘eating out’ is shorthand for pub grub. But for those shunning the ‘same old, same old’, there are underrated and wide-ranging options here, practically a smorgasbord of cuisines from authentic Asian and east Asian to grilled delights. London may boast the more vibrant scene but Dublin is no spring chicken. A longtime Dubliner compiles a flavour guide for adventurous foodies.
It’s rare to find a barbecue restaurant, and a good one at that. Asador stands out for its smoked meats, fire-roasted seafood, and beautiful terrace. Some days, the restaurant even serves a chateaubriand. There’s also a burger, steak with the option of bone marrow gravy, smoked bearnaise, garlic butter, barbecue sauce, chimichurri and red wine jus, and fish of the day.
Vegetarians needn’t feel out of place at all — the corn on the cob from the sides menu is marvellously roasted and even the chips are exemplary. Both the starters and mains always have at least one vegetarian option, too. Book well in advance.
Victoria House, 1 Haddington Road, Dublin 4, D04 HY58 (012545353). Wednesday 12-9.30 p.m.; Thursday 12-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 12-11 p.m.; Sunday 24 hours. Meal for two €60 (Rs 5,200).
As Blackrock Market comes alive, 3 Leaves opens its doors. Made special by Chef Santosh’s magic in the kitchen and his wife Milie’s warmth, the Michelin guide restaurant serves some of the most revered Indian food in Dublin. Expect vada pav and misal pav that rivals those found on Mumbai’s streets and parathas as soft as your grandmother’s. Chef Santosh’s palak pakora chaat (that miraculously remains crisp even if you bring it home) has created a stir ever since its inception, among both the Irish and expats. More recently, they added gobi manchurian to their menu, which is a reason for lovers of Indian-Chinese food to rejoice. At the moment, 3 Leaves is open for outdoor dining only. The place doesn’t take reservations, so make sure you arrive a few minutes before opening time to secure a table. They serve their signature thalis on weekdays, and street food and biryani over the weekend.
Unit 30, 19A Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, A94 V0D8 (0877691361). Wednesday-Friday 12-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday
12.30-6 p.m. Meal for two €35 (Rs 3,000).
Conveniently located in the heart of Dublin’s shopping district, this supermarket specialises in East Asian tidbits. Pick up frozen gyoza with every filling from pork to vegetable, or bottles of fine sake and plum liqueur. Over ten varieties of fresh seafood — including salmon and prawns — line the multiple freezers. Don’t miss the moist honey sponge cake on display — it’s so soft it could qualify as chiffon cake, even by Pinterest standards.
18 Drury Street, Dublin 2, D02 W017 (016779764). Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Honey sponge cake from €2.50 (Rs 220).
Chain restaurants serving Thai food (such as Camille Thai) are common in the city and will satisfy a hungry patron, but Baan Thai is the place to go to for food that is exquisite. The Ballsbridge outlet has wood-paneled walls, which makes you feel like you’re seated in the dining room of a refurbished Irish castle. Baan Thai’s spicy carrot salad is a clever, addictive take on som tam and the jumbo prawns with tamarind and roast chilli clearly demonstrate the kitchen’s strength. The restaurant also does exciting ice cream flavours such as orange, lemon or coconut, all served in their respective shells.
16 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, D04 E9P7 (016608833). Monday-Thursday 5.30-10.30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 6-11 p.m.; Sunday 5.30-11 p.m.
P, Central Park, Carmanhall and Leopardstown, Dublin, D18 N2W6 (012936996). Daily 4-10 p.m. Meal for two €30 (Rs 2,600).
Big Fan advertises itself as an authentic Chinese restaurant, which it undeniably is, but leaning more towards modern Chinese dishes rather than traditional ones. Considering the small but filling plates, it almost feels like a place for Chinese tapas. When it comes to bao, the ‘Shan Ji’ (filled with a crunchy chicken thigh marinated “Big Fan style”, kimchi and hot Sichuan mayonnaise) is in a league of its own. The ‘lingfen summer wontons’ that come with shiitake miso broth and wood ear mushroom are light and moreish. ‘Xiao chi’ or the street food section is full of tasty small plates; the steamed enoki with garlic and chilli-mushroom sauce is especially good.
16 Aungier St, Dublin 2, D02 X044 (015388886). Monday-Wednesday 4-11.30 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday 2-11.30 p.m. Meal for two €40 (Rs 3,500).
One of the few places with a Michelin star, Chapter One strongly lives up to its reputation. Earlier this year, the restaurant announced its partnership with Mickael Viljanen (former head chef at the Greenhouse, which holds two Michelin stars) and that it is set to reopen as Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, which it has. A simple and elegant basement in Parnell Square lends itself to the restaurant. The menu changes seasonally and includes the best of Irish produce. Chapter One’s pre-theatre sitting is no longer available and will not return. It is definitely more along the lines of a special occasion restaurant rather than a mere food stop so even if you are headed for drinks after your meal, make an event out of it.
18-19 Parnell Square North, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 T3V8 (018732266). Thursday-Saturday 12.30-2 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday 6.30-9.30 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Meal for two with wine from €200 (Rs 17,400).
Las Tapas De Lola’s tapas may be a favourite with Leo Varadkar, but El Celler is even better. The menu is more concise than at other Spanish establishments in Dublin, but the quality is higher and more consistent. Housed in a snuggly basement in Blackrock market, the restaurant is dimly lit, ideal for a date that makes an impression. The ‘escalivada’ (roasted aubergine, red peppers and garlic with olive oil and Maldon salt) is delicate and exceptional. Don’t miss the patatas bravas that come with both aioli and bravas sauce, the padrón peppers, and the ‘paella bomba’ (chorizo, saffron and veg paella deep fried balls) that are similar to arancini. End your meal with stellar churros.
19A Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, A94 C8Y1 (012109148). Tuesday-Thursday 6-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 6 p.m.-late; Sunday 6-9 p.m. Meal for two with wine €60 (Rs 5,200).
Visit Fujiyama for a wholesome Japanese meal with an enviable view of the City Centre. All their sushi is fresh and expertly made, and the gyoza give most gyoza in Dublin serious competition. The chicken katsu curry feels like it’s part of a meal being eaten at a friend’s house: tasty, filling, comforting and comes in a huge portion. A small selection of sake is on the drinks menu and may be served hot or cold. Looking over O’Connell Street while it’s raining outside is a lot more enjoyable with salmon nigiri between your chopsticks and hot sake warming your tongue.
11 O’Connell Street Upper, North City, Dublin (018899975). Daily 12-9 p.m. Meal for two with sake €50 (Rs 4,350).
Boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake, isn’t as ubiquitous as one might expect. It’s found only in a few restaurants in the city, Gallagher’s Boxty House being one of them. Located in the popular Temple Bar area, Gallagher’s is spread over an intimate dining room. The Gaelic boxty, (with pan seared Irish beef fillet, roasted portobello mushrooms, and Irish whiskey pepper cream) is the star of the show. There’s a chicken and vegetarian version, too. Wash your plate of boxty down with one of the draught beers for a fully Irish experience. Besides boxty, the restaurant also does snacks such as ham hock croquettes and goat cheese bon bons.
20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 ET66 (016772762). Monday-Saturday 12-9.30 p.m.; Sunday 3-9.30 p.m. Meal for two with beer €40 (Rs 3,500).
For those fond of al fresco dining, The Shelbourne hotel has one of Dublin’s lovelier terraces. The menu is concise but tempting; it’s hard to stick to just drinks. It’s partial to seafood: choose between oysters, baked prawns or smoked salmon. Pair your nibbles with a glass of champagne, which The Terrace takes great pride in serving. Although understandably pricey, the champagne adds a nice touch to a special occasion. From among the signature cocktails, the ‘Heat em Up’ with Ceder’s Crisp, lime juice, jalapeno agave and fresh orange juice comes with a salt-and-chilli rim and is the best of the lot.
The Shelbourne, 27 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin (016634500). Sunday-Thursday sittings every two hours from 12-6 p.m.; Friday-Saturday sittings every two hours from 12-4 p.m. Meal for two with cocktails €60 (Rs 5,200).
One of Dublin’s many Mediterranean restaurants, Keshk does its genre of food especially well. Classics such as hummus and dolma are hard to go wrong with, as are the feta fritters for starters. It’s possible to choose from a long list of mains, which are all worthy, but their side of spicy potatoes is irresistible: crisp and herby. The restaurant is a short walk from the pubs on Baggot Street so it’s possible to hop over to one right after dinner here. Their baklava is also good and portions are very generous so it’s wise to order frugally. Booking is recommended.
71 Mespil Rd, Dublin 4 (016673002). Monday-Thursday 12-10 p.m.; Friday 12-11 p.m.; Saturday 12.30-11 p.m.; Sunday closed. Meal for two €40 (Rs 3,500).
Little Forest is another gem among many in Blackrock market. The wee Italian restaurant kept patrons satisfied during lockdown by firing up excellent pizzas and offering a click-and-collect service. Irish food critics have raved about Little Forest’s pizzas ever since it opened. The ‘salsiccia picante’ is especially tasty, with crushed tomato, fresh basil, salsiccia picante, scamorza and pickled jalapeno. Other inventive pizza toppings include creamed corn and nduja; broccoli, confit garlic and chilli; chestnut mushroom and taleggio; the marinara (which has no cheese but crushed tomato, oregano, fresh basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil).
57 Main St, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, A94 A2Y0. Tuesday-Saturday 5-9 p.m. Pizza from €12 (Rs 1,000).
A Chinese restaurant with a sincere kitchen and extensive menu, M&L is always full of hungry diners. Its location is excellent — bang in the centre of the city — and its sister venture, a tearoom called The Vintage Teapot, is right opposite. Starting with the crispy aromatic duck and pancakes is always a good idea. Follow it up with a palate-cleansing cold dish such as a cucumber-and-enoki salad. Mains include spicy classics such as malatang and the wok fried beef with fresh chilli and pickled chilli and pepper corn, which goes especially well with plain boiled rice and is a personal favourite.
13-14 Cathedral St, North City, Dublin 2, D01 K8K3 (018748038). Monday-Saturday 11.30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 12-9.50 p.m. Meal for two €30 (Rs 2,600).
A tasteful basement in Parnell Square welcomes diners with a Michelin Guide plaque at the door. In the bar area, cushions have foxes printed on them and a faux taxidermy fox stands under a lone bulb. Mr Fox is close to the City Center and serves modern European cuisine. Before the meal, bread arrives with mushroom-flavoured butter and parmesan cream. Starters usually include seafood paired with ponzu — a dish which is always a hit. The menu changes seasonally but expect all food to be delicately prepared and efficiently served. If you’re lucky, you’ll visit on a day the restaurant is serving their signature clementine sorbet for dessert.
38 Parnell Square West, Rotunda, Dublin (018747778). Tuesday-Saturday 5-11 p.m. Meal for two with wine from €70 (Rs 6,000).
Busy Parnell Street is home to many restaurants and Pho Kim is one that stands out among them. A no-frills place, the food is similar. Besides bowls of comforting pho, refreshing rice paper rolls and crispy Vietnamese pancakes make an appearance on the menu. The delicate rice flour pancakes filled with different kinds of meat and mushroom work as a tasty starter, before you move onto more filling options such as the beef or chicken pho. Be warned: their pho bowls are massive and it takes a hefty appetite to finish one. The restaurant also has a separate vegetarian menu, which is thoughtful.
162 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 F5F3 (018783165). Daily 12-10 p.m. Meal for two €35 (Rs 3,000).
If there’s one cafe that’s Dublin’s darling, it’s Queen of Tarts. The place doesn’t take reservations and is always packed. While the sweet treats are popular, the odd item such as the savoury scone (made with feta and sun-dried tomatoes) is excellent. Spend an afternoon sipping on one of their many tea blends and nibbling on a cinnamon cardamom swirl. Both outlets — Dame Street and Cow’s Lane — maintain quality standards, although Cow’s Lane is the original and more loved one. It’s possible to make a fun day of it, beginning with brunch here and then shopping at some of the boutique stores along Cow’s Lane.
Cow’s Lane, Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 (016334681). Daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.;
Cork Hill, Dame St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 (016707499). Daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pot of tea €3.20 (Rs 300).
A Middle Eastern restaurant with a cult following, Shouk specialises in Iraqi-Israeli fare. The hummus here is close to what you’d find in Israel and the pita is the best in the city. The proprietor, Alon Salman, says that the pita was, in fact, one of the main reasons he decided to open the restaurant. Try the shakshuka on a Sunday for brunch or stick to a classic shawarma. Outdoor tables fill up fast so booking is recommended, especially on a sunny day. Those “in the know” can be seen lazily lugging packs of beer into the courtyard on weekends. Shouk takes special pride in its malabi, a milk and rosewater pudding.
40 Drumcondra Road Lower, Drumcondra, Dublin (015322114). Wednesday-Sunday 12-10 p.m. Meal for two €35 (Rs 3,000).
If there was an award for modern Japanese food and drinks, Soup would win it. Marketed as more of a ramen restaurant, the place also serves refreshing salads, innovative deep-fried kimchi, chargrilled cauliflower, fried chicken, kombucha, and sake cocktails. The ramen menu is standard: diners may choose from chicken, vegetable, vegan or tonkotsu pork with a shio, shoyu, miso, coconut, kimchi or extra hot seasoning. Soup’s ramen bowls are generous and welcome on a typically cold, rainy Dublin day. All except the vegan offerings are topped with a seasoned egg, which is a nice treat. The dessert menu changes every week.
28 George’s Street Lower, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin (0833405846). Tuesday-Sunday 12-11 p.m. Meal for two with drinks €55 (Rs 4,800).
Note: From July 26, 2021, restaurants in Dublin opened themselves for indoor dining but only to those who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19. It is mandatory to present vaccine certificates before dining indoors at any establishment. Everyone is welcome to dine outdoors, including those who are not vaccinated. A recent update from the government has claimed that depending on infection rates, vaccine certificates will not be needed to dine indoors from October 22, 2021 but this may change based on circumstances.
Vritti Bansal is a writer and editor who lives between Dublin and Delhi. She has previously led the Food & Drink sections for Time Out Delhi and India Today Group Digital, and now runs a food website called Binge.