Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan's top al fresco seafood restaurants
If you’re looking for the top spots around the country to eat seafood and other myriad delights in the open air here is the quintessential guide to doing just that...
Maybe it’s all in the mind but, somehow, I think food tastes better when you dine al fresco, and even better again if it’s eaten al fresco by the sea. And, no, I am not so naive as to think that the pristine white crabmeat on the plate definitely arrived into the kitchen via “our own” or the “local” trawler.
Somehow, though, that shellfish platter winking up at you seems to ooze the freshness of the ocean, with even a whiff of salt in the air.
So, whether you are heading out along the east coast by Dart, or around the country by car, where are you going to get that bite and the wind in your face?
When I was a kid, we went to Howth to buy fish. Nowadays, there are many restaurants along the pier. The Brass Monkey, see www.brassmonkey.ie, is one of them, and it has an extensive range of tapas and other dishes. Look out for gazpacho, smokies and their hot seafood platter.
At the end of the pier, in the old Howth Yacht Club, is Aqua, see www.aqua.ie, where you feel as if you are actually sitting out on the water. Mark Anderson, who is the new head chef, has worked alongside Gordon Ramsay.
Check out the Cambodian-style smoked mackerel, whole Dover sole on the bone, and the lobster and crayfish salad.
Donabate has the Waterside House Hotel, see www.watersidehousehotel.ie, which is right on the beach. On the Sea View Terrace, you can enjoy bistro dishes such as calamari, or fishcake in Japanese crumb.
In my own neck of the woods, Monkstown-on-Sea, there are a number of options for al fresco supping and sipping. Seapoint, a bar & grill on The Crescent, see www.seapointrestaurant.ie, does high-end casual food, and has a chic courtyard area with awnings and rugs. I rather like their pan-seared scallops with a black-pudding potato cake and red pepper; they also do a great burger.
Farther along The Crescent, the Cafe du Journal, see www.cafedujournal.ie, is very popular for all-day dining.
In Sandycove, Co Dublin, both Cavistons Seafood Restaurant, see www.cavistons.com, and 64 Wine, see www.64wine.ie, have that ‘by the seaside’ feel, as does the new Mermaid Restaurant, a steak and seafood house on Coliemore Road in Dalkey, where lobster is a regular speciality. See www.themermaiddalkey.com.
On Bray’s wonderful Victorian seafront, situated over the National Sea Life Centre, is Barracuda Steak & Seafood Restaurant, see www.barracuda.ie. It has a terrace and unparalleled sea views. It offers an extensive range of food all day.
Also in Bray, the kids will love the nearby Italian Gelateria — see www.facebook.com/gelateria.seafront — which makes the most amazing ice cream. It has outside seating.
Greystones, in Co Wicklow, has a number of eateries on Church Road with outdoor-dining facilities, including A Caviston, where you will always get great seafood, see www.facebook.com/acaviston; and, next door, you’ll find the brilliant Happy Pear, see www.thehappypear.ie, which is a natural-food market and eatery.
Further down the street, beside the Dart station, Vinos Restaurant & Cafe does all-day great Mediterranean-style food, including a €10 kids’ meal, see www.vinosrestaurant.ie.
Brittas Bay, in Co Wicklow, is the hot destination beach for sunseekers. A great addition is the cute Bay Cafe at Ballinacarrig, which has outside tables, see www.facebook.com/TheBayCafeBrittas. I love their healthy breakfast, which incorporates Greek yoghurt with fruit, honey and millet seeds; as well as their poached eggs, crispy bacon and mixed leaves. They have a lovely children’s menu — and great cakes!
At the Lobster Pot at Carne, Co Wexford, see www.lobsterpotwexford.com, I’ve had many a great seafood platter while sitting outside. It is one of the few places you’ll find delicious crispy whitebait with tartare sauce.
In Ardmore, Co Waterford, the pretty White Horses restaurant has a lovely garden where they have just added a cool, vintage-chic garden room with Lloyd Loom sofas. Great seafood and out-of-this-world cakes. See www.facebook.com/pages/White-Horses-Restaurant.
There are two great new gastropubs within a stone’s throw of the beach at Upper Strand in Youghal, Co Cork. Clancy’s Bar & Restaurant, see www.clancysyoughal.com, has an extensive outside-dining area and they do excellent food, from gourmet burgers to great chowders.
Just down the road in Youghal, the new Foley’s Bar & Restaurant have an excellent value menu. Look out for their all-day breakfast, as well as scampi, spiced lamb burgers and steaks. See www.foleysbarandrestaurant.com.
As well as a ground-level al fresco area, Vista Bistro, which faces the marina in Kinsale, has a new first-floor bar and balcony, which smacks of Cannes or Nice. Great casual food here from breakfast through to evening, with tapas, pizza, salads and more. See www.facebook.com/VistaBistro.
In the centre of Kinsale town, the cracking Lemon Leaf Cafe & Food Store also has a courtyard for that perfect glass and a bite.
Also in Kinsale, Martin Shanahan’s Fishy Fishy Cafe has a prominent al fresco dining area where you can see and be seen, while chomping down on great calamari. See www.fishyfishy.ie.
In Co Clare, between Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, the Stonecutters Kitchen is a good family stop-off, with an extensive children’s menu. See
In Doolin, at Hotel Doolin, they grow herbs, vegetables and fruits on site. See www.hoteldoolin.ie.
O’Grady’s on the Pier at Barna, Co Galway, oozes holidays and the sea, and is a great place to chill out over excellent seafood, see www.ogradysonthepier.com
Finally, on the seafront at Enniscrone, Co Sligo, the Waterfront House is literally that, offering al fresco dining out front, with an eclectic menu. See www.waterfronthouse.ie.
Don’t forget to pack the suncream!