Capital dining — a guide to Dublin's new restaurants

Capital dining — a guide to Dublin's new restaurants

TONY CLAYTON-LEA surveys the top ten new restaurants in Dublin

Alfama restaurant

Alfama, Irwin Court, 39 Dundrum Road, Farranboley, D14

If you’re searching for a restaurant that is more a place of heart and home than virtually untouchable décor and high Instagram visibility, then this Portuguese spot is perfect. Owned by Brazilian/Portuguese couple Edi Nunes and Paulo Miguel, Alfama (so named after the Lisbon district) is compact but bursting with intent and ambition, with menus that are succinct (when we visited, there was no list of choices for dessert) and food that is not only succulent but authentic. Essentially a neighbourhood place of refuge, we will no doubt return to this one again and again.

Big Mike’s, Rock Hill, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

This restaurant is probably the oldest in terms of ‘new’ (it officially opened its doors in October of last year), but it remains here because the quality of food and standard of service hasn’t dipped an iota. First impressions? How smart this place is with its banquette seating, the lighting, the artwork, the clothes. Lasting impressions? The food, overseen by chef/owner Gaz Smith, is a testament to his experience, skills and nous, and doesn’t shy away from the big gestures. Seafood and aged steaks predominate and if you can make your way through the seafood platters then you deserve a medal. No website.

D’Olier Street, D’Olier Chambers

The very first thing we really like about D’Olier Street is not just the original artwork by Dubliner Casey Walshe but the fact that a new restaurant actually tries its best to promote creativity on parallel levels. Such an approach seeps into the food, which is presented via a 12-course tasting menu (€85 per person; a five-glass wine pairing offering is available at €65 per person) that reflects the international experience of the restaurant team. You’re right if you think it isn’t cheap, but there is artistry applied here that pays dividends. The food is superb — the seasonal menu changes every two months), the room is handsome (shades of brown/cream) and the music, mostly ambient/instrumental, is sublime. Advice? Save up, visit and savour.

Hawksmoor, 34 College Green, D2

Dublin’s newest and most anticipated restaurant in 2023 is part of a mini-chain, with other properties located in the UK (ten locations) and one, so far, in the US (New York City). The steakhouse chain has an impressive reputation and opens in the city centre in a historic building that was formerly occupied by the National Bank and more recently US clothing vendor Abercrombie & Fitch. This is a large space – a 200-seater – that has been outfitted to within an inch of its male-oriented design life and conceptualised as a must-visit eatery for the well-heeled. The room is buzzy and will surely appeal to those frivolous enough to want a night out in the city. The menu (no-vegan/vegetarian friendly) is as good as you would expect, while the 125-plus wine list is both exhaustive and expensive. An experience, for sure.

Eleven, Bray Road, Loughlinstown, D18

On the outskirts of the city, the location of this restaurant close to the N11 may be far removed from where its owner, John Farrell, is more used to being based — he is the smart guy behind the jumping city centre joints such as Amy Austin, Dillinger’s, 777, and the Butcher Grill), but it is still very much worth your time and attention. We love the design (overall subdued, with touches of flash here and hints of Gentleman’s Club there) and we’re not so certain about the live music (I’m fussy, what can I tell you), but the food is a series of stunners that benefit from being cooked on a wood-burning grill — although the vegetarian options are also spot-on.

 Flaneur, 223 Rathmines Lower, D6

The space has been used before (an Italian and a fried chicken joint – both affordable and affable) but now it’s a smart and neat bistro that perhaps packs in the seating tighter than is necessary. Despite having to pull in your stomach as you pass by the array of small round tables, Flaneur elegantly displays its casual Parisian influences — menus can be accessed by the now ubiquitous QR codes, but they’re also on chalkboards attached to the ceiling; the wines are mostly on tap, which is something we don’t particularly like, but which keep the costs down. The food is excellent, the service is captivating, and the vibe is buzzing. No website

LA GORDITA Berenjenas fritas

La Gordita, 6 Montague Street, D2

Small plates, big dishes, hefty bills. Translated from the Spanish as ‘little fat one’, La Gordita is the adjunct to one of Dublin’s most established tapas joints, Las Tapas de Lola. Owners Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy have, however, upped the ante and the price points. This is a classy, ambience-heavy venture (a soothing room, restful high stools, views through a sizeable glass window into the kitchen) that is attracting customers like metal filings to a magnet. As we have already emphasised, La Gordita isn’t the place to go to if you haven’t saved up for it, but if you have, treasures and pleasures await.


Lottie’s, 7-9 Rathgar Road, Rathmines, D6

There is no small foodie pedigree to the newly opened neighbourhood restaurant, Lottie’s – it is co-owned by Domini Kemp and the Winding Stairs’ Brian Montague, names well-known to the Irish food industry. The décor is uber-smart and unlike other restaurants we could mention the seating is roomy. Similarly, the menus — under the knowledgeable eye of head chef Tudorel Ostache, formerly of Chapter One, and Pichet, and known to one and all as Ted — are slick, offering well-priced selections of perfectly cooked food and expertly curated (by GM Geoff Graham) wine and cocktail lists.

Mister S, 32 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, D2

Who is Mister S? No one knows. If they do, they’re not telling, so it will remain a Mister E until you pay a visit, which is very much recommended. With a food and wine menu that is accessed only via a QR code (we know Covid kick-started this, but can we bring back paper now?), the kitchen’s custom-made grill works its magic on starter signature dishes such as burnt end, beyond crispy rendang spring rolls and mains such as the Brazilian picanha steak (that, incidentally, is served with the best chips in town). 

Row Wines

Row Wines, 1 Coppinger Row, D2

Row Wines is the new adventure in food by brothers Marc and Conor Bereen and is inspired by Tokyo’s listening bars of nibbling on small plates and sipping small-produce natural, organic, biodynamic and/or sustainably-made wines while a DJ spins all-atmospheric vinyl albums. In other words, this is as hip an experience as you’ll get without having to grow a moustache or wear a black polo neck. Seasonal Irish produce drives the range of food on offer at this sublimely casual place where you can choose either a full meal of eight plates (which range in price from €9 to €18) or one or two with a glass of wine. A plus point for warm weather is the significant outside seating area.