As an island nation, Ireland enjoys access to some of the best and freshest seafood in Europe. Irish Catholic families traditionally ate fish every Friday, and although the convention has largely died out over the last few decades, the fruits of the sea are still associated with abstinence for many. However, fish has been enjoying a renaissance in popularity recently, and most restaurant menus will feature at least one or two seafood options, and battered cod and chips is a pub-grub staple.
Predictably, the best seafood in Dublin can be found in the suburbs along the coast where the catch is pulled ashore, but there are also a few decent restaurants and take-aways specialising in fresh fish in the city centre to choose from too.
The fishing port of Howth is renowned for its seafood restaurants and take-aways. For the most authentic experience, order a portion of fresh cod and chips from Beshoff Bros on the main strip, and take the vinegar sodden package to the benches overlooking the pier to eat. The Oarhouse on the West Pier serves simple but beautifully prepared fare such as deep fried soft shell crabs with mustard and basil aioli, or fishcakes made with Atlantic salmon and locally caught whitefish, all for very reasonable prices. For a fine dining experience, it is hard to beat Aqua at the very end of the West Pier, where you can enjoy fresh lobster while overlooking the north Dublin coastline of Portmarnock and Malahide from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Dun Laoghaire is the main port south of the city, and is easily accessible by DART, Dublin’s light rail system which snakes out along the coast north and south of the city centre. The journey takes about 30 minutes. The Dun Restaurant in the Royal Marine Hotel is the place to sample the port’s fresh catch in luxurious, 4-star surroundings overlooking the sea. For even better fishy fare, stay on the Dart for one more stop and disembark in Sandycove, where Cavistons Seafood Restaurant offers up more adventurous dishes such as pan-seared scallops with ginger, lemon and coconut, or roast fillet of monkfish with black bacon and chickpea cream. Advance booking is essential (tel: 01-2809120).
The décor in the Lord Edward opposite Christ Church Cathedral has changed little since its establishment in 1890, and neither has the menu – simple but delicious fish stews are a speciality. The waiters are efficient and attentive, and the pub of the same name below the restaurant is a decent place to enjoy a pint after a hearty feed. Close by, Leo Burdocks on Werburgh St is Dublin’s most famous fish and chipper – the garden of Christ Church Cathedral across the road has benches where you can enjoy your meal.
Check out www.seafoodcircle.ie, a website run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish fisheries board, for info on award-winning places to buy fresh fish or enjoy a great seafood meal. The website lists establishments from around the country, including Dublin.