Enjoy the Catch of the Day at Dublin’s Best Seafood Restaurants
The Seafood Café is regularly praised by critics | Courtesy of Miguel Ruiz
Dublin is famous for its seafood, from the cockles and mussels sold by the titular character in the Irish capital’s unofficial anthem ‘Molly Malone’ to the freshly caught lobster enjoyed in the city today.
Seafood has been a key ingredient in Dublin’s gastronomy since the Middle Ages, when the Fishamble Street fish market was central to 16th-century city life. Centuries later, Dublin may now be an urban metropolis, but a strong connection to the sea remains in contemporary Irish cuisine. Many Dublin restaurants promote locally sourced seafood in their menus, with time-honoured regional dishes appearing alongside more globally influenced recipes. These restaurants serve the best Irish seafood to be found in the city.
Aqua Restaurant, Howth
Restaurant, Seafood, Irish, $$$
Aqua Restaurant specialises in contemporary seafood dishes | Courtesy of Aqua Food
The fishing village of Howth is where much of the Dublin’s seafood is brought to shore, in boats that dock just a few metres from Aqua’s front door. The restaurant operates out of an old sailing club building at the very tip of Howth Harbour’s West Pier, and diners gaze through a wall of windows at sweeping views of Dublin Bay and as they enjoy their meal. The menu here changes frequently according to what the fishermen bring in daily, but staples include a prawn risotto and a creamy chowder made with organic salmon, smoked haddock and cod.
A platter of fresh seafood at Beshoffs The Market | Courtesy of Beshoffs of Howth
It’s all but impossible to talk about seafood in Dublin without mentioning the Beshoffs. Ivan Beshoff opened his first fish and chip shop here in 1913, and the family-run chain has become an institution, with five stores across the city. What’s sometimes forgotten is that the family also own a wholesale fishmonger and market on Howth’s West Pier, with an adjoining restaurant serving the day’s catch. Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than this – at the market grill’s marble bar, you can watch your fish go directly from the ice to the grill to your plate.
A luxurious boutique hotel and restaurant overlooking St Stephen’s Green, this Dublin seafood venue embraces its nautical theme. With silver wall-mounted lamps in the shape of scallop shells, parquet floors and accent colours of white and navy blue, the maritime-style interior is reflected in the seafood-focussed menu. Book in for lunch or dinner, sample some freshwater beluga caviar at the oyster and champagne bar, or try the “afternoon sea”. Available from noon until 3pm from Wednesday to Sunday, this spin on the café classic features an assortment of sustainably sourced seafood dishes, including potted monkfish, crab claws and half a lobster.
Located in the neighbourhood of Stoneybatter, Fish Shop could easily be missed on walking by – there’s no name above the door, just a simple symbol of a fish. The interior is similarly minimal, with white brick walls and hanging Edison light bulbs reflecting the simplicity of the food on offer. With space for just 16 guests and a single set menu that changes daily, Fish Shop focusses on serving the very best of seasonal Irish seafood, such as Sligo cockles, Connemara oysters and freshly caught brill. The husband-and-wife team behind this outlet also run a more casual fish and chip shop on nearby Benburb Street.
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Try Lobstar's incredible New York-style lobster roll | Courtesy of Lobstar
Lovers of lobster won’t be disappointed by this restaurant in the seaside suburb of Monkstown, not far from Dún Laoghaire Harbour. The modern decor is made playful with a giant red stencilled crustacean on one wall. Guests can try a half or whole split lobster, a New York-style lobster roll in a brioche bun with lime mayo, or ravioli with a lobster bisque. If anyone in your party isn’t partial to shellfish, there are plenty of other options available, such as market fish or fillet steak.
Rosa Madre is an Italian seafood restaurant in Temple Bar. It offers a grown-up dining experience, traditional in the best sense of the word, with white tablecloths, low lighting and endless bottles of (mostly Italian) wine lining the walls. Fresh fish is delivered daily, displayed to patrons at a wet counter by the restaurant entrance and transformed by the chef into a selection of authentic Italian dishes. These include capesante gratinate (oven-baked scallops covered in breadcrumbs and parmesan) and the house speciality: fresh calamari and gamberi with spicy spinach.
Beautifully presented small plates make up The Seafood Café’s menu | Courtesy of Miguel Ruiz
Seafood-obsessed chef Niall Sabongi – who also owns Klaw – has three popular Dublin restaurants, but his most recent enterprise has earned him acclaim from high quarters: Catherine Cleary, the Irish Times food critic, called it “world class”. What has impressed pundits and punters is the niche it has carved out for Irish seafood that is impeccably prepared but doesn’t stand on ceremony. With a laid-back atmosphere, high-booth seating and decor such as framed photos of surfers and a neon pink light fixture reading “Island Nation”, The Seafood Café offers exquisite food in a fun and casual vibe.
Tuck into speciality oysters and succulent crab at Klaw | Courtesy of Klaw
A narrow outfit on a cobbled Temple Bar street, Klaw offers a taste of “crab shack-style dining” in an unexpected location. This tiny restaurant’s laid-back vibe is a breath of fresh, salt-tinged air compared to the hubbub of nearby Dame Street, giving customers the sense of being on island time rather than the centre of a city. Its menu champions shellfish in its various forms, but oysters are the main event here, brought in from places such as Galway Bay and County Clare’s Flaggy Shore. Go at 5pm for happy hour, when all oysters cost just €1.50.
Michael’s uses local ingredients in its dishes | Courtesy of Michael’s
A neighbourhood seafood and steak restaurant in Mount Merrion, Michael’s takes an unpretentious approach – the motto here is “Nothing fancy, just honest grub”. A passion for quality local produce is evident here, with menus that list the suppliers from which their ingredients are sourced. The restaurant’s social media is also filled with photos of trips to Howth to buy Lambay Island crab or the first of the summer lobsters fresh from the boats. On Tuesdays, Michael’s offers a two-course menu for just €22, with a small supplement for dishes based around locally sourced fish.