The Ultimate Christmas Dining Guide - The Gloss Magazine

The Ultimate Christmas Dining Guide

There is nothing quite as magical as dining out with family or friends over the festive season. When it comes to making plans, these are the restaurants that do festive dining in style …

La Maison, Dublin 2

The problem with La Maison is choice. For me, it’s usually the choice between fresh whole sole on the bone or the cote de boeuf – an impossible decision. Whatever you choose, dining at La Maison is always a safe bet. The food is reliably first rate, the wine list fairly priced and the ambiance is awash with Gallic charm, whether you happen to be dining on the terrace under a snug blanket or in the cosy dining room on a frigid Friday night.

Etto, Dublin 2

Nigella Lawson knows a thing or two about food so when she states that Dublin’s Etto restaurant is her go to when visiting the emerald isle, you know you are in safe hands. The tomato and scamorza suppli are the perfect pre-dinner nibble and the red wine prunes with vanilla mascarpone inspired me to recreate the dish at home. It was good, very good even, but sadly not quite as good as the dreamy Etto version.

Fish Shop, Dublin 7

Fish Shop is as close to casual dining perfection as it gets, as long as you like fish that is. Counter seating has never been so in demand and it’s easy to see why. Perfectly cooked fish, fluffy chips, smoked haddock croquettes, squid, Gilda’s and a simple butterhead lettuce salad that I still dream about. Fish, chips and excellent wine, what’s not to like?

Uno Mas, Dublin 2

There are a variety of reasons why Uno Mas is beloved by chefs and food industry folk and all are valid. Excellent food, reasonable prices and an ambiance that would brighten up even the darkest disposition, it’s all very very good. Beef tartare with beer pickled onions, smoked bone marrow and potato crisps is about as good as lunch dishes get and that’s saying something. I’m not usually a dessert person but if anything could convert me it would be the chocolate crumble with peanut butter and banana milk ice cream. Counter seats are comfortable and offer a bird’s eye view of the kitchen.

Locks, Dublin 8

Lunch at Locks is always a treat, and even more so over Christmas. Dishes such as cold smoked Castelvetrano olives, Dooncastle oysters and barbequed lamb belly are just some of the pre-dinner nibbles to enjoy while inspecting the tempting menu. Of course, choosing between dishes such as salt aged beef tartare with smoked beef fat and pickled mustard seeds or the grilled octopus with brown butter hollandaise is no easy task, but be assured, whatever you choose will be very, very good. To finish, it’s a toss-up between the Basque cheesecake or five minutes alone with the Locks cheese trolley. Or both.

Dax, Dublin 2

The summer lobster offering from Dax on Upper Pembroke Street might have ended, but never fear, there is always a collection of tempting dishes to choose from. The Christmas lunch menu has an array of tempting, seasonal dishes including a starter of Carlingford oyster and Irish Hereford beef tartar with crème fraiche and pickled seaweed. There is a reason Dax has been a mainstay on the Dublin dining scene for nearly 20 years.

Suesey Street, Dublin 2

A buoyant ambiance, friendly staff and good food is what to expect when dining in Suesey Street this Christmas. Unsurprisingly, the menu is refined and well balanced, much like the space itself. Expect contemporary Irish cooking using local produce presented with finesse. A Christmas Eve lunch of Dublin bay prawns with garlic butter, sourdough tartine, tomato fondue and jalapeno oil followed by a saddle of venison would be an indulgent way to kick start the holidays. The Garden Room at Suesey Street is probably one of the best al fresco dining spaces in the city, whatever the weather. It’s fully heated, has a retractable canopy and an outdoor fireplace to boot.

Oliveto, Dun Laoghaire

One of most memorable dishes I have been lucky enough to enjoy was a squid ink linguine with Amalfi lemon and fresh crab at Oliveto and for that reason alone, you should go. Other reasons include the osso bucco Milanese with meltingly tender, slow cooked veal shin and the excellent tiramisu. The Parlour Bar is a divine place to wind down before or after dinner with staff serving up some of the best cocktails in Dublin.

Franks, Camden Street

On Dublin’s Camden Street, Franks Wine Bar is the perfect pit stop for those eager to escape the crowds and catch up with friends over a glass or two of natural wine. Franks have an extensive selection of wines both by bottle and by glass and we can think of nothing lovelier that a spontaneous libation with a friend that you haven’t seen since forever…What’s more, Franks have a walk-in only policy.

Amy Austin, Dublin 2

Flying high after its Michelin Guide mention earlier this year, Amy Austin is the perfect location for spontaneous small plates and wine on tap with the menu featuring dishes such as langoustine tail with saffron oil, cardamom, tomato marmalade and ikura sake. As the Michelin folk correctly observed, “friendly service and signature cocktails help to keep the good vibes flowing”. Never has car park adjacent dining felt so good.

Shanahan’s on the Green, Dublin 2

The decor at Shanahan’s feels unchanged since opening its doors many moons ago and why should it? It’s a stunning, classic room of grand proportions with gleaming crystal chandeliers, plush carpet underfoot and a buzzy atmosphere that is as seductive as the menu. The Oval Office basement bar has an old school ‘clubby’ feel and is the perfect place for a pre-dinner aperitif, or try the newly introduced bar menu should you feel like a more casual experience. In the main dining room, it’s unsurprisingly, all about the steak and the sides. It’s notoriously expensive but I am happy to report that a recent visit didn’t disappoint and I was relieved to find that the dishes lived up to my memory. Start with the crab salad or a jumbo shrimp cocktail and for mains, it has to be steak. Don’t skip the fluffy cloud like whipped potatoes, the onion strings or the creamed corn on the side (or the spinach).

Rosa Madre, Dublin 2

Stepping in from the precarious cobblestones of Crow Street, the dining room at Rosa Madre is a welcome respite from the city proper. A warm room suffused with ambient lighting, it’s as appealing as a Roman trattoria thanks in part to the effusive host, Roman native, Luca Di Marzio. Those in the know request table no. 1 at the back of the room with its views over the kitchen and the entire restaurant. Fans flock to Rosa Madre for the lavish and indulgent seafood. Think caviar, oysters, squid and scallops – and that’s just for starters. Main courses include fresh homemade pasta dishes, lobster and whole Irish sole with Italian roast potatoes.

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin 2

Located in the luxurious surroundings of The Merrion Hotel, the two Michelin star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is a tranquil and soothing space with muted tones, beautiful artwork, snug seats, pristine table linens and acres of space between tables. Sophisticated French cuisine, in classical style, immaculately presented is the USP at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud where the lunch menu changes daily; expect dishes such as steamed Comté soufflé with Champagne, quince, and hazelnuts. Dinner guests can choose from an A la Carte or a tasting menu and whatever you choose, you are unlikely to be disappointed.

Peploes, Dublin 2

A mood enhancing basement restaurant in a former bank vault that dates from the 1760s, Peploes is something of a Dublin institution. The comfortable room has a welcoming, jazz club feel with red leather banquettes, dim lighting and striking artwork. The menu at Peoples is awash with classic Mediterranean brasserie fare albeit with some interesting twists. The Dublin Bay Prawn scampi is a staple and the chicken Milanese with garlic and herb butter, rocket and parmesan salad and fried capers, served with duck fat roasted potatoes is my go to comfort food dish of dreams.

China Sichuan, Dublin 18

China Sichuan have built up a loyal following over the years, so if you are dreaming about bon bon chicken, wasabi prawns or golden fried soft shell crab with toasted almonds and chilli flakes then we suggest you make a booking. The dry fried long beans with Sichuan radish is one of the best things you will ever eat and the Irish coffee is up there as one of the best I have had in a Dublin restaurant too.

Neighbourhood, Naas

Darling of the critics, there is a lot to love about Neighbourhood. For a start, the interior is a visual treat that feels somewhat luxe while also being a little Zen-like, and the menus are filled with seasonal dishes that keep patrons coming back. You will certainly feel carefree and serene after a meal of dry aged halibut with Jerusalem artichoke, truffle and hazelnut. With three-course festive menus at €35 for lunch and €60 for dinner, dessert is a no brainer, especially with such devilishly tempting dishes as brown butter cake with pear, tonka bean custard, and milk ice cream in the running. Don’t miss pre-lunch cocktails and nibbles at the stunning bar counter.

Grano, Stoneybatter

A weekend booking at Grano is a fanciful notion indeed so I imagine Christmas tables are like hens teeth but you never know when the stars might align so it’s always worth a try, after all, it worked for Stanley Tucci on his recent visit to Dublin. The menu at Grano changes regularly so you are always kept guessing, regardless of how often you go and watching the skilled chefs make the pasta in the open kitchen is as therapeutic as it is impressive. Ever changing wines by the glass also appear on the specials board so menu fatigue is not an option and happily, the prices are reasonable. Win win, or more appropriately, cin cin.

51 Cornmarket, Cork

For those in the Cork region, brunch in 51 Cornmarket is a treat that should be indulged in at least once over the Christmas period and walk in custom is actively encouraged (although you can also book in advance). The bacon Frenchie is probably the most popular dish on the menu and has gained something of a cult status in recent times but we are also enamoured by the steak and eggs. A grilled rump steak with mushroom duxelle, poached eggs and béarnaise, topped off with a golden onion ring. Tis the season… @51cornmarket

Vaughans Anchor Inn, Liscannor, Co Clare

Tired of turkey? Two words. Fish, chips. That is all. Well, actually, there is a lot more to Vaughans; the Champagne flights, the scallops and the scampi all come to mind, but the fish and chips with 20 year old start batter is truly special. The dining room is a warm and welcoming space on a cold December evening, and if you aren’t steaming your potatoes before frying them in beef dripping, then you are doing it wrong.

The Oak Room at Adare Manor, Limerick

Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge and there is no better place than Limerick’s first Michelin star restaurant. The Oak Room is a lesson in many things; timeless elegance, discreet service and of course, then there is the food which head chef Michael Tweedie and his team execute with creativity and flair. Don’t miss the Royal Belgian caviar or indeed the stunning cheese selection, served tableside from the exquisite handmade trolley. This is formal dining at its finest.

Ruibín, Galway

I’m convinced that the menu at Ruibín in Galway was created just to toy with me and make me envious of those that live close enough to dine there regularly. Perhaps it’s for the best. Choosing between fried chicken, sushi rice, honey butter sauce, pickles, daikon salad, and egg or roast cod with ajo blanco, braised fennel, butter beans, almonds and garlic toast could be a challenge, and that’s not even taking the steak gyros with matchstick fries, tzatziki, pickles, fermented hot sauce, and tomato salad into account. Honestly, it’s all just a bit cruel. The Bloody Mary with habanero vodka, fermented hot sauce, Worcestershire, lime, salt and celery bitters would be a done deal.

Ox, Belfast

A beautiful room, the decor at Ox, courtesy of Belfast creative studio Oscar and Oscar is pared back with warm wood, painted brick and splashes of blue adding some colour. From the window seats, the views over the River Lagan are mesmerising. The menu is rooted in ‘seasonal creativity’ and if you pair this with an envious dose of artistry and an infinite amount of skill, Ox one of the most memorable dining experiences in Ireland. The two-course lunch is astounding value at £40, not one supplement in sight and post dinner drinks in the adjacent Ox Cave are a must.

A Peculiar Tea, Belfast

Chef Gemma Austin is considered, by those who know her, something of a female Peter Pan. She opened her restaurant, A Peculiar Tea in a bid to “escape from reality and the stresses of adult life” and inject some much needed levity and frivolity into the daily kitchen grind. Both the afternoon tea and the tasting menu are themed and past iterations have included Cluedo, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Grease. It’s the perfect place for a magical Christmas meal experience and 2024 looks set to be a bumper year for Gemma as she opens the doors of Mamo Patisserie in the famous St George’s Market, with an ambition to make the “best edible art in Belfast”.

Cava Bodega, Galway

Dinner in Cava Bodega is about as convivial as it gets with the ambiance that somehow manages to combine winter cosiness and fiesta flair. The decor is cheerful and welcoming and the food is exciting and bright too. The combination of excellent Irish produce with the sunny flavours of Spain is an unbeatable blend and the reasonable prices makes an evening in Cava Bodega a no brainer. Daily specials keep the menu interesting and a selection of wines by the carafe is something I would love to see in more restaurants.


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