Whether you're eating out with the young or the old, want to go out but not 'out out' for dinner, or just are in need of a more affordable dining option, opting for an early bird is the answer, but not all are created equal. Despite their many confusing forms (pre-theatre, neighbourhood, set), some offer genuine value, offering benefits to both the diner and the restaurant trying to fill early tables, while some are just a bit rubbish, with separate menus using cheaper ingredients, thereby saving you nothing, and who's got time for that. We've scrutinised a LOT of them and these are our top picks for early dining inspiration.
1) Clanbrassil House
The early bird in Clanbrassil House is pretty casual with the option to sit at their high stool tables or hang out in the back of the restaurant where all the cool kids sit next to the kitchen. 3 courses will set you back just €28, but you may spend more than you planned on their "give me one of everything" wine list.
2) Kinara Kitchen & Kajal
Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh and Clontarf, who specialise in Pakistani food, serve their early bird from Monday to Thursdays from 4pm to 8pm, with two courses coming in at a very reasonable €23.50. Their sister restaurant, Kajjal in Malahide, serves a very similar menu for the same price - but it must be noted that going here and not trying a traditional Pakistani biryani is something we wouldn't undertake lightly.
3) The Pig's Ear
The Pig’s Ear on Nassau Street is great if you’re looking for simple, straightforward 'Irish' food with none of your airs, graces or white tablecloths. Dishes include starters like Earl Grey cured salmon with cucumber, horseradish and dill, and mains like line-caught cod with courgettes, borlotti beans, brown shrimp, pine nuts & sauce Maltaise (Hollandaise with blood orange added - swoon), and most of the dishes are also on the á la carte so you can be sure you're getting a bonefide bargain. See their early bird here.
4) One Pico
One Pico, around the corner from their partner Michelin-ed restaurant The Greenhouse, is one of the city's top picks for a more refined early bird. A bit more on the pricey side (while nowhere near as pricey as full menu price), three courses will set you back around €38 a head (and with one of the dishes on the current menu coming in at €32 on the á la carte - you're basically saving money). See their latest pre-theatre here.
We go on about Etto a lot (us and everyone else), and for good reason - you’ll always have a great meal here. This applies no less to their pre-theatre menu, with two courses for €28 or three for €32, featuring loads of the all time Etto classics like mussels with nduja and those red wine prunes with vanilla mascarpone. It's served from 17:30 to 18:30 Monday to Thursday and you can see a sample menu here.
6) Crow Street
One of the more affordable and relaxed places for an early bird with two courses for €19.95, three for €24.95 (leaving you with more opportunity to burn your money on drinks in Temple Bar). Crow Street also serve the menu for much longer, from 17:00 all night from Sunday to Thursday, and finishing at 18:30 on Friday and Saturday. Dishes include buffalo mozzarella with roast beetroot, orange and pistachio pesto, and a buttermilk chicken burger with chipotle aioli, lettuce, pickles & hand cut chips. See the current menu here.
Pickle’s early bird is a bit more suitable for let’s say, a more sensitive Irish palette, and comes in at only €24 for two courses. Even if the menu sounds a bit more basic than the á la carte, you know that the flavours will be stand out. See their current early bird here.