Did somebody say…. ‘Christmas’?! We know, we know, we’re barely past Halloween, but there’s no denying it – the lights are up, the nights are setting in, and if you don’t have your Christmas dinners booked, give these places a ring… (introducing the ATF jingle).
We LOVE Christmas, but it can be a tricky time to eat out, especially as most restaurants introduce a set menu for the month. We get it. Most of the bookings are big groups, some who don't eat out very often and might be happy with a starter and a G+T, and it makes it easier for the kitchen during a non-stop month, but it can be inhibiting (and annoying) to be forced into spending more than you wanted, and commit to multiple courses every time you eat out. So, we've rounded up a few of our favourite places where it's business as normal right up until Christmas Eve.
One of the best places in Dublin for fresh pasta, Grano is forgoing the set menu and offering its à la carte menu throughout the month. The premises is small and busy so get in touch with them as soon as possible to get a Christmas booking. They’re also closing from December 22nd to give their team a well needed break so bear that in mind too. Read more in our once over here.
Bistro One, Foxrock
This longstanding establishment in Foxrock village has been a local’s favourite for years, but more recently with the arrival of the owner’s son Rory Shannon in the kitchen, Bistro One has gotten the attention of the wider city. This is a bistro menu with a twist - traditional steak and guinness pie alongside lasagne fritti (which we regularly salivate over when it pops up on Instagram). Apart from their Sunday lunch menu which is always set, they’ll be running their à la carte menu throughout the season. Read our once over here.
Volpe Nera, Blackrock
Volpe Nera is another suburban spot who describe themselves as casual and cosy, but their food is way more refined than the average - wherever you live it's worth a trip to Blackrock. Owner/head chef Barry Sun is an Etto veteran and he has managed to emulate the same relaxed vibe with excellent food, and *those* hash potatoes. Read our Volpe Nera once over here.
In our opinion Token might be the perfect place for a Christmas night out with your work crew – catch up over a burger or tenders (both with vegan versions available) and then battle out any office tensions in the arcade – win win!
Rosa Madre were busy over the lockdown introducing their packaged fresh pastas which you’ve probably seen in specialty food shops across the county, but they’re back open and offering their normal à la carte menu for the silly season. This Italian menu puts seafood prominently on their menu, has an extensive wine list and there’s always a fun atmosphere in their dining room.
Soup One and Soup Two
Our favourite ramen place, Soup is making things simple for us this Christmas and keeping their menus in Dun Laoghaire and Smithfield as standard for the season. The perfect place for a fun dinner with friends, and a break from the traditional meat and two veg that we’ll all be sick of by mid-December. Their excellent playlists set the scene for the night and make sure you don’t miss out on their small but perfectly formed cocktail list. Read our once over here.
Michael's & Little Mike's
December bookings for sister restaurants Michael's and Little Mike's in Mount Merrion opened last week, so we advise you to move quickly to secure a table. They've got some of the freshest seafood in town and their signature seafood platters are the stuff of dreams. A few of these for the table alongside some delicious wine and you have yourselves the perfect Christmas night out.
M & L Chinese
Sichuan restaurant M&L off O’Connell Street has become a bit of an institution over the years with many claiming it as the best Chinese food in the city. Their menu is extensive, so we recommend you stick to the Chef’s recommendation, or be adventurous and order a traditional Hot Pot, and for God's sake don’t forget an order of stir-fried French green beans for the table. As an added plus, their corkage is only €5 so you can bring festive wines and drink them at comparatively discount prices. Read our M&L once over here.
Pizza is always a good idea and Rita's is sure to be a hit with even the pickiest eaters in your group. Delicious, affordable and right in the centre of Ranelagh – this is the spot to kick off a big night out.
Big Fan Bao
From our recent sold-out takeovers of this place, it’s clear that there's a lot of love for Big Fan Bao from both the meat-eaters and the veggies among us. You may have come across their at-home kits during the lockdown but now’s the time to get in there and work your way through the menu. They serve mostly small plates at decent value so a great opportunity to try a bit of everything if you’re with a group. Read our once over here.
So technically Featherblade are doing a set menu for diners from 4pm, but their lunch slot is à la carte so this is the perfect place if you’re angling for a daytime session. With such a central location, this is a great place to meet some friends for a special steak lunch (with all the sides) before finishing your Christmas shopping or checking out the windows all dolled up. Or just heading for a mini pub crawl.
One of most recent once overs takes the final spot and we’re glad to see Hakkahan in Stoneybatter haven’t succumbed to set menu madness. They'll be sticking with their à la carte menu, including dumplings, chilli and salt squid, and Thai basil Silverhill duck. Please try the black pepper short rib of beef for us - it wasn't on when we visited and clearly we're still not over it. Read our once over here.
And finally, if you’re a smaller group, try one of these places who only have set menus in place for larger parties: Shouk (set for 10 or more), Asador (set for 10 or more), l'Gueuleton (set for 8 or more), Spitalfields (set for 8 or more), Drury Buildings (set for 8 or more), Hang Dai (set for 7 or more).