Covid has brought many benefits to our lives. We slowed it down, made less plans, spent less money on trying to look good because we had nowhere to go, and with petrol prices at frankly laughable levels we've never been so grateful for the hybrid and remote working models that have become the norm. But one unexpected effect of Covid has been the number of restaurants pivoting to tasting and/or set menus, forcing a minimum spend and maximum stomach space.
Sometimes we just want all the small plates, a lengthy debate on what to order from many, many choices, or aren't particularly ravenous (okay that's probably not us but maybe it's you). When that's the case we're going à la carte all the way, and here's 10 places happy to oblige...
Orwell Road, Rathgar
Recently opened Orwell Road in Rathgar (from the owners of Charlotte Quay and Coppinger Row - RIP) has a menu with snacks, starters, mains, sides, desserts and cheese. Do it all, do some of it, you do you. The only problem is going to be whittling it down to a healthy amount of plates for one meal, because with dishes like mackerel tart with chilli ponzu; beef tartare with Hegarty's cheddar and pesto; and BBQ monkfish on the bone with smoked mussel and caviar sauce, you're going to want all the food.
Note, Dublin 2
Note's bistro menu is off to the races, and while they do have a chef's menu requiring no brain power on your part, you can pick and choose from dishes like ceviche, Vitello Tonnato, handmade pasta and a hunk of a pork chop. They're getting busier by the day but if you've nothing booked it's always worth throwing an eye in and seeing if you can sidle up to the bar for some small plates. Read our Note Bistro once over here.
Forest Avenue Wine Bar, Dublin 4
Forest Avenue Wine Bar's menu was designed for sharing, meaning you can share a little or a lot depending on who you're with and what your budget/stomach allows. Play it safe with charcuterie and a comté tart, or mix it up with Cantabrian anchovies "matrimonio"; potato paillasson with vadouvan mayonnaise; or duck and foie gras terrine with black fig and celeriac. Read our once over here.
The menu (and photography) at Loretta's seems to have gone up a gear recently, and we've been greedily eye-balling their tomato gazpacho with dressed crab and pickles; Skeaghanore duck with plum szechuan, scallion & cucumber salad; and lemon posset with raspberry frozen yoghourt, meringue & buckwheat. The space is big and airy, the vibe is totally laid back, and you could make it fit into everything from an unplanned Wednesday night bite, to a special occasion Saturday.
Osteria Lucio, Grand Canal Dock
Ex-Chapter One Don Ross Lewis is now firing the stoves at Osteria Lucio, his other restaurant, so there's never been a better time to visit. There's a good-sized Italian-style menu to choose from with all the antipasti, pastas and pizzetes, secondis and sides, and you can mix and match. There's a fully Italian wine list, plenty of Italian cocktails, and on a summer's evening you could fool yourself that you're in Grimaldi rather than Grand Canal Dock.
Oliveto, Dun Laoghaire
Oliveto at Haddington House in Dun Laoghaire, with its "Italian heart, Irish soul", has a pretty extensive menu of small plates, pasta, pizza and mains of meat and fish. If you love the sweet torture of agonising over what to order, this one will keep you busy for a while, and there are so many options it's guaranteed to work for anyone with a stomach. Order all the small plates, plump for handmade pasta, or go all out with a whole grilled lemon sole for two.
Hang Dai, Camden Street
Ain't no party like a Hang Dai party, and the Camden Street Chinese is still going strong - book in advance or you'll be stuck with very early, or very late. They can thank their menu of crispy squid with chilli and lime; Typhoon softshell crab with lemongrass mayo; and duck heart rice with summer truffle, and there's a separate menu for vegetarians. Pull up a tube carriage, order a 'Kick In The Eye' cocktail, and order as much as or little as you want - but you'll probably want a lot.
Crudo in Sandymount has the kind of neighbourhood-focused menu that will keep everyone happy. Snack on marinated olives and tinned fish, gorge on 'spaghetti a la crema di scampi', or work your way through plates of parma ham with melon and burrata; gambas with burnt lemon aioli, and courgette crostini with sheep's ricotta. The €10 kid's menu also makes it very appealing to anyone with a little one in tow.
Glovebox, Dublin 2
Want a piece of Allta without the price tag and required hunger levels? Make a booking at the cocktail bar just below the restaurant. Glovebox has a small, frequently changing menu full of "snacks", but some are definitely more starter sized. Perfect for the person who always wants all the starters instead of a main. They're known for their cocktails but there's a short, beautifully done wine list too, including sweet wine to go with dessert.
Bonsai Bar, Dublin 2
Dylan McGrath's Bonsai Bar, above Rustic Stone, is back open, with snacks like deep-fried crispy pork skin; tempura like crispy rice cakes with truffle mayonnaise, sesame and chives; and bao including pork and tofu. There's plenty to choose from, a good proportion of the menu is vegetarian, and the cocktail menu is "an ode to the culture, taste and aesthetic vision of Japan". The stuff of date night dreams.