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Dublin at Christmas

If you are planning on visiting Dublin for Christmas make sure that you are either staying with friends or family, staying at a hotel that is going to be open or renting a self catering property like those advertised on a holiday homes website. Unlike France, Italy or England it is very difficult to actually eat out, or even get a drink on Christmas day. The reason is that traditionally it is a day when a family is meant to be together. By Philip Suter

Updated January 2010 Here

December 2011 Clontarf, Dublin 3 Restaurant and Pub reviews Here

September / October 2012 Restaurant and Hotel reviews in the Dublin area Here

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If you are planning on visiting Dublin for Christmas make sure that you are either staying with friends or family, staying at a hotel that is going to be open or renting a self catering property like those advertised on a holiday homes website like jmlvillas.com for example.

Unlike France, Italy or England it is very difficult to actually eat out, or even get a drink on Christmas day. The reason is that traditionally it is a day when a family is meant to be together.

I tried in both 2007 and 2008 to find a restaurant or hotel that was open for Christmas lunch. It is nearly impossible.

Most hotels close early afternoon on Christmas Eve and don't usually open again till lunchtime on the day after St Stephens Day (Boxing day) the 27th. The pubs will close early on Christmas Eve and some will open on St Stephens Day. Many Guest Houses and bed and breakfast establishments also closed. A lot of bar staff in Ireland used to be members of a union and it was agreed therefore that pubs would not open. Although the situation with staff will have changed a lot today, the same rules apply to opening. They don't!!

I discovered that a hotel in Drumcondra on the way to the airport is open for Christmas Lunch, however their arrangements included a small entertainment variety show. A hotel that is part of an American chain was open as well in the centre for a 4 course brunch. The price quoted was 160 euro per person without drink or service charges. They had two sittings and if you were a family of five after spending nearly a thousand euro taking the first sitting you would have to vacate quite quickly to let the second sitting take over.

Another hotel in the centre near Grafton Street that is Irish owned was also open, but by coincidence the price was exactly the same.

Looking outside Dublin, hotels around the country that were open and took guests for 2 or 3 nights were generally much more expensive than they would normally be. I stayed at a fabulous hotel on the west coat for the second time last June. Like the others I discovered their Christmas break prices had gone up considerably.

With the credit crunch biting hard in Ireland, it will be interesting to see if this changes for Christmas 2009.

If you are thinking of taking a break in Ireland over Christmas all of this is worth considering as the only place you might find open on Christmas day is the odd Chinese restaurant or petrol service station.

Left: Something to do on Christmas day a walk on Dollymount Strand (Beach), Clontarf, Dublin

The 40 Foot, Sandycove, Dublin on Christmas Day (Click on pictures to enlarge)

There is a tradional swim, more like a jump from the 40 Foot rock at Sandycove just along the coast from Dun Laoghaire. 2009 was a sunny but very cold Friday with ice on the pavement and roads. Hundreds of brave individuals put on their swimming gear to climb the rock and jump or dive into the freezing cold water. Apparently for over 100 years people have taken part in this event.

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December 2011 - Reviews

Picasso, Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3 - Visited 18th December 2011

The restaurant is located in Clontarf a suburb of Dublin and is a very short distance from the sea just off the main Dublin to Howth Road. For some reason or other you have to ring the doorbell to gain entry to this restaurant that has been well decorated.

It was a Sunday evening before Christmas and there were quite a few diners in there. The cuisine is Italian and there were three of us in the party.

Two of us had starters and all three had the same main course - Veal, with a bottle of wine costing €29 which is about the average price. As often happens in Irish restaurants, they do not try and sell you mineral water, but come along with jugs of tap water, which is a very good tradition.

Although an Italian restaurant themed menu the bread was a choice of Irish brown and white, full of it's distinct flavour that you only get with Irish bread.

One of the party had a desert. The portions were generous and we finished with coffee and tea.

We were offered complimentary liqueurs, but two of us were driving and as Ireland has recently introduced tougher drink drive laws and also in the week leading up to Christmas was not going to take any chances.

The staff were friendly and the only comment I would have, was why use bowls of granulated sugar to accompany the excellent coffee. Maybe this is another reminder from the past that I used to find in Irish restaurants going back 20 years.

The final bill for three came to €149 including the tip I left behind. We would certainly return again.©Philip Suter

Moloughneys, Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3 - Visited 23rd December 2011

This restaurant is located close to a number of smart restaurants and shops in Vernon Avenue, Clontarf a suburb on the north side of Dublin by the sea.

My wife has been there before and dining is on two floors. The building itself looks like a large spacious semi detached house with the interior knocked through, but still retaining all its charm and two fireplaces adding even more atmosphere.

We were seated\on the ground floor and three in the party. We had booked as it was the day before Christmas Eve and was very busy. There were three of us in the party and we decided to have starters and a main course and a bottle of Rioja that cost €29. Eating a mixture of starters costing around €7.50 and then moving onto the main course (2 fish and 1 rabbit) costing around €17.50.

I had a dessert, unfortunately the Christmas pudding had run out by then, but the substitute was good.

Complimentary Irish bread and fresh water tap water was provided and the staff were very helpful. We did not have tea or coffee.

The final bill came to €137.50 including a tip and we would certainly come back there again. ©Philip Suter

The Yacht, Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3 - Visited 28th December 2011

The Yacht was completely renovated and extended a few years ago. A great deal of money was spent on this pub that overlooks the sea on the road running through Clontarf, past Dollymount and onward to Sutton and Howth.

After the extension was built there is still room for parking although there is a public car park nearly opposite. In good weather you can sit outside and eat or drink overlooking the sea.

I have been in there several times since it re-opened and it has a great atmosphere with open fires and friendly staff, although as there are so many loudspeakers around it can be rather noisy.

During the day they operate a carvery and on every daytime visit I have made, it has always been busy.

In the evenings if you want to eat or drink there is a large waiting staff team to assist you. We went there on the 28th December and all the pubs were back in business following the Christmas break.

At present in Ireland the law states that pubs must shut on the two holiest days of the year. Good Friday and Christmas Day. With a much more cosmopolitan culture this century, hopefully these laws will change.

The food in the evening at The Yacht is typical pub food. There were three of us and at 8.30 ish the first main course choice for one of the party was not available and a curry was chosen instead. There are a lot better curries available in pubs, however there is quite an extensive menu. The other two main courses were a Cesar salad and a stir fry. We did not have starters or deserts and drank a mixture of red wine by the glass, Guinness and Smithwicks beer.

The final price including a tip was €65. I would return again, as I have been before, however next time my feel that fish and chips could be the better option. We will be back.

One disappointing issue with so many Irish pubs is the lack of choice when it comes to beer. There is naturally always Guinness, but then there is in so many pubs and bars throughout the world. You will normally find a couple of varieties of lager, but unlike in England where you will often find a couple of varieties of major brewery's beers plus real ale, in my experience in Ireland so many bars have a limited choice.

Caffreys, Macardle's and Beamish are a couple of examples, but I have rarely walked into a bar where there was anything other than Smithwicks. Ireland has come on so far in the choice of food and drink in the last thirty years from an era where you would ask for a "Harp" lager and be offered a bottle that was rather warm kept on shelves behind the bar. There does need to be more choice in of beer (other than lager and stout) to drink in Irish bars so it would be really great if the situation will change for the better in the future. ©Philip Suter

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September / October 2012 Restaurant and Hotel reviews in the Dublin area

Giovanni's is a great place in Malahide - visited October 2012

We went there around 8.45 on a busy Friday evening. Instead of saying they were full at that time of night, a quick check was made on other diner's status and we were asked to sit down for five minutes. No tricks missed here and in a very short space of time were seated at our table.

The food was good, but we opted for a main course and a nice bottle of red wine.

What I found interesting was that they missed sales tricks after that. No dessert was offered and we had to ask a couple of times for some Expresso coffees. At €62 + tip it was not bad value, we would return on another visit to Malahide, but would have thought the very attentive and friendly staff would have at least asked if we wanted dessert and coffee / tea etc. ©Philip Suter

Toddy’s Bar & Brasserie at the Gresham Hotel is nothing to write home about - Visited October 2012

Called in for a light meal in Toddy’s Bar & Brasserie before going to the Gate Theatre earlier this week.

It was early in the evening as the theatre performance started at 7.30 just across the road. We both ordered a glass of red Rioja was served in good size tall wine glasses. We also decided to have the fish pie.

The fish pie was very average, not 100% hot as it should have been and really had no flavour. Whether this was just a bad choice, too early for the chef or just bad luck, I think a hotel of the Gresham's standing should be serving up something a little better, that had some flavour.

We had a second glass of wine and the service was excellent. We told a member of the staff about our comments on the food as it is important to inform the management. We also thanked her for very good service. I have never actually eaten there before and my experience would put me off again. ©Philip Suter

The Grand at Malahide is a grand place to stay - Visited October 2012

Just come back from staying at The Grand Hotel for 5 nights. We have been going there for a meal or a drink for over thirty years and it was not till February this year that we actually stayed there.

The Grand has grown from quite a small hotel to a modern hotel with plenty of function and conference areas. Although it has got much bigger the staff are very well trained and friendly and one of them even remembered me from my visit in February this year.

The rooms are well furnished and no doubt in due course will get flat screen TVs. They could do with a radio, but they are well equipped with ironing equipment, tea/coffee making facilities and hairdryer. There is also broadband connections in the room, unfortunately it was playing up on the last couple of days, but there is wifi in the ground fllor area, although the signal could be improved.

A full Irish breakfast (or lighter buffet breakfast) was included in the room price in the Coast Restaurant overlooking the estuary.

I used the swimming pool a couple of times and there is no extra cost to residents of the hotel.

The small Griffin Lounge bar unfortunately is only open on a Friday and Saturday night. I remember that from visits many years back and is very cosy, not like the main Matt Ryan bar.

I only ate there one night and although we were charged at the "early bird" rate and stayed to well into the time they were setting breakfast the "chef's special" was not to exciting, but service was OK. After eating there many times during the day I am putting it down to a possible bad choice and would certainly try the restaurant again on another visit. Hope to return for another stay in 2013. ©Philip Suter

Seabank Bistro - Malahide - It is quite expensive for what it is - visited October 2012

I have now dined at the restaurant three times this year - February, May and September and each time it has been a Friday or Saturday night. I am very pleased to say that it has always been full and being part of the early group of diners, had to vaccate for the second sitting which is excellent in these bad economic times.

I think the food is a little overpriced for what it is and also the wine. The staff are very helpful, but I don't think I will be going back on my next visit to Malahide. There were four of us in our party and although we had two bottles of wine we only had two courses each with a total bill around €220. ©Philip Suter

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