Dublin's most romantic restaurants

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Aoife CarrigyAoife Carrigy is a freelance writer and editor specialising in food, drink and travel. She is the wine and drinks columnist for the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine and co-author of “Cornucopia: The Green Cookbook.”
Media captionCosy up in Dublin's most romantic spots.
A couple sitting by the window with a view of the Ha'Penny Bridge in Dublin City.
Media captionCosy up in Dublin's most romantic spots.

Dining rooms with sweet views to drink in together. Seaside restaurants to make that day-trip extra special. Cosy beacons of old-school charm.

Whatever romance means to you, Dublin has just the restaurant to stage your dinner à deux, as well as hotspot backdrops for first date fun and quirky dining destinations for a night to remember. From elegant dining rooms in the city-centre to delicious seafood restaurants along the Dublin Coastal Trail, you'll have no trouble finding a place for an intimate meal.

Just be sure to reserve in advance at weekends, when the more popular spots book up weeks ahead, and choose a later sitting to eat at your own leisurely pace.

Old-school intimacy

It’s possible to lose yourself in the heart of the city if you know where to escape to. For a slice of old-school Dublin nostalgia, try La Cave wine bar for basement time-travel, Trocadero Restaurant for indulgent post-theatre suppers, or Locks in Portobello for timeless canal-side glamour complete with gliding swans.

Sibling Spanish tapas restaurants, The Porthouse, Pinxto and Cava serve up intimacy in spades at three of Dublin’s buzziest night spots (South William Street, Temple Bar and Camden Street respectively). Chez Max brings a touch of Parisian bistro magic to the gates of Dublin Castle, while the upscale Rosa Madre and down-to-earth Terra Madre Café go full Italian drama on either sides of the River Liffey.

Media captionEnjoy a date night at Chez Max.
Media credit@philstagram1984

Rooms to dress for

If it’s white-cloth glamour you’re after, Dublin doesn’t disappoint. Three of the best rooms to mark a special occasion come with a Michelin star. Two, in the case of both Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, which has been wooing diners for decades with its fine-dining French fare and cloche-yielding charms, and the modern classic destination of Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, where Irish hospitality meets impeccable modern gastronomy in a room made for settling into.

Media captionDress up for a night of delicious food at Chapter One.

Meanwhile at Glovers Alley by Andy McFadden overlooking St Stephen’s Green, panels of art deco mirrors dance the light around the room while doubling up as people watching portals.

Oh those seaside days!

For the best seafood dishes, hop on the DART and explore the array of restaurants that dot the Dublin Coastal Trail. First up, aim your cupid's arrow at the fishing harbour of Howth for a dream date of wild cliffside walks and harbour-fresh feasts. Choose between seafood tapas at Octopussy’s on the bustling west pier or the second-generation King Sitric Seafood Bar, a long-time local favourite overlooking the calmer east pier. 

Further up the coast, the pretty village of Skerries makes for a charming day’s meandering before swapping walking shoes for a well-heeled dinner and warm ambiance at Potager. Over southside, it doesn’t get better than a Forty Foot dip (or stroll) followed by lunch at Cavistons, a family-run fishmongers with recently expanded destination restaurant.

Media captionHave a seaside date in Howth at King Sitric Seafood Bar.
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Rooms with a view

Few Dublin restaurants offer as iconic a local sight as a coveted window seat at The Winding Stair, or the rooftop terrace at its more casual neighbouring Liffey-side sister, The Woollen Mills Eating House. Both overlook the unmistakeable Ha’Penny Bridge and serve generous portions with a distinctive local flavour and a whole lotta love.

Media captionEnjoy a view of the city centre on your date at Woollen Mills.

For a birds-eye view of the city’s rooftops and the low-lying mountains that frame it, Sophie’s at The Dean offer a crowd-pleasing menu featuring modern European favourites in a glam glasshouse setting.

Beyond the city, head to Oliveto at Haddington House for upscale Italian fare with panoramic views of Dún Laoghaire’s East Pier, Sandycove and the Forty Foot. Across the bay in Howth, Aqua perches pier-side with floor-to-ceiling views of the north-county coastline and off-shore islands backdropping a seafood-heavy menu in smart surrounds.

Media captionDiscover the elegance of Oliveto at Haddington House in Dún Laoghaire.
Media credit@haddingtonhouse

Laidback upbeat excellence

Sometimes you want to come as you are and let the restaurant do the wowing. Dublin has plenty of deceptively casual outposts of understated excellence, where the upbeat ambiance of sharp-styled dining rooms is matched by highly skilled cooking that puts the fun into fine dining. Try for tables at Bastible and Clanbrassil House, two seasonally driven Portobello neighbourhood siblings; or Mae in Ballsbridge where Clanbrassil House’s former head chef, Grainne O’Keefe, is doing her own fabulous thing in partnership with The French Paradox wine merchants below.

At Delahunt on Camden Street, bookend the assured contemporary cooking with a classic cocktail in The Sitting Room upstairs, where mid-century vibes meet corniced ceilings and period fireplaces. Northside of the river, the talented team at Mr Fox on Parnell Square project a playful culinary sensibility onto the blank-canvas setting of a whitewashed vaulted basement. Meanwhile, their newer sister restaurant, D’Olier Street, has gone full NYC-style glamour and sophistication.

Media captionCosy up for a date night in The Sitting Room.
Media credit@delahuntcamden

A date to remember

Dublin’s quirkier destinations include the Blackrock Market alum of Liath, a tiny two-starred Michelin restaurant where high art plays out in utterly unstuffy fashion. Six by Nico is the Dublin outpost of a fun-focussed chain that specialises in rotating themed tasting menus at accessible prices, while Glas Restaurant gives vegan and vegetarian dining a grown-up gastro expression.

Wine lovers are spoilt for choice with spots like the extraordinary cellars at Nepalese Monty’s of Kathmandu. Wine bars range from the long-beloved Ely Wine Bar to new-wave arrivals like Frank's and modern classics like Piglet Wine Bar (where the terrace is dreamy on a balmy day).

Media captionSavour the flavours showcased at Liath.
Media credit@_send_fudes

First date fun

Sometimes you need the destination to provide a little theatre, but without breaking the bank. Aperitivo Cicchetti and Sprezzatura give small-plate dining the Italian treatment in buzzy rooms. Las Tapas de Lola serves authentic tapas and Spanish bodega fare. Or opt for Big Fan Bao and their fast-paced Chinese dishes made for sharing.

If it’s a movie date you’re after, treat yourselves at the glamorous Stella Cinema and get diner classics and pints delivered directly to your luxe seats – or stop into their Stella Cocktail Club after and debate the film over some specialty cocktails.

Media captionExperience a film the right way at the the Stella Cinema.
Media credit@catriona_wellness

More great dining

On the hunt for an Italian meal to impress? Check out our guide to the best Italian restaurants in Dublin.