If there is one thing Irish people love doing at the weekends it’s taking a spin out to a coastal town, grabbing a decent bite to eat and then walking it off along the pier or beach. Odd considering the rare amount of sunshine our little island receives but you only have to pop out to Dún Laoghaire, Dalkey, Skerries or Portmarnock, to see what we mean. The latter is great spot for good stretch along the seafront, however what it lacks is some good dining options. What you tend to find is most will meander on up to the more culinary blessed village of Malahide for their spot of lunch.
We had heard on the grapevine that a well known Northside eatery McHughs Wine & Dine was setting up shop just before Christmas in the unlikely location of Portmarnock or more precisely on the Strand Road which is seeing a huge amount of development at present, with apartments popping up like its 2005 again. Seeing the boom in housing it is no surprise that McHughs spotted a huge gap in the market for a decent family style bistro with good wine options.
McHughs started off over 50 years ago as an off license business and developed into an award winning one. Today they have two shops both with excellent wine and beer options. Wine in particular has been a huge personal passion for the family. In 2008 they first ventured into the restaurant world with their venue in Raheny which was well received by both locals and critics at the time, particularly for the value for money on offer.
Fast forward to 2017 and all venues continue to thrive, so much so it has afforded them the chance to take a punt on the new location. Not the most picturesque from the outside, as it housed within a purpose built retail/apratment complex, however don’t let that fool you. Once inside you can see they have done an excellent job in designing a spacious room that has a warmth and comfort about it that is essential for any neighbourhood restaurant.
We stopped by on a freezing day in January seeking a bit of shelter from the elements and hoping for a decent glass of wine and a lunch that would please the smaller members of the family as much as us. The menu is exactly what you would expect when targeting the locals, you can pop in for a coffee and a cake, wrap or sandwich or you can order from their set lunch menu which at €15 for two courses is cracking value.
We settled on a mix of both, starting off wth a Vegetarian Flatbread (€8.95) plate. Our server had warned that this was more of a main sized dish than a starter but as it was mostly roasted Mediterranean vegetables, hummus and basil pesto we ordered anyway. Be warned this is a large portion and any requests to refill the flatbreads are met with a smile and a fresh batch.
Our other starter was a more traditional offering of Confit Tomato Tarte Fine (€6.95), thin tart to you and me, essentially a lighter pastry than you would usually find. A simple puff pastry arrived with some classic hummus and topped with sound dried tomato and some watercress sprigs. Not groundbeaking stuff but more than tasty none the less.
It’s hard to beat a plate of mussels to warm your cockles, our first main of Moules Frites (€12.92) really hit the spot. A classic dish in one of our favourite foodie cities of Brussels, arrived to the table crammed with fresh Roaring Water Bay mussels all the way from West Cork. Drenched in a delicious white wine and cream sauce, with spring onion, garlic and finely chopped chilli all adding to the wonderful aromas. Throw in the hand cut chips and you have an unfussy, winner of a dish.
On the other side of the table a Pan Fried Fillet of Chicken (€12.95) was being quickly demolished. Creamy herb mash, roasted carrots and an effortless red wine jus equated to a hearty plate of comfort food which is something this neighbourhood had been crying out for.
With over 20 wines by the glass and most around the €7 price tag picking a wine was no easy task. The wine list is broad and diverse and extremely well price just like its sister venue in Raheny. For the mussels we chose a Cuvee Prestige Picpoul de Pinet 2015 (€6.50), crisp and light an easy match with the white wine sauce.
For the chicken we sampled a glass of The Pugilist Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (€7), a super wine for cab sauv lovers and a fantastic pairing with the herb mash.
Finishing with a home-made Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie to keep the mini reviewer happy, sitting in a tempting pool of chocolate sauce and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, the key to any kids heart.
Our first outing to McHughs Wine and Dine Portmarnock proved more than worth the spin out the Coast Road, this is uncomplicated yet accomplished cooking, great produce in a homely atmosphere with a cracking wine list. We are already planning a return visit for dinner and the chocolate brownie will remain high on the list.
Lunch for three, including two glasses of wine came to €60.40
McHughs Wine & Dine
2 Kingsford Cross,
T: 353 +1 906 0742