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Outdoor dining: The top tables and hidden gems for eating al fresco

Including hotel terraces, pub gardens for something more casual, waterside venues, and some summer in the city spots too

The sun is shining, hurrah, and everyone has the same idea. Wouldn’t it be lovely to sit outdoors and enjoy lunch or dinner al fresco? The prolonged spell of warm weather means all the good tables are being booked in advance. So we’ve come up with a few suggestions for places that might still have room at the (outdoor) inn. Here are some hotel terraces for a smart outdoor dining experience, pub gardens for something more casual, waterside venues, and some summer in the city gems too.

Summer in the city

The atmospheric terrace at Chez Max alongside Dublin Castle in Dublin 2 is well known, with its distinctive French bistro tables and chairs out front. But there are extensive outdoor eating terraces at the back of the restaurant too. It has just reopened after a complete kitchen refit. Lunch for €14.90 including a glass of wine, and the two or three course dinner menus (€37/€42) are based on French bistro classics.

Asador’s outside dining is a sophisticated option in Dublin 4. With a retractable roof (a high-end awning system from Italy), glazed panels that slide up and down to allow for a clear airflow, tables clad in white linen, and spring-loaded upholstered banquettes, you’re talking a full-on restaurant experience here, where the speciality is meat, fish and vegetables cooked over fire.

For one of the most atmospheric terraces in Dublin, there’s Piglet in Temple Bar, with its Italian classics and great wine list. Open seven days, 12.30pm-9.30pm (or a little later, they say).


The corner site at Market Lane in Cork city offers plenty of space for outside dining, at both lunch and dinner. Extensive menus offer plenty of choice, and you’ll find lots of produce is sourced from the nearby English Market.

Waterside dining

There is no shortage of outdoor dining space available at Oliveto in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, where Mediterranean inspired food and drinks come with stunning views of Dublin bay. It’s a first come first served, no reservations policy, so get there early if you can.

Bites by Kwanghi restaurant and wine bar at Capital Dock in Dublin 2 has a 100-seat indoor/outdoor terrace. You can pick up a bottle of wine in Fresh The Good Food Market and enjoy it with Chan’s Asian street food menu, on a terrace overlooking Dublin Port.

Anyone familiar with Grand Canal Dock will know that the place to be is on one of Charlotte Quay’s two terraces, where you’ll catch the last rays of the sun. Both are fully covered and heated all year round, so it’s the perfect waterside setting whatever the weather. Comfortable and buzzy, with plenty of cocktail options and Mediterranean food.

Harry’s Shack, on one of Northern Ireland’s finest beaches, in Portstewart, combines stunning outdoor tables with those that are well sheltered under a sturdy stretch tent. It’s all about the fish here, so go for the crab claws, prawn tails and whatever other fish they’re cooking on the bone. Reservations are strongly recommended.

The garden at Rathmullan House in Co Donegal is stunning, running right down to Lough Swilly, and the traditional canvas kingpole tent, close to the house, is a great dining spot. Stone-baked pizza and ice cream are on the menu, but booking is essential: this is one of the most popular outdoor options in Rathmullan.

Hotel terraces

Hotels can be a great place to start when you’re looking for a smart outside dining experience. At The Garden Room at The Merrion hotel in Dublin 2, with the garden in full bloom, the water tinkling and the sun shining, you could be anywhere. Executive chef Ed Cooney has introduced an Irish seafood tower (€95 for two people sharing), and a summer lobster roll (€25). The restaurant is open seven days a week.

The terrace at The Hound at Hunter’s Yard, on the Mount Juliet estate in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, has been refurbished and comes with stunning views over the Jack Nicklaus golf course. A new summer dining menu has just launched, and you can kick off your meal with a cocktail made with the estate’s own Moongate gin.

The Shelbourne hotel’s outdoor terrace, more of a garden room, is a hidden gem in the city. Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 10pm, it is a comfortable, cosseting space with a full bar and cocktail list. The menu here is focused on seafood. But if you are treating yourself, explore the Champagne list. Moët & Chandon is the house pour for the summer.

Away from the bustle of the city, the gardens at The InterContinental in Ballsbridge are a delight at this time of year. The outdoor dining terrace at the back of the hotel is a quiet oasis, offering full menus at lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended.

Earth & Vine restaurant at the Castleknock Hotel in Dublin 15 has been revamped, and the outdoor patio with views over the golf course is a prime sunny day spot. The restaurant is open seven days a week, with dinner for two, including a bottle of wine, for €79 from Sunday to Thursday.

In Cork city, Sanctuary at The River Club at The River Lee hotel is a flower-filled installation where you can drink cocktails under a canopy of wisteria, designed by Fox Flowers. The business gives €1 from each cocktail to Green Spaces for Heath’s Togher Community Garden project. You can also order small plates and tapas at The River Club bar and terrace (daily 5-10pm).

Pizzas and drinks

Rascals Brewery in Inchicore, Dublin 8, has a variety of outdoor dining options including a beer garden and a terrace. Pizza expert Reg White, co-founder of Pi on George’s Street, was recently brought in to work on a new pizza menu with Rascals head chef Felipe Santos Souza and his kitchen team. There is bike parking and it is child- and dog-friendly.

You’ll feel like an insider at Grangecon Kitchen in Grangecon, Co Wicklow. Food is ordered at the hatch of the small, pretty restaurant, and the outdoor dining area is through a gateway into a garden. Wooden benches sit on gravel, some on the grass and others under a large stretch tent, so you’re covered if the weather doesn’t play ball. Brunch, coffees and cakes are the big thing here, but there’s also pizza on Friday and Saturday.

Cocktails, beers and small plates

Inventive, with the party vibe you expect from 777, the Afuera dining space out the back of the restaurant on South Great George’s Street in Dublin 2 is an impressive example of how to transform a car park. Afuera means outside in Spanish. Dramatic cantilevered awnings add plenty of cover, an Airstream slings out the margaritas, and the menu includes taquitos, tostadas and plenty from the wood-fired grill.

While it’s not strictly outside, the huge glassed-in terrace at Big Mike’s in Blackrock, Co Dublin, is the perfect spot for a cocktail and a snack. Sharing platers of seafood or surf and turf are the Michael’s trademark, but it is also possible to snag a seat on the terrace (it’s walk-ins only), and order a selection of smaller dishes to share.

The Hop Garden Terrace at Urban Brewing in Dublin 1 has always been a coveted spot. When the sun shines it’s the place to be, and when it doesn’t you’re well-protected, with overhead heaters to see off any chill. This is a buzzy space where small plates are on the menu and there’s a rotating selection of craft beer, some of which are made in its on-site microbrewery.