A visit to the theatre is to temporarily unite yourself with your fellow audience goers in that magic space, and emerge entertained or enlightened by what you’ve just experienced. It could be argued that dining out is a similar ritual, this time united with your fellow diners to experience the restaurant’s vision, enacted by the chef and the staff. And again, you emerge entertained or enlightened. In the end, both drama and cooking are food for the soul and the senses.
The Bard himself may have written “most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that stricture most definitely need not apply to audiences. Even in a climate of high operating costs, the Dublin food scene is as vibrant and varied as the programme itself.
Whether you’re in search of an early meal before the show, looking for some new tastes, or seeking a cosy spot to which to decamp afterwards for a glass of whatever you fancy and a critique of the performance, here’s our round-up of some of the best food and drinks spots to enjoy during the theatre festival.
Forbes Street at Anantara The Marker
Grand Canal Square, Dublin 4; 01-6875104, anantara.com/en/the-marker-dublin
Located just across from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Gareth Mullin’s newly opened Forbes Street is the newest swishy place to eat pre-theatre. Mullins has been given a mandate by the new hotel owners to source and serve the very best of Irish produce, from Flaggy Shore dainties to John Stone steaks and Irish cheeses. After the show, head back to the unique lobby bar for some tasty cocktails.
Millennium Tower, Charlotte Quay Dock, Dublin 4; 01-9089490, bereenbrothers.com/charlotte-quay
The gloriously bright green Flo & Basy cocktail is a de rigueur order at Charlotte Quay, to be savoured while looking out over Grand Canal Dock. This restaurant has long been a favourite of Bord Gáis theatre goers and you’ll often find yourself nodding to fellow diners later during the show. The pre-theatre menu is varied, with juicy chargrilled gambas on sourdough, miso and honey-roasted aubergine or braised featherblade of beef.
Unit 1, Drury Street Carpark, Drury Street, Dublin 2; 01-5486255, amyaustin.ie
It may possibly be the smallest restaurant in the city centre, but little Amy Austin packs a punch. The car park concrete brutalism is softened by wooden tables, leather-backed high seats and loads of wine. Chef Victor Lara continues to be a chef to watch, with elegant small plates that are a joy to eat. Enjoy 25 per cent off wine on Mondays, or a late-night snack menu that runs from 10.30pm to midnight and includes beef tartare or those black cod fritters.
11 Merrion Row, Dublin 2; 01-4004229, bangrestaurant.com
There’s a reason why Bang has been one of Dublin’s most successful restaurants since reopening all the way back in 2010. Over the years, it has consistently offered modern yet classic food using Irish ingredients, spread across its three floors. The pre-theatre menu has two courses for €39.95 or three for €49.95, including snacks. Choose from cured Irish salmon or Coolattin cheddar and onion arancini, followed by McLoughlin’s beef rump or gnocchi with black garlic and Boyne Valley Bán sauce.
19-20 Royal Hibernian Way, Duke Lane, Dublin 2; 01-9058777, littlelemon.ie
The latest bar and restaurant offering from former Leinster rugby players Jamie Heaslip, Seán O’Brien and brothers Rob and Dave Kearney, Little Lemon brings a Mediterranean influence to the city centre. Head chef Gustavo Leonel oversees an all-day small plates menu ranging from pil pil gambas and bouillabaisse to a vegan sharing plate or Greek-style kebab. Given the owners and lovely interior, this is bound to be a popular location for people-watching.
Fallon & Byrne
11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; 01-4721012, fallonandbyrne.com
Another Dublin institution at this stage, the multistorey Fallon & Byrne foodhall offers several options for pre- and post-theatre dining. Start the evening with an early bird dinner (two for €36 or three for €42) in the beautiful, spacious first-floor dining room, or finish the evening in style downstairs in the cosy late-night wine cellar where there’s an extensive selection of wine by the glass or bottle, complete with cheese and meat boards for snacking.
15-16 Chatham Street, Dublin 2; 01-6724534, glasrestaurant.ie
Glas offers a sophisticated take on vegetarian and vegan dishes, with a plant-based menu that is inspired heavily by the vibrant Irish landscape. We’re not talking stews and soups here, but instead elegantly presented dishes where vegetables are the star. Their early bird menu (two for €30 or three for €35) is the smart money before the show, offering sheep’s milk semifreddo, BBQ celeriac or cauliflower churros with sea buckthorn posset.
Unit 3, College Court, Kevin Street Lower, Dublin 8; 01-5670577, barpez.ie
Bar Pez is the perfect spot for a pre-show glass or two of good wine, perhaps accompanied by a salty Spanish gilda or a slice of their luscious lobster or crab toast. Don’t let the simple, understated decor fool you, as behind the net curtained window lurks a spot where the grape is taken very seriously indeed. Pez comes from the team behind Fish Shop and Beach House in Tramore, and the wine list is seriously worth a read.
67-68 Meath Street, Dublin 8; jaru.ie
If heading to Kilmainham or Dublin 8 for a show, stop at Space Jaru, the Korean eatery from Gunmoo Kim. Having started with a small grant from the Student Enterprise Awards, Gunmoo recently moved into the heart of Dublin’s old town, serving a range of Korean BBQ bowls, crunchy Korean fried chicken burgers and small plates of tteokbokki or Yangnyum chicken, all keenly priced. Space Jaru operates on a walk-in basis with reservations possible for groups of six or more.
RHA Gallery, 15 Ely Place, Dublin 2; 01-5475419, margadh-rha.ie
Ever since opening in 2022, Margadh RHA has built up a reputation as one of the best-value tasting menus in the city, costing just €49 per head and containing that absolutely iconic Calabrian anchovy toast with preserved lemon aioli. But they’ve also quietly become one of the best late-night wine options in the city, staying open to 11pm on weekends, with a very decent wine menu that covers all the bases, including grower champagne and sherry.
1 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1; 01-5375261, onesociety.ie
Known mainly as a popular daytime breakfast and brunch spot, One Society owner Will Monaghan and his team offer an Italian-style tapas and wine bar menu in the evening, including a range of traditional pizzas from their open brick oven and pastas that everyone is sure to love. One Society also offers a variety of wine flights, offering the chance to taste three wines and hopefully find a new favourite.
Lee’s Charming Noodles
105 Parnell Street, Dublin 1; 01-8729340, charmingnoodles.weebly.com
Having opened in 2005, the quaintly named Lee’s Charming Noodles is now of the one bastions of authentic Chinese food on Dublin’s northside. They offer a range of traditional dishes and stir-fries, but the noodles are the real magic here. Handmade and pulled in house daily, they come in a variety of thicknesses and are served in dishes such as warming braised beef noodles or Lanzhou noodles.
The Green Hen
33 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; 01-6707238, thegreenhen.ie
A French-style bistro, the best seats in the house at the ever popular Green Hen are to be found at the end of the cocktail bar, just inside the windows. Nestle in here with one of their classic cocktails, or take a seat for their excellent-value set menu (one for €21, two for €25 or three for €28), and choose from chargrilled Irish Andarl Farm pork rib-eye steak, moules marinière or grilled Dalkey Island mackerel taco.
4 St Andrew’s Street, Dublin 2; 01-6775545, trocadero.ie
It’s just simply not possible to write a guide to dining during Dublin Theatre Festival without mentioning “the Troc”. If only these red velvet curtains and walls could talk, having seen over 60 years of Irish theatre and show history since opening. Open until 10.30pm most nights, the Trocodero offers set (€48/€58) and á la carte menus with a range of classic French- and Italian-style dishes using the best of Irish produce.
Las Tapas de Lola and La Gordita
12 Wexford Street and 6 Montague Street, Dublin 2; 01-4244100 and 01-5313303, lastapasdelola.com and lagordita.ie
It’s not easy to choose between Las Tapas de Lola and its newer sibling La Gordita, and given that they’re just around the corner from each other, both are included here. Owners Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy weave their warm style of hospitality whether it’s Lola’s cosy small tapas plates of or the elegant bodega-style of La Gordita (aka “the little fat one”, named after their beloved pugs). Open up to 11pm, these Spanish spots are perfect for both before and after the show.
1-5 Green Street, Dublin 7; 01-8788706, bar1661.ie
Dave Mulligan is a man with a passion for poitín, and along with award-winning bartender Will Lynch, this “staunchly Irish and fiercely independent” bar crafts some truly world-class cocktails that showcase Irish spirits at their very best. Although a cocktail bar, the interior is more akin to a smart traditional pub, granted one with a very well-stocked back bar. A light bar food menu is available until 9.30pm, but the cocktails flow until later. And trust me when I say that you must try their Belfast Coffee.
Ely Wine Bar
22 Ely Place, Dublin 2; 01-6768986, elywinebar.ie
The beautiful Georgian houses that form Ely Place are an elegant location for the original and iconic Ely. Wooden floors and high ceilings welcome you on the ground floor with a lovely rear-facing dining room, while the brick-lined cellar downstairs is where you’ll find the wine bar. Share one of their overflowing charger plates full of cheese and nibbles, along with a glass or two from their excellent wine list.
13 Parliament Street, Dublin 2; 01-5341595, daruma.ie
Once you know that the Japanese word izakaya translates into “stay-drink-place”, then you’ll have an understanding of what’s on offer at Daruma. Inspired by authentic Japanese izakayas, this cosy spot close to the Liffey offers a range of Japanese sushi, small plates and grilled items from their robata grill. There’s a regularly changing selection of specials, and a very creative low-alcohol sake-based cocktail list.
15 Castle Market, Dublin 2; 01-6727258, lamaisondublin.com
For a little taste of France cuisine pre-show, head to La Maison in the busy pedestrian heart of the city. Their pre-theatre menu (two for €32.50 or three for €39) is short but elegant, and their covered outdoor terrace complete with wicker bistro chairs is the perfect spot for watching the world go by. Open until 10pm, their Pat McLoughlin côte de boeuf for two is the stuff of legend.
Zero Zero Pizza
21 Patrick Street, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin; 01-2140533, zerozeropizza.ie
Named after the finely sifted type of flour used in Neapolitan pizzas, Zero Zero is a neighbourhood favourite, cooking pizzas to order in their Valoriani pizza oven. Having started with a mobile wood-fired pizza oven in 2014, they now also have a second location on Sundrive Road in Kimmage. The menu is short but tasty with beer deals to enjoy alongside your pizza.