Eastern Seaboard: A Drogheda restaurant so good even Dundalk people like it

Review: Eastern Seaboard is what a town gets when people keep trying until it really work

Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill
    
Address: Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth
Telephone: (041) 980 2570
Cuisine: Irish
Cost: €€€

The rivalry between Drogheda and Dundalk is the last refuge of acceptable prejudice for my two young female friends. Being a native of Drogheda is enough to get you swiped left on Tinder, they agree, only part joking. But tonight they’ve spotted plenty of Dundalk people in Drogheda so maybe the animosity is waning.

We’re in the curved front window area of Eastern Seaboard on the edge of Drogheda. Several years ago I came for a great lunch. Now according to people who know, Eastern Seaboard has turned things up a notch and become seriously impressive. It’s still a big place that feels more city than town. Its bigness means there are several large families.

The menu presents a lot of information and the phenomenon I’m encountering increasingly where the starters and small plates are the most appealing dishes. That’s fine because they’re easy-going about breaking from the starter, main course, dessert tradition.

First up a miniature loaf with a small knife skewered in the top like a flagpole is delivered to the table. I’m guessing it’s fresh out of the oven of the next door sister operation the Brown Hound Bakery, and still warm. I’d have preferred a bigger knife to cut it but it’s the only quibble about this lovely yeasty loaf.


Snacks are seriously tasty, as those first mouthfuls should be. (Note to chefs: if you don’t get us at hello you’ve missed a crucial trick.) One of these snacks is a tiny bowl with what looks like three juicy olives in it. They’re quail eggs pickled with soy and sprinkled with togarashi, which sounds like something for which you might need an over-the-counter cream but is in fact a Japanese spice mix.

Deeply dippy

There are dip sticks, which strike us as a particularly Drogheda way of describing pencil thin bread sticks with a smoked oyster mayonnaise – as superb as anything I’ve eaten in much more expensive restaurants. There are great potstickers – Chinese dumplings – with a balance of  mushroom and ginger minced and topped with curls of pickled fennel. These lovely babies sit happily in a sticky sauce like melted liquorice shoe strings.

I get a good helping of romano beans laid on a plate in a puddle of melted butter sauce and topped with razor clams diced on the diagonal to the size of beans. It’s a visual riff: the long, greener-than-green beans echoing the shape of the razor clam shells, which aren’t on the plate for a change. Instead everything is edible, especially the chargrilled oyster mushrooms.

Our “mains” are the wooded pig plate, which has all the ingredients you might get in a wine bar except here they’re exceptional versions of it. The “free range, ethically reared” local charcuterie are fudgy ovals of deliciously fermented sausage meat, one slightly spiced and almost soft as nduja, the other waxier, and both with memorable flavours that a slow fermentation hanging in a fusty, quiet place brings. They’re served with a whole Toons Bridge mozzarella, which eats more like a burrata, the skin of the the soft cheese, breaking like egg white to separate into soft cheese and milky ooze. On top of this there’s a spray of leek, crisped and flayed to the colour of burnt straw, adding a charred, oniony edge to the sweetness of the cheese.

Minor quibble

A plate of Annagassan smoked salmon “sashimi”, a simple slab of salmon, looks like a small portion until you taste it. With flavours this profound, less is more. “It’s more fruity than fishy,” one friend says, “like a fish and a peach ran away together.” There’s a veggie burger made from garbanzo beans (chickpeas to the rest of us). The pattie has proper crunch and flavour, a little too much mayonnaise but that’s a minor quibble.

Desserts carry the deftness through to the end. There’s a dinky custard tart topped with redcurrants and a fluffy Japanese-style cheesecake that gives the baked cheese the texture of airy sponge cake. An affogato with pistachio thins is exactly as creamy as it should be.

I recently lamented the lack of good restaurants in a small town with someone who lived there. “Plenty of people have tried,” I suggested. “Maybe they haven’t tried hard enough,” she said. Eastern Seaboard is what a town gets when people truly try hard and keep trying until it really works – so beautifully that even your rival townies raise an admiring glass.

Dinner for three with two glasses of wine came to €93.25.

Verdict Simply a great restaurant
Food provenance Good. Cheesemakers Bellingham Blue and Boyne Valley Ban among the names listed
Vegetarian options Exemplary 
Music Nice (cool French rap at one point)
Facilities Great
Wheelchair access Yes

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests