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02nd Oct 2023

8 of the best Dublin restaurant openers of 2023 so far

Katy Thornton

dublin restaurant openers

Spanish cuisine and small plates are firmly in.

In this county, sometimes getting attached to a new restaurant can be like going back to an ex. You know you could get hurt again, but the hope of what could be is simply too strong. You know what they say, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have tried the new opener at all.

While there’s constant reason to lament when it comes to Dublin hospitality closures, there has been a stellar line-up of restaurant openers in 2023 that can’t be ignored, and have us prepared to risk it all for a new obsession. Always on the lookout for Dublin’s newest food trend, Spanish cuisine seems to be firmly in, with three of our seven top choices cooking with Spanish influence.

So we’re sharpening our (butter) knives, tucking in our starched white napkins, and recommending the best new restaurant openers Dublin has seen so far this year, many of which come from established hospitality names:

8. Matsuwaka

Location: Queen Street, Smithfield

Dublin 7 locals may have noticed Matsukawa quietly setting up camp on Queen Street, with pared-back interiors and an emphasis on artisan dining equipment such as their handcrafted Japanese glassware and tasteful handmade chopsticks. Accoutrements like this set the scene for an 18-course tasting menu, expertly paired with Japanese tea.

The snug space that used to house Woke Cup Cafe, has been completely transformed; high-ceilinged and compact, the space is dominated by a high table facing the all-important preparation area.

Chef Takuma Tamaoki (formerly of Galway’s Wa Sushi) is behind the counter delicately forming rice and slicing aged and preserved tidy sections of fish. A lot of thought has been placed into every shelf, countertop and table, everything is thought-out and well-considered.

The 18 course tasting menu is unique to Dublin and costs €90pp – if you’re a lover of sushi, it’s a must visit.

Go for? A sushi experience like no other in Dublin

Matsuwaka is booked up for the remainder of 2023, so keep an eye out for when new bookings become available

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7. The Seafood Bar

Location: Blessington Street, Dublin 7

The most recent opener on this list, The Seafood Bar has already made a splash with Dubliners. Occupying the space formerly belonging to Veginity, this corner of the city centre is no stranger to hospitality, and neither is the new owner. Local restauranteur Joe Oualadi also owns Wood Fire café on the same street, which specialises in pizza.

No matter the seafood you’re into, you can bet this new spot has it. There’s Valencian paella with monkfish, my all-time favourite dish which is a seafood linguine packed with all the shellfish you could hope for, not to mention a whole Irish lobster drizzled in lush garlic butter – to quote Ken from the Barbie movie, “Sublime!”.

This is a small space with very limited seating, and no reservations system, so a visit to The Seafood Bar might involve a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it for seafood of this calibre. In the sunshine, propped up on the barrel seats, a glass of wine in hand, and a paella to dig into, sure there’d be no need to hop on a Ryanair flight to Spain.

Go for? Sensational seafood

The Seafood Bar opens from 12.00 daily

6. Hawksmoor

Location: College Green

Perhaps the most hyped opener of 2023 is none other than the world-renowned steakhouse Hawksmoor and we can’t help but agree with the hysteria around it.

Naturally the steaks take centre stage with prime cuts coming from the likes of grass-obsessed farmer Ronan in County Meath, and Bronagh and Cathal whose Angus and Herefords roam the wilds of the Burren eating a diverse range of grasses and herbs. Impressive Chateaubriands and Porterhouses are priced per 100g and served up cast iron platters to share, with smaller cuts of sirloin, rib-eye and rump available too.

The seafood offering is also amazing, Hawksmoor definitely makes the most of what’s available on Irish shores with Kelly Gigas and Flaggy Shore oysters, Duncannon smoked salmon and native lobster baked with Micil Inverin whiskey. Everything on the menu has a story, and the servers are well-versed and ready to chat through the detailed background of each dish.

Simply put, Hawksmoor is that good and has quickly risen up the ranks as one of Dublin’s very best steakhouses.

Go for? A f***-off steak meal

You can take a look at the Hawksmoor menu HERE

5. Eleven

Location: Loughlinstown

Hidden away deep in the south of Dublin is a new jazz bar and grill Eleven, operating atop Whelehans Wines. From the owner of Dublin winners Dillingers, The Butcher Grill, 777, and Amy Austin, it’s no surprise that Eleven has become one of the names on a lot of foodie’s lips. The spot is a 45-seater restaurant, with additional space at their bar as well as high-top tables and chairs for more casual dining. On those few and far between days when the sun decides to grace us with its presence, they also have a terrace that would be beautiful to bask in.

Weekday dining is particularly appealing for locals as they host a Happy Hour between 5pm and 7pm, which offers €2 oysters, and €2 discounts on drinks. If meals out are exclusively a weekend treat for you, Saturdays are all about brunch while Sundays focus on the beloved roast dinner, with a choice of the very best beef striploin, corn-fed chicken, free-range pork rack or steak, all served with Yorkshire puds, duck fat roasties, gravy, stuffing, and veg. The zinc-topped bar, Moroccan-style rugs, and deep red walls add to the jazzy atmosphere that just oozes comfort.

Our advice? Don’t sleep on this new grill – it’s worth the journey.

Go for? A Sunday roast

Eleven is based on the first floor of Whelehans Wines off the N11 in Loughlinstown – you can check out their menu HERE

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4. Lottie’s

Location: Rathmines, Dublin 6

Remember all the earlier talk of getting hurt – well some, particularly D6 locals, may be wary given the loss of Lenehan’s just three years into trading. Lottie’s, from Domini Kemp and Brian Montague, is a bistro with middle-of-the-road prices and a short but carefully put-together menu.

Tudorel Ostache is in the kitchen, bringing his extensive experience in restaurants such as Mister S, Pichet, as well as a short stint in Chapter One to his curated dishes. The bistro only has five mains, but they are varied, with jerk chicken thigh for BBQ lovers, and sea bass with smoked mussels for seafood aficionados. A fried aubergine flatbread is on offer for vegetarians, and you can get in touch with dietary requirements ahead of time.

Where Lottie’s really shines is with their extensive drinks menu; where they’re light on food, they’re heavy on cocktails and mocktails. While they have all the classics (Cosmo, Pornstar, Old Fashioned) Lottie’s shakes up their own signature bevs, including a salted caramel espresso martini that would work perfectly as a nightcap.

Go for? A bite to eat with your evening tipple

Lottie’s is based on the Rathgar Road in Rathmines

3. Kari

Location: Inchicore, Dublin 8

From the people behind the much beloved Konkan (with locations on Clanbrassil Street and Dundrum), Kari is a welcome new addition to Inchicore. Far from your run-of-the-mill Indian food, Kari has a refreshing menu that truly embraces Irish ingredients and Indian dishes.

With a menu that will make you chop and change until the exact moment of ordering, and food that hits you over the head with quality and flair. This popular little spot has limited seating so you’d want to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Go for? The exciting menu

Kari is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but opens Wednesday through to Sunday.

2. Bar Pez

Location: Portobello

While Bar Pez is more bar than restaurant, this dreamy new wine spot does carry a vibrant menu of small plates with a seafood bent, which sees lobster toast rubbing shoulders with Santoña Anchovies. Dublin seems to be ever leaning into the small plate trend, and Bar Pez encapsulate this new kind of venue with focus and intention.

The current kitchen menu is made up of the best of Irish seafood and produce; diners can expect the likes of whole roasted fish (the John Dory is calling our name), Kelly’s oysters, red mullet, and mackerel and seasonal grilled summer vegetables.

For those into wine, or doing a wine course like myself, you will be tickled by the wine menu which is divided into terroir, such as Mountains, Hills, Rivers, and Oceans, with one section dedicated to wine region royalty Burgundy.  The list is made up of predominantly younger wines, the oldest being a 2016 spring chicken. No matter how fussy you are with your wine, Bar Pez will have a bottle to tickle your particular fancy.

Go for? Decompressing with friends over a glass of vino

Bar Pez can be found on Kevin Street Lower and opens Thursday through to Monday from 3pm – 10pm

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1. La Gordita

Location: Montague Street

Coming 10 years after Tapas de Lola opened on Wexford Street, La Gordita is a Spanish bodega-style restaurant that has small plates with big flavours. Described as the mature Tapas de Lola, La Gordita translates to the Spanish term of endearment “little fat one”.

While dishes may vary at La Gordita, they have all your classic categories such as carne (meat), pescados (fish), pica pica (nibbles) and curados y conservas (cured and preserved). With huge cuts of meat designed for sharing, eating with your hands is not only more efficient but encouraged, with no disapproving looks of judgement.

Dishes vary considerably in cost; some plates may only cost you €12.50 but the likes of the lobster is going to set you back €37, with a caviar and potato crisps dish costing €65, meaning this 2023 opener will likely be saved by most for a special occasion. The wine list is ever-evolving, made up of French and naturally Spanish vinos to help wash down your sharing plates.

La Gordita’s more mature flavours have lived up to the hype set for them by their sister restaurant, expertly settling into the Dublin hospitality landscape, like they have always been there.

Go for? An intimate occasion dinner among friends

La Gordita opens from 5pm Wednesday to Friday, and 1pm Saturday and Sunday, closing on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Let us know if we’ve missed any class new openers that deserve a visit.

Header image via Instagram / La Gordita & / Kari


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