“Umm, let me just… check that for you”.
This was the rather baffled response I got from a hostess a couple years back when I asked if the lighting in the restaurant was flattering.
My date had booked the spot in advance and I was now engaging in my obligatory follow-up call to scope the scene.
It sounds vain, but as someone who battled with severe acne for years, it’s a high-priority issue for me.
Two minutes of dead air ensued while she presumably let everyone know that there was a headcase on the phone.
She came back with a (somewhat frightened) “It’s medium/bright”. In fairness to the girl, it’s a tricky one to answer.
I’ve made it my business to round up five first date spots in Dublin with fabulously flattering lighting, to save you the mortification of calling ahead
1. Hang Dai, Camden Street
I tried this spot out for the first time with my other half last night, and let me tell you we were absolutely mad about each other by the time we left.
It’s definitely on the dark side, with some neon accents and reds coming from below. We sat up by the Wood Fired Oven. The flames danced across the table while our duck was being cooked. Perfect.
2. The Butcher’s Grill, Ranelagh
If you’re having a bad skin day, I implore you to try the Butcher’s Grill. It relies almost completely on candlelight, with a glow from the kitchen and some street light. There are extra festive twinklies added at this time of year, but not at all invasive.
It also serves some of the best steak in Dublin. It’s pretty small and always busy so you’ll have to book in advance.
3. Urban Brewing, IFSC
It’s an underground vault… need I say more? It’s a 19th century warehouse in the CHQ building, but the lighting is practically medieval, with minimal fixtures on the wall giving off a gentle glow.
There are plenty of little corners and crevices to tuck into downstairs, and ask for the hangover-free red wine behind the bar.
4. The Port House, Temple Bar
Again, candles are king in this gorgeous stone cellar-like restaurant.
Tapas are also perfect first-date fare, they’re a conversation starter and sharing food can get those intimate vibes going.
They have a great selection of wines and port served straight from the cask.
5. Chez Max, Baggot St.
The French know good lighting is key to romance, and it was a toss up between this and La Maison on Castlemarket St. for the final slot.
Chez Max is a little brighter than some of the above, but you’d still get away with a multitude of sins. You can dine outside in the terrace all year round, and we highly recommend the moules-frites for two.