Set in the hills above the city, Stepaside is only a short hop off the M50 but has still retained its small village feel. And in that small village, it’s easy to spot the smart trio of The Box Tree, The Wild Boar and The Wine Room all lined up in a row, with The Box Tree’s smartly canopied frontage and crisply trimmed namesake box trees flanking the entrance.
Hungry guests can head straight in to their table in the restaurant or call in to the attractive modern pub next door, The Wild Boar. In common ownership with The Box Tree, it has interconnecting doors and offers a more casual setting to enjoy good food from the same kitchen, especially in the mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner when the restaurant isn’t serving food, or for drinks before and after your meal. The Wild Boar then leads on to The Wine Room, a stylish wine bar that can also be booked for private dining.
The classy interior of the main restaurant and pub is contemporary country, decorated in elegant tones – soft sage, blue-greys and complementary browns and creams – and with tweedy checks on upholstered furniture softening the look in the restaurant, which has fashionably bare tables, traditional white linen napkins and very comfortable wooden-backed dining chairs. Banquettes with comfy cushions act as room dividers, and alcoves allow privacy for families and small groups.
Well-designed lighting creates a warm atmosphere, with some light fittings featuring antlers, a reminder that the Wicklow Hills are close by, and a link with menus that may offer specialities such as Wicklow Blue cheese and local Glenmalure venison when in season.
Friendly and well-trained staff are quick to make arriving guests feel at home. Menus, wine list, water and delicious breads are delivered, and a well-informed server soon returns to explain the specials and other highlights of the attractively priced menus (the set menus are particularly good value). There is something to suit every time of day, from morning coffee and weekend breakfast straight through to cream tea, lunch and dinner.
The menu is small but creative and the food is cooked and presented with skill. Local producers and suppliers are listed on the menu, including beef aged in the Himalayan salt chamber at Hannan Meats. The focus on quality ingredients shines through in the finished dishes. Even a dish as simple as an open-faced shrimp sandwich in the pub is elevated to something special by thick slices of homemade brown bread and spanking fresh seafood, while a lemon cheesecake dessert is not what you would expect, but instead comes beautifully presented and deconstructed into its separate parts.
The private cellar wines are directly sourced and exclusively imported by the restaurant and feature small artisan vineyards, with many available by the glass, and a few of the O’Hara’s range of craft beers are available on draught too.
A good buzz, stylish surroundings, value for money and confident cooking make this a popular place and well worth a quick detour off the M50.