Tucked away from Clontarf’s main drag, this smart and comfortable basement restaurant doesn’t enjoy the benefit of passing trade, though you’d never know: the bustling dining room and frequently turned tables suggest it doesn’t need to rely on random walk-ins.
Ever since the arrival of proprietor-chef Brian Walsh (whose CV includes time with Dylan McGrath at Mint, his acclaimed Ranelagh restaurant) savvy northside locals have been beating a path to this low-key location for the excellent cooking at reasonable prices and the relaxing atmosphere.
Approached down a wide staircase this split-level Dublin restaurants contemporary and inviting, with a pleasing coffee and cream colour scheme that includes comfy seating and a dramatic centrepiece of oversized lampshades. Mismatched wooden wine boxes are arranged on the wall as a creative artwork housing quirky objets d’art while the lower room has lovely prints of ornate cutlery.
A zinc-topped bar takes pride of place in the first room, where diners can settle for an aperitif and watch the award-winning mixologist rustle up a selection of cocktails. The building also boasts a lively bar upstairs, popular with a younger crowd, so diners can enjoy full bar offerings, including beers and Guinness on draft. The wine list offers a very affordable selection with the option to choose plenty of glasses and carafes as well.
Despite the lack of provenance on the menu, a glance at Downstairs’ website reveals a commitment to sourcing quality Irish ingredients from top suppliers. Chunky tableware in earthy colours makes a pretty palate for dishes that are all beautifully presented. Happily the eye for detail extends beyond presentation and diners can expect honest, confidently cooked food using great seasonal ingredients.
Terrines are something of a speciality, perhaps a ham hock and foie gras combination served with black fig puree, celeriac remoulade and sourdough for starters. Mains might star favourites like roast duck, baked cod, fillet of beef and braised pork belly, all served with imaginative and interesting accompaniments. A house speciality of crumbed courgettes with basil aioli mash are especially good!
Portions are well judged and the Downstairs Deal menu, which runs every evening, offers excellent value – €23.95 for two courses and €26.95 for three – in this lively and stylish neighbourhood restaurant.