Well located right in the centre of Swords, Robbie Burns’ inviting bistro sports smart awnings and outside tables for coffees in fine weather and the welcoming exterior draws in hungry passers-by as well as its many regular customers.
Inside it’s a modest, informal affair where friendly local staff are quick to greet guests, with jugs of iced water and freshly baked bread speedily on the table, and menus offered by head chef Robbie and his brother, Owen Burns, are inspired mainly by the seasonal produce of north Co Dublin (suppliers listed).
They have a great daytime menu including a wide choice of appealing salads, pastas, gourmet sandwiches, wraps and grills - and there’s an attractive 10-10-10 offer for a speedy lunchtime bite (any two dishes for a tenner - in 10 minutes).
There are occasional themed evenings - a Ten Mile Menu, for example, or perhaps a Seafood Tasting Menu or Spanish Wine Dinner - and the reasonably priced regular dinner menus feature pleasing dishes, ranging from soup of the day, chicken wings or ham hock terrine to start, then mains with a leaning towards good beef - homemade burgers, well matured steaks fresh - as well as seafood, poultry and a good sprinkling of vegetarian choices.
Popular desserts include house variations on favourites like chocolate & hazelnut brownies or Iona Farm apple tart - and some retro treats like knickerbocker glory too.
The cooking is assured and unfussy, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and contemporary flavour twists that elevate each dish beyond the standard bistro fare. A juicy and deeply-flavoured rib-eye pleasingly presented on a board with classic café de Paris butter among the trimmings is as good as you’ll get anywhere.
To accompany, an informative wine list offers quite a few by the glass there’s a selection of beers and ciders, although no Irish craft brews unfortunately.
Essence Bistro’s policy of sourcing quality ingredients and cooking them with skill and simplicity is a winner with loyal regulars, who also appreciate the reasonable prices and manager Ian Montgomery’s friendly, professional service. No wonder it has become the local bistro of choice for many North Dublin diners.