Although one of the relatively recent restaurants to open in Howth, the nautically-themed interior of The Oar House - an old smoke house on the West Pier - has a lived-in feel that makes you believe it's been sating diners for decades. The corrugated roof, fishing nets, buoys, old sailing masts and instruments give it an atmosphere that's at once vibrant and welcoming.
This Dublin restaurants tables are dressed with paper cloths and the casual vibe makes it extremely relaxing and child-friendly.
It’s run by John Aungier, whose sister restaurant is the ever-popular Casa Pasta on the harbour front, with all fish supplied by Dorans of Howth, next door. A fishing family who have been in the seafood industry here for over half a century, Dorans own an 18 metre fishing boat, the Celtic Fisher, which – together with several other local boats, from Skerries and Clogherhead as well as Howth - supplies Dublin Bay Prawns (langoustines) and ultra fresh fish to their shop and wholesale customers, and also their two West Pier restaurants, The Oar House and Octopussy’s. (And, through a tracking system operated via social media and Dorans' website seafood2go.ie, you can even avail of Ireland’s first ship to shore home delivery for cooking in your own kitchen.)
The vast menu at The Oar House features every manner of seafood, from chowder to shellfish to fish pie (many of which can be ordered as tapas) and is supplemented by a long list of daily specials written up on big boards.
Although most fish is local, you may find some from exotic places too – the ubiquitous tiger prawn is harvested a long way from the Irish Sea, for example, but many customers are glad enough to see it when the superior Dublin Bay Prawn (langoustine) is unavailable.
From grilled sardines to baked monkfish, or maybe succulent scampi to seafood platters everything is simply and cleverly prepared in the bustling open kitchen. And, as the fresh fish is displayed in cabinets in front of the kitchen before cooking, you can even go up and have a look before taking your pick.
Caring and efficient service, generous portions, lovely desserts, good value and a choice setting make this place a real treasure for fish fans.