Discerning visitors to this attractive seaside town have been making a beeline to the Waterworth family's great quayside pub for years - Denis and Margaret Waterworth opened their Donaghadee stalwart in 1999, and it already seems to have been there for ever, especially as their sons Lewis and Jody are now in the business too.
A pub of character, it’s a lively, warmly traditional place with a welcoming fire in winter, a good buzz and friendly staff. Being beside one of Northern Ireland’s most picturesque harbours it’s a favourite bolthole for sailing folk, and it’s the perfect place to repair to after a brisk walk in the bracing sea air.
Right from the start they’ve been known for their food, especially local seafood, and it’s an atmospheric place to enjoy it, particularly in the evening. And, although most famous for seafood - which depends on local catches - the menus offered are extensive there really is something for everyone here.
Seafood lovers will quite rightly be excited by the thought of treats like big fat Portavogie prawns - a cocktail starter, perhaps, or real scampi, or a gorgeous Prawn Mornay - hand dived Copeland Island scallops (you can see the islands from the harbour), or the comforting Pier 36 fish pie...
But Pier 36 has an ace up its sleeve for meat lovers too, in the shape of their dry-aged locally reared beef, which is hung and butchered on site - something that not a lot of restaurants can claim.
They say it makes ‘the best steak in the country’ and it features in a range of dishes on all menus, including a dedicated Grill Menu and a special section within the dinner menu, making this a serious steak lovers destination.
Vegetarians get a fair look in too, and there’s a very nice children’s menu, offering home made versions of the old favourites and some more grown up dishes too.
Lewis Waterworth has obviously enjoyed compiling the wine list which is organised by grape variety with tasting notes and offers plentyof choice at accessible prices - including a House Selection (six whites, four reds, three rosés and a Prosecco) around £20 or under, and with most available in three sizes (bottle, carafe, glass). No craft beers to be seen (yet), however.
An inn in all but name, Pier 36 offers much more than food and drink as this welcoming pub has seven individually decorated rooms too, all furnished to a high standard and some with harbour views - what a great place to be based for a break exploring this beautiful area.