Several restaurants have tried and failed in this spot above Kiely’s in Donnybrook and Rock Lobster is the newest incarnation to take on the space. The owners have worked hard to revamp the room and create a fresh, inviting space whose cow graphic and contemporary canvasses aim to tap into the zeitgeist for pared back restaurant interiors (though the pendulum lights irritate, as the bulb glares at eye level over the tables).
The cow image is there to remind diners that, despite the catchy name and lobster-filled fish tank by reception, beef shares the headlines here.
Starters might include Balscadden crab cake, lobster bisque or a fabulous salad of heritage beets with candied walnuts and capers. Those less hungry (or quaffing cocktails at the bar) might prefer the titbits list, a selection of innovative bite-size nibbles, perhaps goats’ cheese cigar or naughty piggy puffs – gourmet pork scratchings with apple and ginger purée, which can double up as starters.
Mains come from the lobster, beef and seafood camps, ranging from seafood platters to cooked-to-order prime cuts and a full-on lobster fest, including Maine lobster roll and lobster linguini. The split lobster with shoestring fries and a salad is the big seller, and makes a satisfying treat for €20. (Cleverly, you can choose to add a half lobster to any dish for a reasonable €10, should you wish to create your own surf and turf meal.) Diners may wrestle with the tasty crustaceans, but staff are never far away if you need help navigating your lobster.
While the restaurant sources both Canadian and Irish lobsters, on The Guide’s visit we found Canadian ones being served to individuals as the Irish beasts were too large for single portions. Daily specials almost always include Irish fish, perhaps monkfish with butternut puree and tomato gnocchi, and the five cuts of beef, including a 1 kilo 55-day porterhouse, are prime Irish too, and bursting with flavour.
Sides comprise old faithfuls like sautéed onions and a house salad, though diners will also find fashionable offerings like truffle and parmesan chips, mac ‘n’ cheese or duck fat chips, which work well with the main offerings. Steaks are served with four classic sauces, though these cost an extra €1.50 each.
Rock Lobster’s food is fun, tasty and confident, though its lobster and steak dishes are the undeniable stars. Some dishes are flawed, but overall the imaginative menu is a breath of fresh air cleverly designed to please seafood aficionados as much as meat and two veg candidates.
The atmosphere is upbeat and lively, thanks, in no small way, to terrific floor staff who are attentive and interested.
A mid-priced wine list will appeal to most tastes and pockets with 12 wines by the glass. There’s a great cocktail list here too, and in case you’re in any doubt the proprietors want you to kick back and have fun, the restaurant boasts it’s own cosy piano bar area own the back with comfy sofas and live music on weekends, encouraging guests to linger after dinner and party a while.