Aqua Seafood restaurant in Howth has what are almost certainly the best sea views in Dublin. It’s set at the end of the West Pier in the last building, which is the old harbour station. The dining room is on the first floor, and after a walk up an extravagant staircase it’s at this point the sharp intake of breath occurs. Laid out in an amazing vista are Lambay Island and the Irish Sea, with the coast running up to Portmarnock and Malahide.
The effect is heightened by the floor to ceiling picture windows which are flush with the sea wall and it gives the impression of actually being at sea. If you want to re create the whole Kate and Leo bit on the prow of Titanic without the whole sinking bit this is the place to do it.
I had intended to review Aqua for dinner but after seeing the view on a crisp, sunny, winter’s day the temptation to enjoy a leisurely lunch in such a setting proved too much and I sat down and stared out to sea, reminding myself I might not see such a bright sky and blue sea for many months.
There are two menus at lunchtime; the set offering two courses for 19.95 or three for 23.95 and the A la Carte. The set menu is very good value offering a choice of five starters and mains including seafood chowder, smoked haddock risotto followed by pan fried fillet of local fish with scallion mash, a chicken dish and Howth caught Dover sole meuniere style with creamed mash, which has a supplement.
The a la carte features elements of the evening menu and it is here I decided to order. Starters here include three lobster dishes; lobster and crayfish salad, half chilled lobster with mango salsa or classic lobster Thermidor, all priced at 16.95. There are also half a dozen oysters at €11, and deep fried calamari or baked crab claws.
Main courses have plenty to tempt with including fish and chips, roast fillet of monkfish with pea purée and mango salsa, a grilled loin of tuna, an aged fillet of beef or the Dover Sole again.
I started with the lobster Thermidor, which came detached and replaced in its shell, with a green salad on the side. The cheese and creamy sauce was delicious, and was quickly mopped up with some of their excellent homemade bread. Dover sole was filleted and boned after cooking, and replaced on the bone to hold its shape. Perfectly cooked, it was almost meaty and the flavour was great from this fresh, locally caught fish. Creamy mash and a glass of crisp Chablis went beautifully and I really couldn't face a dessert, and so finished with a good coffee.
A long lunch, it was after three when I left. In this time the light had changed and as I took a last look out their fantastic picture window, the colours had darkened, with purple shades where green had been earlier.
The food in Aqua is top notch, and coupled with what must be the best sea views in Dublin, it's a true destination restaurant. You owe it to yourself to experience it if you haven't done so already.