Bracken Grill is in the Bracken Court Hotel at the top of Balbriggan on the square. This unpretentious hotel serves bar food all day and the grill opens from 5pm every evening. With the hotel occupying a key site in the town this probably goes some way to explaining its popularity.
The grill is just off the bar, and the atmosphere is casual chic, and timber floors and cream leather booths giving a real contemporary feel. The buzz of the chefs in the open kitchen and the unusual mix of 90’s R&B playing in the background gave a real atmosphere.
The man in the kitchen is Noel Marrey, who started his career in Roly’s Bistro, before he spent several years in some of the top restaurants in Scotland and Australia, from where he brought his experience and influences back to Ireland. He then spent time in both Portmarnock Hotel and Dunboyne Castle before taking up his position at the helm in the Bracken.
We nibbled on a selection of chunky fresh breads served with a choice of butter, feta cheese, marinated tomatoes and an olive tapenade, and sipped from iced water while we decided what to have.
The menu is a 3 course set menu for €25 with small supplements on some dishes, €2 on a starter of €6 on a main. Starters offer a good selection, with soup of the day served in a sourdough bread bowl while there are also hot wings, moules mariniere, and pork ribs or prawns pil pil. Main courses offer a choice of steak; pan fried cod fillet, bangers & mash or roast crispy duck. The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced, and I picked a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc at €22.95.
Fred had fabulous rustic seafood chowder followed by the 12oz rib eye, with an added prawn skewer, turning it surf and turf. I started with the king prawns pil pil, spicy and juicy, the kick was there, and the bread did a fine job mopping up. From there I went onto the Louisiana gumbo, a dish I haven’t seen on a menu for many years.
It was almost beyond words, it was so good; a mix of prawns, chorizo sausage, crab claws, peppers and onions in a spicy tomato ragout served in a large taco shell on a bed of wild rice. Gumbo is not fine dining by any means, but when it’s well done its great comfort food.
We finished with a shared Pastel de Nata; a Portuguese custard tart and a lovely memory from my years in Lisbon. The food was consistently good throughout, and we left feeling happy before climbing the stairs to our very comfortable room and just chilling out.
Bracken Grill is popular for a reason; they do their style of food well and at a keen price. It’s hard not to like The Bracken, so just go with the flow and enjoy.