The Bridge Tavern is in the heart of Wicklow town, and is a fine imposing premises on the bridge over the river Vartry. If Wicklow town has a foodie quarter this is it, for across the road is the excellent Halpins cafe, and just around the corner is the Fishman fishmongers and their Lighthouse restaurant.
The Bridge Tavern is now firmly in the gastro market, and a selection of quality home cooked food is on offer daily. Inside the pub is traditional, but an imminent refurbishment will see the courtyard brought inside, into more of a garden room, and the front bar will be food orientated, with a good whiskey bar to boot.
We visited on a Sunday for lunch, and even in the depths of January the bar was busy, and most of the tables were occupied by families and friends opting to let someone else cook the Sunday lunch
The menu is well thought out and offers eight or ten starters and the same of mains, with specials as well on a blackboard. Starters include chowder, soup of the day, chicken wings, pan fired king prawns with garlic and chilli or Wicklow crab claws in garlic butter, which are seasonally priced and can be had as a main course.
Main courses offer bangers and mash, a choice of steaks from FXB's, a homemade beef burger, fish and chips, catch of the day and a couple of pastas. The specials include a rib of beef, rack of pork and a homemade chicken and mushroom pie
Feeling in the mood for a bit of comfort on a cold day, we didn't see past the specials and orders one of each, and figured we'd leave a bit of room for the desserts.
While we waited we took some time to study the black and white photos that are all over. They are all vintage prints of local scenes; fisherman working, seascapes and a brilliant one of a man on a diving board over the river Vartry, which was wonderfully evocative, especially his partners in mischief who sat in the row boat below and looked on expectantly, no doubt shouting encouragement, or perhaps disparagement, depending on how long he had remained in his pre diving pose.
The main courses came out, plates piled high. Abigail had the pie, an individual dish with a puff pastry lid and packed full of chicken and mushroom in a creamy sauce. It was accompanied by a special mash, which was laced with butter, cheese and bacon, with scallion or make sure no flavour was missed. Deirdre had the roast beef, which was sitting on mash, while a little dish of roasties and mixed veg was on the side. A homemade Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy made this a Sunday winner.
I had the roast rib of port, essentially two large chops on the bone; with all the trimmings, it was delicious with a little mustard and dipped in the apple sauce on the side.
We couldn't pass a traditional Knickerbocker Glory for dessert, as well as a little orange and cardamom chocolate pot. The Glory was only glorious, while the chocolate was rich and elegant, a grown up foil to the fruity trifle. A couple of good coffees set us up for the short-ish drive back to Dublin.
We liked the Bridge Tavern, its relaxed and informal, serves good, honest food at very good value for menus prices – two course Sunday lunch less than €20. There's a good team in place with manager Vivion O'Connor running front of house, while in the kitchen Andy McDaniel a young chef on a mission. We'll be back in the summer, to see the new look and have a plate of locally caught fresh crab claws on the terrace over the river. A great Sunday lunch destination.