Dun Restaurant at the Royal Marine Hotel sits in imposing splendour, overlooking Dun Laoghaire harbour and across Dublin Bay to Howth. This grand dame hotel has a starred history, playing hostess to everyone from Queen Victoria to Laurel and hardy, the two of whom had an extended stay here of over one month on the occasion of their trip to Ireland for just one show.
The old building retains its features, but of course has been modernised and now guests enjoy all the modern amenities of a luxury stay, including a spa and the benefit of beautiful views.
Dun restaurant is the main dining option here, though of course food is served in the bar and tea in the oppulent lounge. We visited on a sunny summers evening and found ourselves seated at the window of the dining room, looking out at that view. The restaurant is very contemporary inside, and tables are nicely spaced, with crisp linen and sparkling stemware and cutlery. We were soon supplied with menus, sparkling water and some warm bread fresh from the oven.
There is an early bird available, but we decided to stick with the a la carte. Chef Karl Smith has created a well balanced list of offerings and starters include chicken liver pate, soup of the day, a whipped feta salad, scallops with black pudding and Irish smoked salmon. Main course continued with a choice of steaks, pan fried sea bass or roast salmon, duck breast or lamb cutlets and a vegetarian option of butternut squash linguine. It seemed to make sense to go separate ways, so Abigail chose from the seafood, and I stayed on the land.
Abigail ordered a glass of the house Sauv Blanc, and I stuck with my sparkling water and we chose quite different starters; Abi had the scallops with black pudding and I the salad of prosciutto and fig. The portion was generous; three perfectly cooked scallops on discs of Buckley’s black pudding came with a Gruyere cheese sauce, which worked well with this combination. My salad, in addition to the figs had diced melon, and the tangy fruit complemented the sweet cured meats, this was a light dish and perfectly for a balmy summers evening.
Main courses continued the land and sea divide, and Abigail’s pan fried sea bass was au pointe with a creamy mash and al dente greens, and a roast garlic and almond butter. I fancied the Wicklow lamb cutlets and these perfect chops were thick and juicy. Local Wicklow lamb is always a treat. Paolo always said most Irish lamb is essentially organic, and I always love the taste of lamb here, especially after a trip abroad. (The bones made a surprise appearance at home later for the bold Rafa, a tiny dog with a big appetite.)
We finished with a shared chocolate and raspberry mousse, prettily served in a cocktail glass and some good coffee for me.
The Royal Marine is a lovely hotel, and Dun restaurant for a meal out is a treat. There is splendour to dining here in this grand room, but staff take any fussiness out of it with relaxed and friendly service. It’s very good value for money, and a frankly refreshing change from the themed restaurants that proliferate while mostly failing to stimulate.