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Caladh, Greystones, review: In this smart new restaurant, a torch is a prerequisite for reading the menu

The atmosphere is truly lovely, it is a joyful room where everyone seems to know each other

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Address: Main Street, Church Rd, Rathdown Lower, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, A63 TW18
Telephone: 01 576 8999
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

Greystones must be the happiest place in the world. I’m tempted to point to the diminutive but ear-piercing blonde at a table for four and channel the “I’ll have what she’s having” line from When Harry Met Sally – for mirth rather than carnal joys, I should add. But our lovely waitress is enthusiastically relaying the fact that ordering from all four sections of the menu is advisable, we will need a side to go with our mains and would we like still or sparkling water? I’m left wondering, is it my hearing, eyesight or the upsell I should be most worried about?

Rules of engagement: before taking the Dart to Greystones, make sure that your smartphone is charged. A torch is a prerequisite for reading the menu at Caladh, the new restaurant opened by Brian Walsh and Paul Foley, the team behind the Pigeon House in Delgany. There’s a mix of low and high tables and a cocktail bar runs along a leg to the side. But the dim lighting fails to detract from the din and the fact that someone forgot to install acoustic panels.

Caladh is the Irish for harbour and the menu reflects this with a good range of fish and seafood options, but there is plenty for carnivores too. In fact, it looks like they could run this place with just one main course option as everyone in the room seems to have opted for the sharing dish of Peter Hannon’s salt-aged striploin with pressed potato fries (€39pp).

I start with a Flaggy Shore oyster with mignonette (€3) for the first of the suggested four courses. Mignonette is generally served on the side (red wine vinegar and shallots), but here it is rather enthusiastically doused on the bivalve, allowing the vinegar to drown out the sweet, briny taste. The focaccia with a quenelle of herb butter (€6), is not quite what I would expect after a 48-hour ferment, but perhaps it is the vagaries of a sourdough starter at play.

There is a token bottle of red and white wine under €40, but it is an interesting list with plenty by the glass and extends to cocktails, Whiplash beer and quite a few non-alcoholic options. A crisp Baron De Badassière Picpoul de Pinet (€35) goes nicely with our dishes.

Our squash ravioli (€16) is nicely made, the pasta is delicate and clearly hasn’t spent too long sitting on the bench before it was cooked. The squash, with some lemon zest, brings a sweetness to the filling, but I would have loved a splash of lemon juice in the rich, brown butter sauce to add a balance of acidity. Three pieces of scallop (€16), have been nicely caramelised on one side and served with three smaller pieces of black pudding, and the sauce has a bit of sweetness to it, which is more or less countered by new season rhubarb.

Too often, restaurants start off well and stumble when it comes to the main course, but at Caladh, it seems to be at this point that it hits its stride. The grilled Andarl Farm pork chop (€28) is very good, dusted in spice that brings a smoky note to the dish, served with hispi cabbage, fennel and apple. The halibut (€36) is beautifully cooked, served with grilled fennel, buttery carrot purée and toasted hazelnuts. We’ve gone with a salad (€5) for our side order, a mix of leaves liberally dressed with a slightly sweet vinaigrette which, similar to our earlier dishes, would benefit from being pointed up with a little acidity.

For dessert, we order a rectangle of chocolate mousse (€9), which is quite dense and sweet, but the slices of blood orange and ice cream bring freshness to the dish and there is a nice crunch from the sesame tuile.

Caladh is perhaps a little on the expensive side, with prices just a shade under what you would pay in Library Street or Allta, in Dublin city, and somehow the “discretionary gratuity” of 10 per cent feels a little out of place in a neighbourhood restaurant. This crowd looks like the sort of people who could be relied on to tip well.

The atmosphere is truly lovely, it is a joyful room where everyone seems to know each other. All it needs is a bit of attention to the acoustics to absorb some of the reverberating glee.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine and 10 per cent service charge was €169.40.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Music: I’ve no idea, too noisy to identify what was being played.

Food provenance: Glenmar Seafood, Peter Hannon meats, Gold River Farm and Caterway.

Vegetarian options: Focaccia, squash ravioli and roast cauliflower with almond, raisin and curry; vegans can be accommodated.

Wheelchair access: Fully accessible with accessible toilet.

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