Approaching Clontarf Castle on a dreary Tuesday lunchtime, our mood instantly improved as we caught a glimpse of the spires atop the bricked 12th century castle.
The castle is located just 10 minutes north of Dublin city centre and only a stone’s throw from the stunning Northern Coastline, including Howth and Malahide.
As soon as we opened the looming castle doors, I instantly fell in love. Aptly decorated with a chivalrous knight and a grand wooden staircase, our path to the bar was short but sweet.
As soon as you enter Knights Bar and walk across the wooden floors, the relaxed vibe is immediately evident. Nicely populated given the castle’s location, with a good mix of locals and tourists. As an eternally cold individual, I quickly set my sights on a seat nestled directly in front of the bar’s roaring fire.
Castles have always held a sense of fascination for me and I feel like I’m always finding excuses to visit them. Clontarf Castle’s history is evident while sitting inside the bar. With an ornate ceiling, medieval chandeliers, emblematic crests and rustic wooden decor dotted around the bar, you really feel a sense of the past in the design.
There’s also a number of statues, portraits and small monuments carefully placed on the mantlepiece over the gastro pub’s fireplace. Large windows ensure that a good deal of natural light shines into the bar.
The bar’s new look is evident in the series of green, leather-upholstered booths, which add a retro touch to the bar and while they looked perfectly cosy, I was delighted with my seat by the fire.
Perusing the menu, which boasted a wide selection of modern Irish fare, myself and my companion decide to share Knight’s Charcuterie Board. Served with toasted sourdough and brown bread, the beautifully designed board was more than enough for two people to share.
We devoured the Knight’s Charcuterie Board (€10.95), which had hearty helping of ham hock terrine, pastrami and corned beef, as well as St. Tola’s goat’s cheese, Cashel blue cheese, pickles, sun-dried relish and grilled sourdough bread.
The curried cauliflower became my surprise favourite item on the board, while favourites like pastrami and goat’s cheese quickly disappeared from view. Across the table, the acquired taste of blue cheese was favoured by my guest.
The only thing missing from this beautiful starter was a glass of wine, something we had avoided due to our middle of the day lunch. We did make a mental note to return to Knights Bar some evening and indulge in a glass of vino in front of the oaky fire.
For mains, I chose the lighter salad option, with the Knight’s Signature Rainbow Quinoa Salad (€11.95) taking my fancy. A taste of summer, the vibrant dish contained quinoa, charred onion, butternut squash and an assortment of salad leaves.
Taking advantage of the option to add a meaty option to my main, I was very glad of the Chargrilled Lemon & Thyme Chicken, which was exactly the protein boost I needed and really upped the salad’s appeal.
Selecting something from “The Fisherman’s Trawler”, my guest couldn’t resist the ‘Clogherhead’ Crab Linguini (€16.95), which contained fresh crab meat, pan fried crab claws and slow roasted cherry tomatoes bound together in a parsley, chilli garlic and white wine sauce.
Enjoying her dish, my companion praised the beautiful and perfectly cooked crab meat – a favourable lunch option.
Despite feeling satisfied after our main courses, we were immediately tempted by a Date and Walnut Sponge (€6.95) as soon as our waitress, Michelle, placed dessert menus in front of us.
Sharing the dessert, which was accompanied by aromatic figs in syrup and topped with a sinful scoop of salted caramel ice cream, the beautifully presented dish didn’t stay pretty for long. The figs were delightfully fresh and any date lover would be happy with this dessert.
Finishing off our water, we suddenly wished we could wile away the hours with a glass of wine in this cosy gastro bar. Sadly, the outside world was calling to us and we reluctantly left our table, leaving the inviting fire and historic walls behind us.
With its ambience, food offering and location, Knights Bar is the kind of place that lets you happily escape the modern world for a few hours.
The price for a 3-course lunch for two came to €46.80.
Clontarf Castle Hotel,
REVIEW BY SARAH GLASCOTT