Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill is an exciting restaurant doing great things with Louth ingredients.
Are you always hungry when you go out to eat for a review my radio wife, Juliana Adelman, wonders? We’re chatting on an early morning drive to Lough Neagh to record the slippery sounds of an eel catch for our RTÉ radio series, History on a Plate. The answer is, yes I am, being blessed with what my mother would call hollow legs. It proves a prophetic question. Because by the time we pull up outside Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill in Drogheda, much later that day, I’m hungry enough to eat the live eel sitting in a bag at my feet: if we didn’t need it for tomorrow’s recording session.
It’s a curious place to find a restaurant. When you slide into the enormous navy blue banquette seat that curves around the front of the place, there’s a view of the gable end of a house and a satellite dish. It’s a bar and grill in the burbs, at the end of the Bryanstown centre, which faces the old Dublin Road.
Outside, the restaurant looks like the prow of a land-locked ship called Boomtime. The ground floor houses a small row of shops like any in a typical suburb. Inside it’s a stylish cavernous space with a bedspread size stars-and-stripes hanging from the ceiling, those €3 plastic Ikea lamps dotted evenly along the window and tankards of fresh flowers.
In the middle of weekday afternoon this could so easily be a freezer to fryer operation where you set your expectations to fodder rather than flavour. But it’s nothing like that. And I haven’t just stumbled on it in a happy hungry accident. The sister operation, The Brown Hound bakery, was voted best cafe last year by the smart cookies that are Irish Times readers.
First up a bottle of cloudy yellow apple juice made from the Stameen Farm orchards just down the road tells the start of the story of what’s happening here. It’s written on top of the menu, a “good things to eat” promise over a no-nonsense list of snack food that I’d be happy to work through from top to bottom, with the exception of the tiger prawns.
There’s a platter of seasonal crudités, carrots and celery and a knock-em-dead tangy gherkin and grissini.
We get pan-fried scallops served in a scallop shell, three of them nestled together with a sprinkling of lardo and pea shoots to dance a happy salt and sweet dance alongside the silky scallops.
Then there’s a Seaboard (see what they did there?) of smoked blossom, which is like smoked haddock only without the tango-ed orange colour, smoked salmon, a lip-smacking mackerel paté and Scandi-style Silver Darlings’ sweetly pickled herring chunks which are velvety soft and almost too sweet until you bite on the buckshot taste pellet that is a pink peppercorn.
There’s a smoked chicken salad with lemony chickpeas and local greens and my grilled lamb rump from the barbecue is so perfect it’s hard to believe it hasn’t just been done on a freshly fired-up blaze. A pot of lentils has the muddy crunch of well-cooked lentils given a perfect balsamic tang.
“We are not the most discerning of eaters. But that was really good,” Juliana says as we both sit back, happy we decided to hold out until we got here.
The team in Eastern Seaboard is a husband and wife duo, Meath woman Jeni Glasgowand her New York husband Reuven Diaz. Their Facebook page shows cornets made of crab, a tangle of garlic scapes (garlic bulb flower shoots) and a visit to their local GIY group which means hopefully some of those native vegetables will make their way into the restaurant soon.
Yes we were hungry but the cooking here takes it out of the category of pitstop and into a ( apologies for the awful phrase) destination restaurant. We’ll both be back, just maybe not as ravenous the next time.
Lunch for two with apple juice and a coffee came to €59.95.
Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill, 1 Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth. Tel: 041-980 2570