The Canal Bank Café in Dublin 4 strikes a welcoming chord between neighbourhood eatery and lively dinner venue. Nestled off Upper Leeson Street and named for its views over the Grand Canal, the café is framed by Georgian buildings and leafy side roads, and its large, bright windows give chic bistro-style vibes during the day.
We were invited to check out the new menu at Canal Bank Café, which turns 20 years old. Canal Bank has spanned two decades as one of Dublin’s most popular local restaurants due to the impressive food and drink menu, as well as the owners’ penchant to always encourage a party.
Owners Trevor Browne and Gerard Foote reimagined the menu to reflect the food they sampled on their travels to Los Angeles — exciting flavours bursting through wholesome, fresh ingredients.
Over the last two decades, the menu has evolved to suit changing tastes, from its initial shepherd’s pie and Croque Monsieur to the new additions of shellfish cioppino and poke bowl salad. Not to worry, though: customer favourites won’t be disappearing any time soon! The famous chicken wings and calamari are firm menu fixtures, while steak choices and chicken dishes will also now sharpen up with healthier, less heavy additions.
During our visit, we tried a bit of everything and loved every bite: we had the iconic chicken wings and calamari as starters, along with a blue cheese and pear salad from the specials menu. The wings were meaty and tangy, with enough spice, while the calamari was delightfully fresh (nothing worse than rubbery, frozen calamari) and the sriracha lemon aioli that accompanied it should be sold by the litre.
As a main, the seafood cioppino hit the spot: it was fresh, packed with flavour and didn’t leave you feeling too full. Jumbo prawns, mussels and Lisadell cockles (an addition that always excites us) were served with a tomato and fennel broth, with a saffron aioli and crispy frites on the side. A baked fillet of hake with a creamy curry sauce, roasted almonds and potatoes also spoke to the kitchen team’s skill at crafting exciting menu offerings that also feel fresh and wholesome.
Virtuosity aside, we moved on to dessert. The sticky date, chocolate and pecan pudding with salted caramel and a coffee ice cream was a next-level take on sticky toffee pudding, while the pistachio and coconut pudding with black cherries and pistachio ice cream was a sweet and tangy gluten-free delight.
The new cocktail menu also features a celebratory addition in recognition of the landmark birthday: the Canal Bank 20, an autumnal tipple that features Hennessey Brandy, Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Angostura Bitters, apple juice, a balance of sweetness and citrus tartness and a frothy top.
“Many elements have contributed to the menu change. Quality and sustainability have taken precedence. The produce available now is more artisan, with exciting ingredients that were unheard of 20 years ago. There is a big emphasis on meat quality, animal welfare and sustainability. Everyone is conscious of the increasingly fragile planet,” said Browne.
Speaking about the updated menu, Head Chef Yvonne Mulligan, who has been designing the food offering at Canal Bank now for 15 years, said: “We have had so many great menus over the years and the best sellers are always hard to change due to customer opposition. I have pared back what was previously a large burger and omelette section, to make way for more health-conscious options like beautiful zesty salads and wonderful non-cream-based pastas.”
The team was welcoming, helpful and generous — although it was our first time visiting, we felt as though we had been regulars for years. With the Dublin restaurant industry more competitive than ever and dominated by large restaurant groups, it’s wonderful to see a local restaurant withstand the test of time and offer a menu and experience that not only keeps a loyal clientele happy, but also attracts a new and eager customer base. We can’t wait to visit again.
Canal Bank is open daily, with weekend brunch served from 12-4pm. Reservations can be made by calling (01) 6642135 or email email@example.com.