Ireland is doing a great job of Marketing itself as a foodie destination lately. County Wicklow with its food and drink Network “Wicklow Naturally’ even more so! Sunny South-East towns Gorey and Wicklow Town have been dining destinations for some years now, but there is a lot of potential for Arklow and the surrounding area to become a read foodie hotspot in coming years.
Arklow – A History of Food Production
It is no secret that Arklow was once one of the busiest fishing ports on the east coast. In the 1800s the town became famous for its native oysters which were mostly harvested for export until the stocks were depleted. However, there is hope that this may again be the case thanks to the NATIVE OYSTER REEF RESTORATION (Norri) project. Arklow still has a small amount of fishing, notably for herrings, whelks, and farmed river trout.
Wicklow is known for its high-quality lamb and mutton, and there is plenty farmed around the south of the county, in addition to dairy and beef and intermittent tillage farming. There is a relatively large duck and goose farm near Arklow, which sells geese for the Christmas dinner market. Honey is also produced locally.
Just outside Arklow, you’ll find WICKLOW FARMHOUSE CHEESES whose famous products, such as their Blue Brie, are enjoyed as far afield as the USA and Asia and has won countless awards.
Arklow was once home to the prominent Brennan’s Bakery, where Pettitt’s Super Valu now sits, however this closed in 1988. Today’s there is a number of decent bakeries in the area including An CISEAN ARAIN on the lower Main St and multi-award-winning DAINTY BAKERY.
In its hinterlands, you’ll find some dining gems but Arklow itself doesn’t really do sit-down restaurants. I’m confident this will change in the next decade.
Popular takeaway outlet ASIAN HARVEST has tables upstairs with views over the Nineteen Arches bridge and the Avoca River and offers some delicious Chinese and Thai food.
THE STRAWBERRY TREE, at Macreddin Village (20 mins drive), Ireland’s first certified organic restaurant, is a winner. You hear a lot of buzzwords these days – or phrases like “ingredients are local and seasonal where possible” but these guys really walk the walk – expect lots of game, elderflower, sorrel, local mushrooms etc. It’s a set menu; a bit on the pricey side but worth every penny. Creative places like this need our support. If you fancy something a bit more casual there’s LA TAVERNA ARMENTO around the corner, which serves pizza, pasta and a range of antipasti.
Highly recommended, THE WICKLOW BREWERY BISTRO in Redcross, a candlelit room with a slightly medieval feel and only a 16-minute from Arklow. Each dish is expertly paired with a beer from the adjoining microbrewery; tours are available.
The aforementioned bistro food is served in MICKY FINNS, the pub part of the Wicklow Brewery microcosm. There are some creative dishes you won’t find in other bars – Curried Mussels, Beef and Ale Pie etc and the fish special changes frequently.
Five minutes from Arklow is the GOLDMINES BISTRO in the WOODENBRIDGE HOTEL, operating since 1608, which offers a range of local specialties such as Slow-Cooked Wicklow Lamb Shanks and Woodenbridge whole-baked trout. The hotel makes all of it’s own bread and desserts and offers a range of local beers in it’s bar. In the summer, the riverside nearbySMOKEHOUSE RESTAURANT offers some delicious smoked meats, seafood and vegetarian options.
There are some pubs on Arklow main street that serve food. The best is probably DARCY MCGEE’S with its balcony with riverside views. JACK WHITES PUB, a roadside tavern named after a local smuggler, also does reliable pub food.
In terms of cafes, the options are many in Arklow but my favourite is the LOCO GROCER on the Lower Main St: top notch 3FE coffee combined with tasty brunch and lunch options. Also excellent cakes.
There’s also UNIQUE CAFE on Arklow Mains St with some very good cake and sandwich options and some Brazialian-inspired snacks – unique indeed!
If you don’t have a car, THE RIVER CAFE is nice for tea and cake on a sunny day. Old photographs of the town are displayed, booklets with local information and books available to read. Service is warm too. If you fancy a walk in nature, head to the BRAMBLES cafe at the National Botanic gardens at Kilmacurragh (24 mins drive) or the cafe at THE AVOCA HANDWEAVERS cafe (the original one of the bunch) in Avoca village.
If you fancy some tea and a bit of cake, try JOANNE’S CAFE on Arklow main st, owned by the Stafford Bakery group, with its fancy wallpaper and an extensive range of bread and pastries.
If it’s just coffee you’re after, there’s a small trailer selling delicious ‘Imbibe’ Coffee down at the harbour known simply as BOX COFFEE. THE ARKLOW BAY HOTEL also serves half-decent Bewleys coffee and bites from a little stand in the foyer. There is ample comfortable seating and power sockets to do a bit of laptop work if that’s your buzz.
Arklow is something of a haven for lovers of chipper food, imortalised in Dustin the Turkey’s hit song from 1997: ‘Born Greasy’.
Mega, mega large fries, large coke, quarter pounder, cheeseburger
Milkshake, onion rings, curry sauce, sausage rolls
Chicken box, snack box, no pox, chicken pox
Hurry, hurry, curry, curry, bleedin’ hot, bleedin’ hot
Wrap it up, wrap it up, we want it hot, want it hot
“Burger, burger, burger, burger, burger!”
“Larger, larger, larger, larger, more chips!”
Soft cloths, soft plates I want it fresh, in me face
Real potatoes, real potatoes, not frozen, real potatoes
Shouting, “Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! Arklow!”
“Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! County Wicklow!”
“Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! Arklow!”
“Arklow! Arklow! Arklow! County Wicklow!”
Plastic chairs, plastic cheese, greasy tiles, on me knees
Orange tiles, ugly tiles, smell the fat for bleedin’ miles
Good night, top night, ruin it all, start a fight
What’d he do? Skip the queue, call the guards, give them yards
Till they flash the yellow card at you, boy
There is has long been a bit of a TRADE WINDS vs BURGER HILL rivalry that exists, typically determined by which direction you walk home from the Sally O’Briens nightclub. As a general rule, it’s Trade Winds for Chicken burgers and Burger Hill for Beef Burgers. There have been recent challengers though – MARCELLA’S in Ferrybank and RICO’S up the top of the town. The best burger you get in Arklow though is from GRIZZLY NAPKIN which offers delivery only and only opens thurs-sat: Their pizza is excellent too.
Arklow has many, many Chinese takeaways. The best one is ASIAN HARVEST tables upstairs with views over the Nineteen Arches bridge. EASTERN PROMISE is pretty good too and offers excellent value. On the main street is WOK STAR – serving all manner of ‘Asian fusion’ food from Japanese to Chinese and Indian but specializing in flavourful Nepalese food.
Arklow and the surrounding areas have some fantastic food offerings and they continue to improve year on year. Arklow main street still needs some good restaurants but how long before that changes? Not long, I predict.