It is well known that Gorey and Wicklow Town have some cafes and restaurants worth visiting but what about Arklow? What are the dining options there?
In its hinterlands, you’ll find some dining gems but Arklow itself doesn’t really do restaurants. I’m confident this will change in the next decade. The closest thing to a restaurant you’ll find on the main street is WOK STAR – serving all manner of “Asian” food from Japanese to Nepalese to Chinese and Indian. The food has been flavourful but service lacklustre on the two occasions I have been. Make sure you go on a night when the Nepalese owner is there, otherwise much of the menu is simply unavailable. They do takeaway also.
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, and only a 16-minute from Arklow is THE WICKLOW BREWERY BISTRO in Redcross, a candlelit room with a slightly medieval feel. 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 – Yellow Curry Mussels, Chicken Tagine etc and the fish special changes frequently.
Similarly, JACK WHITES INN and the WOODEN BRIDGE HOTEL both do decent pub grub. They do get packed and noisy on the weekends if you don’t mind that. All three of these bars holds a midweek traditional Irish music session – consider that for your next date night.
There are some pubs on Arklow main street that serve food. Some people enjoy the fare at DARCY MCGEE’S. From my experience, the food and service have been average but the reviews on Tripadvisor are favourable. You make up your own mind on this one but the place gets bonus points for its balcony with riverside views. Plus, it holds some hazy memories for my generation from its days as the infamous Tunnel nightclub – with its sawdust-covered floors, 90s tunes and the area graciously known as “the slut trap”. I wonder if Aslan miss playing there.
In terms of cafes, my favourite is THE BROKEN CHAIR, a short drive away on Moneylands Farm and B&B – with cosy decor and lots of outdoor seating with decent views. The menu dares to venture beyond the toasted-special-with-side-of-crisps and the Full Irish – unlike most of the cafes in town.
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, in Avoca village.
You might have thought that paninis went extinct in 2008, with the Celtic Tiger, but they are alive and well in DELIGHTFULLY DELICIOUS a deli/ caff in Ferrybank. Salads and sandwiches are pretty tasty here but it’s not the most comfortable space to hang out in. You can always take your food out and sit by the nearby duck pond.
If you want to bring your granny out for some tea and a bit of cake, JOANNE’S BAKERY, with its fancy wallpaper is probably your best bet. They also sell a range of bread and pastries from the nearby Stafford’s bakery. There’s also THE VICTORIAN TEA TIMES experience on the main street but this requires pre-booking and is more for corporate team-building and hen parties than those in search of a caffeine hit.
Those who take their coffee seriously can spin over to either of the shipping container coffee shops, both of which roast their own beans. THE COFFEE DEPOT is cleverly located opposite the NCT centre in Croghan Industrial Estate. The other, WIRED COFFEE is found in a mechanics yard on the Sea Road. Next door THE ARKLOW BAY HOTEL 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. 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. There have been recent challengers though – MARCELLA’S in Ferrybank and RICO’S up the top of the town. But, to be honest, I’m happy to stay out of this debate, because I can’t really note any difference between any of them. Trade Winds Chicken Burgers are well renowned and Burger Hill has a homemade 8oz burger worth trying. Please let your views be known in the comments section.
Similarly, there’s a handful of Chinese takeaways with very little to set them apart, as far as I can tell. Some have made a loose attempt at providing seating, others are takeaway only. ASIAN HARVEST seems to be the most popular (gets a ‘meh’ rating from me). It has tables upstairs with views over the Nineteen Arches bridge. I’ve had a takeaway from SOYA BEAN which has wasn’t bad but the dining room isn’t very welcoming.
Admittedly, there is room for improvement in the food department in Arklow, especially if you don’t have a car. But there are some good places dotted around and now you know where they are. That said, this list is a work in progress – so tell me your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? Is there something I’ve missed?
My hope is that some budding young chef or entrepreneur will read this and see that a gap in the market exists for a game-changing restaurant on Arklow Main St.