A favourite on the Dublin restaurant scene, Cliff Townhouse has always been a great choice for top quality food, especially seafood, and they have just launched a fresh new menu that Head Chef Sean Smith says will give diners new classics to love.
After 12 years, Cliff Townhouse, located on St Stephen’s Green is still one of the best-loved spots in the city and its dining room is an iconic, classy room in which to enjoy lunch or dinner. Mostly renowned for their seafood menu which they have always emphasised, they are also now a well-known favourite for Sunday lunch too.
“We’ve been around for the last 12 years and we just wanted to freshen things up,” said Head Chef Sean Smith when asked for the reasons behind the new menu.
“We have lots of regular clients who love the menu and food and who are loyal Cliff Townhouse fans, but we wanted to change it up a bit to attract new customers too. When we started off there weren’t as many places focusing on seafood like we were, but now there are a lot more, which as an island nation is fantastic to see and just as it should be, and we want to ensure that we are still offering something unique in our own way. The idea is that we write the menu every day and work with our suppliers on a daily basis to see what fresh fish they have. It keeps the menu original and interesting.
"Our seafood platters are always really popular so we have also introduced a new section where you can build your own seafood platter, designing it entirely as you like it. On a set platter, there is nearly always something someone doesn’t like, so instead this way we list what’s available and you can create your own perfect platter, full of everything you like best.
Other new elements include a really cool caviar section with different types and sizes available, a cooked oyster mini-menu, some snacks and starters that range from croquettes to a classic fish soup, and Irish oysters from the raw bar which are, of course, the best oysters in the world.
It’s definitely a transitional period with the menu. We are really trying to create new classics that our customers will love as much as the old favourites. I want to create dishes that people are going to fall in love with and come back looking for time and time again. Of course, we do keep some of the ‘old faithfuls’ on the lunch menu just in case though, like the fish pie and the tuna ceviche.
The layout of the menu is also different now, in a change of format. We had a big menu but it was probably too much and even a bit overwhelming, so we’ve broken it down and made it smaller so it’s simpler and easier to navigate.”
Sourcing Quality Ingredients
“It’s quality that I am looking for all the time when it comes to ingredients,” explains Sean. “I constantly work with suppliers building relationships so that we can work together to provide the best to our customers. That’s our whole mindset and attitude at Cliff Townhouse - cooking really good, classical food that is sourced really well and cooking it simply. We want to be busy and we really want our customers to be happy.
I buy fish wherever I can get it so that means multiple suppliers. There are certain things I get from Wrights in Marino, I use Kelly’s for my mussels and oysters, with oysters from Harty’s too. Des Murphy does clams out in Lusk, there’s a lad down in Clogherhead for lobsters when they’re in season and another fish supplier is Gareth Doyle in Tallaght.
We got a new beef supplier recently, JJ Young's & Sons, who sell beautiful Angus beef, I use TJ Crowe of Crowe’s Farm for great bacon and Fingal Ferguson too for cured meats. For vegetables, Brian Carrick out in Lusk is a great guy, and also last year we got polytunnels in Cliff at Lyons for our mesclun salad. Jordan Bailey, the head chef in Aimsir Restaurant out at Cliff at Lyons, gave us some space out there as he wasn’t using it all. You can’t get good mesclun, so it made sense for us to grow our own and we go out twice a week to pull it.
I try to buy Irish and I always buy fresh. It’s all about quality really, and sometimes that means it may not Be Irish - that’s just the way it is. We get what we need, when we need it, so sometimes we sell out but I’d rather it that way and not have any leftovers, no waste, than the other way around. It’s basically the same approach as with our lemon tart - we make it once a day and if we sell out then that’s it gone. That’s it. I don’t want any left at the end of the day. Of course some people don’t like it when they want something and we’ve sold out, but unfortunately, that’s just what happens the odd time when you want to work like this, serving food that’s as fresh as possible while minimising waste.”
A New Look For Urchin Bar
“The recent refurb of Urchin Bar, downstairs under Cliff Townhouse, has taken out the beach look and given it a more comfy vibe with new seating and a softened down feel, more in line with upstairs. The menu now includes small plates like Spanish Iberico hams, Toonsbridge burrata, fish croquettes, along with some elements from the menu upstairs like some of the shellfish, and as it all comes from the one kitchen it is the same high-quality standard. I like to call it grazing food, so lots of dishes that people can enjoy with wine or a good cocktail and there’s no hurry - it’s just a really chilled, relaxed place to enjoy food.
Urchin Bar is somewhere to drop in for a quick bite or a smaller pre-theatre meal or you can still order a seafood platter as you can upstairs, but just enjoy it in a more casual bar setting. It’s also perfect for people who’d like a pre-dinner drink, a glass of wine or a classic cocktail, before coming upstairs for dinner in Cliff Townhouse.”