There’s nothing quite like a breath of fresh air.
Bray has been selling exactly that since Victorian times, with its sweeping promenade, jolly bandstands and lively jumble of seaside attractions wooing day-trippers from Dublin and beyond since the arrival of the railways in 1854.
When it comes to eating out, however, a town once hailed the ‘Brighton of Ireland’ can sometimes seem stale. Aside from the odd stalwart, or the Little Italy that is Campo di Fiori and its offshoots, Bray never really hits the foodie standards of nearby Greystones, let alone seaside resorts or similarly-sized centres like Kilkenny, Westport or Sligo.
Then Platform Pizza Bar comes along. Talk about fresh air – it feels like someone has finally bothered to research how modern Irish families enjoy eating out. It’s not rocket science, but when a restaurant like this comes from the heart, boy does it pay off.
Start with an open kitchen. Throw in friendly staff in blue shirts and skinny jeans. Pop cutlery in tin cans and cocktails in jam-jars. Splatter industrial steel with funky diagrams, clip menus onto strips of cardboard, park a cute, three-wheeled Reliant Robin out front and throw in Ireland’s most terrific toilets… entered through a wardrobe.
“Are those the toilets from Narnia, or what?’ one little girl remarks.
It doesn’t take a genius to crack the code. Add affordable prices, quality pizza, craft beers and cocktails, and Bob’s your uncle. I do sometimes find the room a little too dark and derivative, but there’s more than enough passion in Platform to tip the balance.
“Good honest food” is the promise on the website, and Platform largely delivers in that regard. Almost everything on the menu is available gluten-free, kids’ meal deals cost €8, and importantly for a neighbourhood joint aiming to seduce Nando’s-loving teens, there’s an addictive selection of sides (try the shoestring sides, or crispy rosemary potatoes) and desserts (a gungy chocolate brownie and a Platform 99 both ring in at €6).
The evening menu starts with flatbreads and light bites – garlic pizza bread with tomato salsa (€5), antipasti cured meats (€9) or calamari and prawns fritto with chilli, garlic and caper aioli (€8), for instance. All are reasonably priced, snappy, done right.
Wings are taken seriously too. Over several visits, I’ve found the messiest and spiciest to be best, though that’s a matter of taste – you can have ’em mild with Kansas City style BBQ sauce, or hot with Habanero and Chipotle chillies. They’re an uncomplicated treat.
Mains include an 8oz rib-eye, sea bream with grilled asparagus, and a selection of salads. I’ve had the ‘Super Salad’ (€8) with grilled asparagus, tenderstem broccoli, cherry tomatoes and goat’s cheese twice, and I’d recommend it (although the most recent serving came with chicken that was chewy and over-cooked). I’m looking forward to trying the grilled aubergine and haloumi with leaves and mint yoghurt, too.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Platform Pizza Bar isn’t named for its salads. It’s the pizza that keeps the customers coming back – stone-baked treats priced from €11 to €14 and recently voted the nation’s favourite by readers of The Irish Times.
The bases are solid, the tomato sauce sweet, and the toppings are creative – my picks are the pepperoni with tomato and chilli flakes, and the weird but wonderful goat’s cheese, prosciutto, maple syrup and walnut. But are they really the best in Ireland?
That competition was a newspaper wheeze, of course, and the subject of pizza can only ever really be subjective. I’d venture that Platform is good, but you’ll find even better down the road at The Firehouse Bakery in Delgany. The wood-fired wonders there mix milky mozzarella, plush tomato sauce, well-seasoned bases and toppings like Gubbeen chorizo, salami and pastrami for all of €9.50. They’re mouth-watering.
Anyway, that’s another review. For the moment, Conor and Nicola Duggan’s hip pizza bar has given the people what they want, and Bray is the better for it.
A recent dinner with two adults and two kids cost €65; tip extra.
01 538-4000; 7 Strand Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow; platformpizzabar.ie.
Keywords: Platform Bray Review