Eating Out: The Old Docks Bar and Grill is easy-going and the food is plentiful

The Old Docks Bar and Grill – everything has been done with a bit of style and a sense of identity. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Dominic Kearney

The Old Docks Bar and Grill

24a Queen’s Quay


Tel: 028 7130 9116

IT WAS only the following morning that I checked the bill and found it was wrong. We hadn’t been charged for our daughter’s ice cream.

Now, we’re not talking about a proper, on-the-menu pudding here. It was only a single scoop of vanilla that would have cost pennies and taken seconds to sort. But that’s not the point. The point is that the member of staff concerned recognised it was only a trifling (or ice creaming) matter and so didn’t bother to charge.

In a similar vein, another member of staff took away our daughter’s cutlery, gave it a wash, and returned it clean and dry without either being asked or saying a word. No big deal; moments of her time. A big deal to us, though, because, no matter that she didn’t give it a second thought, we did and recognised the kindness and consideration. Tiny, apparently insignificant acts can mean a lot.

The Old Docks is named after, you guessed it, the old docks that used to run along this particular stretch of Derry’s quayside, and a fair bit of time and thought has gone into the design. Big floor-to-ceiling windows at the front offer views of the river and the tree-filled park on the far bank, and bring light through the entire space. The bar is just inside the entrance, while the seating consists of a mixture of booths and tables, including high tables with stools, maybe for those just calling in for a drink.

While this may not be the most sophisticated of restaurants, everything has been done with a bit of style and a sense of identity.

This most definitely is not the place you’d choose for a romantic dinner for two, though there were a few young couples here on the early Tuesday evening the four of us came.

Mainly though, the aim seems to be to attract bigger groups – families or parties of friends – all looking for a light-hearted, fun night out. It’s an easy-going, unpretentious place where you can relax, talk, and laugh loudly, while enjoying a few drinks and a decent bit of grub.

That was certainly the case with us. We went straight for the mains. The table was soon full of food, with the orders spreading out on different plates and bowls and dishes, so we were all soon reaching over to grab this or have a bite of that.

The burger was really good, with moist, well-seasoned beef blending nicely with the salty bacon, crunchy onion ring, and sweet brioche barmcake. The chicken curry and rice was just like you used to get from the chippy, but in a really good way – big juicy shreds of chicken in a chip shop sauce. None of your delicate aromatics or clever blend of spices or subtle flavours.

That’s not to say it wasn’t a quality dish, because it was. It just wasn’t trying to be anything fancy and clever. It was my brother’s choice, by the way, and when he tipped a handful of chips – scraps and all – on to the curry and rice, he looked like he was in Saturday night heaven.

I thoroughly enjoyed my fajitas. The sizzling steak was tender and plentiful, the flatbreads were soft and sweet, and the hot sauce took no prisoners, despite the best efforts of the soothing guacamole.

Dainty it isn’t. It’s a cheek-bulging, finger-licking, lively bit of fun for families and friends, where you’re more than welcome to shout down the other end of the table to pass the chips, and where you might just get home to find your child got a free scoop of ice cream.

These particular premises have seen a few incarnations. This is, if memory serves, at least the third restaurant on this site in the space of four or five years. You get that sometimes. A location that seemingly has a lot going for it but, regardless of what each successive owner tries, it just doesn’t work. This effort looks like it’s got legs.


Child’s sausage and mash £4.95

Chicken curry, rice £11.45

Beefburger, bacon, cheese, onion rings £9.95

Steak fajitas, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa £12.45

Caesar salad £2.95

Onion rings, Chips x 2 included with mains

Child’s ice cream – free

Diet Coke £2.80

Lager shandy £3.70

Sparkling water £1.80

Coffee £2.20

Total: £52.25

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