Of all the places you would expect to be eating outside after dark whilst watching a film, Dublin is probably the least likely. Nevertheless, here we are on the terrace at Eden watching an open-air movie in Meeting House Square. The other punters have paid their money and bought their popcorn, but our show comes as added value with the meal. Had it rained it would have been tough luck - there was no room inside the restaurant - but the God of good weather has smiled on us. It's a balmy summer's evening, not a mosquito in sight, and everyone speaks at least a vague approximation of my language. It's Paris without the subtitles, Aberdeen without the woolly cardie and Ireland without the rain. For once.

 

Both the square and the restaurant are crowded with the under-thirties. By day there is a market selling everything from home-made cakes to sushi, where the colourful desirability of the food rivals that of the restaurant. By night, there are films, or on Fridays, music, cabaret and occasionally modern dance recitals. TFI not Friday then.

 

Eden's starters are hefty. Big slabs of rugged home-made bread, spiced chicken and peanut soup, smoked haddock with melted cheese and creme fraiche, and a great heap of asparagus drenched with hollandaise then scattered with crisp parmesan shavings. I had a stolid warm bean salad containing black eyed peas, broad beans and chick peas which chunks of chorizo failed to wake out of their tin-like torpor - plain, but plentiful.

 

The friendly, offbeat waiter who served us, eventually, had trays more personality than the food - but presumably less alcohol content. Sauces here are liberally spliced with drink: The roast Kassler (smoked loin of pork) comes with a Calvados sauce, there's brandy with the crab fettuccine and, naturally enough given the location, Guinness in the stew. For a tea-total vegetarian such as my companion, mainstream Irish dining is closer to purgatory than Eden.

 

I had sausages and mash: The bangers as fat and as disappointing as a bad blind date, despite coming from a highly recommended speciality butcher. From dishes such as char grilled sirloin and teriyaki marinated pork belly, the vegetarian had little choice - dull pasta, duller pasta or a filo parcel with cheese and leeks.

 

However, on such a wonderful evening, the mundanity of the food was more than compensated for by the film and the happy, holiday atmosphere. And then there was pudding: desserts were shamelessly sweet and unsubtle - our choice - a warm apple and fudge tartlet which had sufficient nursery overtones to make you long for a nap.

 

At midnight the streets were still brimming with drink-fuelled revellers. Dublin, is supposedly the Stag Party capital of Europe, full of young women with weddings on their minds. Next morning, it's a different story - they're all walking around holding their heads in their hands, looking for hangover remedies.

 

Still on the biblical theme we had lunch next day in Jacob's Ladder, an altogether more sedate affair. It's a pleasant, bright upstairs room (hence the name) with make-your-own-Rothko stencils on the walls worthy of Art Attack. While not quite/italics/ climbing to heaven, it does overlook Trinity College playing fields, albeit with parked tour coaches and smoking bus drivers in the foreground.

 

Downstairs, Nassau Street is very tea-towelesque - all crystal bells and Celtic pottery. But the restaurant was subdued - not exactly the kind of place to encourage you to sit down, kick your shoes off, and relax. But I did anyway. Cobbled streets, slingbacks and sightseeing just don't go.

 

Service was bored French and the customers, in contrast to the noisy conviviality of Eden, mostly bored Irish. It was the land of hushed self-conscious voices and non-speaking long-married couples who sat opposite each like second cousins on an awkward prison visit. They should make it an obligatory pit-stop for all Hen Nights - lunch and dinner - the before and after of matrimony.

 

The food was also gentle, but showing more artistry than Eden. The bread was the best I've tasted anywhere this year, but sadly the menu lacked their celebrated Dublin Coddle (served here as a sea-food stew with root vegetables) which is available only in the evenings. Instead we had a twice baked goats cheese souffle, a creamy cassoulette of shelled mussels flavoured with saffron and orange, and slices of the famous Clonakilty Black and White pudding with fried apple fritters.

 

There were five main courses to chose from - something for every taste: chicken, salmon, roast lamb, a prawn salad and courgettes stuffed with walnuts and peppers, which made a welcome change from the tired old pasta with tomato sauce option for vegetarians. Lots of citrus flavours and varieties of mash but in manageable portions. I really enjoyed the chicken with a fiery, herb mashed potato, wild mushrooms and tarragon. Pudding was interesting - a poached pear in pastry with a slick of ginger, butterscotch and lime custard.

 

All this and a night at the Clarence Hotel, complete with the ideal hangover remedy - a power shower that makes you squeal like St Sebastian. At least that's what I told the receptionist.