Not even leafy Rathgar has escaped the effects of the demise of the Celtic Tiger. I base this statement on the fact that, on a Thursday evening, I was able to reserve a table for two for the following night. During the boom years it was nigh on impossible to get a last-minute reservation here. I booked a table for two for 8:00 p.m.. We opted to dine in the restaurant upstairs which offers quite a different menu to the ground floor bistro.
Upstairs we were welcomed by super-friendly staff. The barman was preparing delightful looking cocktails and he took our name and called a waitress to direct us to our table. The dining room is split level, long and narrow. The place is done up in an ‘art deco’ style with elegant mirrors and parquet flooring. We were sitting near the doorway and close to a ceiling air-conditioning unit which was switched on. The day wasn’t warm enough to warrant aircon so after a while I asked for it to be turned down. This request was attended to immediately. The menu arrived and we were informed of a special john dory dish. There was also a set menu from which Mr W chose his meal. The waitress brought us some bread and offered us water – still or sparkling. We chose iced tap water, but when it came I was certain it hadn’t seen ice since it was part of a glacier.
I chose marinated baby mozzarella to begin with and John Dory for main course. Himself chose beetroot marinated salmon and slow braised beef. We ordered a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc. We nibbled on the bread while we waited. There was brown soda bread and white ciabatta. The soda bread was like cardboard – not a bit palatable although the ciabatta was excellent. Our starters arrived and looked very small on the plate. But good things/small packages etc… the starters were quite wonderful. The mozzarella had a fantastic creamy texture with none of that rubbery outer layer that one finds in supermarket mozzarella. However, I couldn’t figure out in what way it was marinated. The salmon was most unusual as the beetroot coloured it purple. The flavour and textures were wonderful.
Our wine was kept hostage for the night – this is something that irks me especially when the replenishment of supplies is not up to speed. I usually find that overgenerous pouring of wine is the problem in most restaurants but, having finished our starters, we were left a bit too long with empty wine glasses. In general restaurant guests should be asked what is their preference in this regard. I would prefer to be in charge of pouring my own wine.
Main courses arrived. The John Dory came with sauce, a baby leek, some green veg (spinach or brocolli? – memory fails me) and a side dish of purple potatoes. Sadly it didn’t live up to expectations. I never expected it to be on the bone as I have never had it served that way before. Besides being on the bone the fish was properly trimmed and the small bones from the edge of the fish were in plentiful supply. John Dory is one of my favourite fish and I was hugely disappointed in the presentation. I had to borrow hubby’s knife to cut my leek into manageable morsels. The purple potato was disappointing being waxy and bland. I believe the beef was very tasty. It must have been as I didn’t get a sample!
We shared the set menu cheeseboard for dessert. It was a genrous helping of cheese with those ubiquitous, dull hexagonal crackers. We asked the maître d’ for some bread and he explained there may not be any as they get their bread from their deli shop which was now closed. However, he turned up trumps with some sliced baguette and toasted brioche. This is a French style restaurant so cheese should be served in the French way i.e. with bread.
In summary we had a good meal but it wasn’t anything to write home about and I won’t be rushing back. The staff were friendly and obliging, the surroundings were pleasant but the place had no oomph factor. The prices were reasonable compared to some of the other places we have tried in The Dubliner – 100 Top Restaurants.