When it comes to eating out, I have a mistrust of certain phrases. Words like "artisan" and "homemade" have long since lost any connotations of honesty or rusticity, while "slathered" brings to mind images of medicinal ointment covering an infected wound. Also, you really don't want to get me started on the not-so-cute words that we have adopted from not-very-literate children ("yummy', "noms" and so on).
The moniker "gastropub" is one I tend to view with skepticism. Some Irish venues have been quick to adopt the label, but not so fast to up their menu to match. Indeed, the smell of carvery lunch still lingers lovingly in the corners and crannies of some venues. But there are some shining stars in the Irish gastropub category, including Ashton's of Clonskeagh, snugly located on the banks of the River Dodder. During the summer, it's worth sitting outside with a cold drink and enjoy this little enclave on the outskirts of busy Ranelagh.
Inside, the interior is clean and friendly with a mix of traditional bar seating and restaurant tables. The menu at Ashton's is warm and welcoming. In fact, with braised this and slow-cooked that, it's definitely food for cold winter days and trips to the Aviva. Unusually we both ordered the same starter, a delicious Goatsbridge smoked trout and super fresh, sweet crabmeat pot, served with sourdough toast (€8). It was a very generous portion, possibly a light lunch in its own right.
|Goatsbridge smoked trout and crab pot|
My main of confit pork belly and braised neck, courtesy of Tullamore-based Pigs on the Green, was richly flavoursome, but in the end I had to admit defeat and pass the plate to Himself's brother. The Brother liked it immensely, declaring it to be the best he'd eaten. Across the table, pan-fried Clare Island salmon was perched atop a wonderfully cheesy risotto (made with the legendary Irish Gubbeen cheese). A little handful of toasted hazelnuts finished off this quirky but excellent dish (€18).
|Confit pork belly and braised pork neck|
|Clare Island salmon with Gubbeen cheese and chorizo risotto|
We were served dinner at low tables, comfortably seated on deep black leather sofas. After finishing our mains, we inexplicably found it quite hard to get up. Faced with such effort, we took refuge in the dessert menu. A lightly flavoured lime and raspberry pannacotta was decorated with perfect pieces of honeycomb and meringue (€6), while a rich 70% chocolate tart with raspberries suited Mrs. H down to a tee (€7).
|Lime and raspberry pannacotta with meringue and honeycomb|
|Dark chocolate tart with raspberries, espresso and white chocolate cream|
Ashton's is a real deal gastropub, with sister locations in Kill (The Dew Drop Inn) and Kildare (Harte's of Kildare). They've fully embraced the craft beer movement with a decent selection on tap and in bottle. plus there's also a gin tasting menu for those who like something stronger. I might have joked earlier about carveries, but the lunchtime carvery at Ashton's is one of the best I've seen with a tempting selection of roasts, pies and other dishes. It really does set a standard.
Sometimes I mention Ashton's as a dining option to friends, and I'm truly surprised by the number that haven't been there. It's been a Dublin landmark for quite a while, and when things are around for a long time, they tend to be overlooked. But the large crowd of Ashton regulars testify to the fine food and drink to be found here (plus there are plenty of TVs for sports). It doesn't really matter if you're a craft beer fan or a die-hard carvery diner. Ashton's does it all superbly.
Tel: +353 (0)1 283 0045