Sometimes a new restaurant opens which challenges your perception of a certain cuisine, and highlights it in a way you've never experienced before. Indian food has been on an upward trend in Ireland, thanks to excellent cooking from restaurants such as the now-closed Jaipur, Kinara and Ananda. Sunil Ghai was the acclaimed chef behind the popular fine-dining Ananda and, along with Benny Jacob, he's opened the arguably best Indian restaurant in Dublin to date.
Pickle, at the southern end of Camden Street, has a wonderful interior with beautiful tiled floor, solid wooden tables and a patchwork of bright Bollywood posters on the walls. It's not formal, but the fine quality of the fittings doesn't make it overly casual. The menu is mouthwatering with a wide selection, and it took a few visits before I felt that I had sampled enough dishes. What's clear here is that the food is undeniably exquisite, rich with flavours and spice. Whether it's a tandoor dish or a curry, every dish is far more than the sum of its parts and the best that it can be.
Highlights include the tawa machhi, or crispy pan-fried sea-bass coated in semolina, topped with crab chutney and a carrot and cauliflower pickle along with crunchy potato chips (€14). I adore tandoor lamb chops and the version at Pickle is sublime with juicy meat fading into charcoal bone, along with dashes of a mind-boggling but delicious strawberry green chilly chutney (€13).
|Tawa machhi with crab chutney|
|Tandoori lamb chop|
The classic favourite of tandoori chicken is succulent, no mean skill when tandoor ovens can reach temperatures of 480C, and served with creamily-rich kali dal and steamed rice (€21). A goat mince curry was dense and shinily meaty, nearly purple in colour, flavoured with shallots, garlic and black cardamom. Served with buttery homemade pao bread (Brioche-like and a nod to the Portuguese influences on Indian food), it's a superb example of the richness and depths that a curry can reach. (€21).
|Tandoori chicken with kali dal|
|Goat mince curry with pao bread|
Pickle also gets my approval for its thoughtful and well-priced wine menu. Indian food can be tricky to pair with wine, but the suggestions here are good. A bottle of the reliable Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet (€32) is light and fresh, with citrus and fruit to balance the spicy flavours.
There's something wonderfully reassuring about Pickle. Even the name itself implies a quiet confidence, a single word that covers a wide range of culinary technique, and one that's especially linked to Indian cooking. Sunil and Benny are extremely experienced guys and it's no surprise at all that Pickle has been operating at peak capacity ever since opening. It's simply addictive!
Pickle Restaurant, 43 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 555 7755