Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Exchequer, Exchequer Street, Dublin

One of my common laments is the fact that pub food in Ireland is generally of a fairly lamentable standard. Take the newly-opened & allegedly beautifully designed Copan Bar in Rathmines. They go to all that effort, but they still offer Chicken Goujons on their bar food menu! Why??

Living in Amsterdam for the past year has really provided me with an insight into how basic pub grub should be. Kitchens in Ireland are limited with riduculous Health & Safety rules on food prep, which results in a fair amount of pubs having to buy in pre-prepared veg and meals. How this is supposed to help the consumer eludes me.

Last night I went for burgers to Cafe Parck on Overtoom, Amsterdam. This place serves great burgers and bitter ballen (Dutch deep-fried bar snacks). In fact, the burgers are possibly among the best in Amsterdam. This pub also has a housecat, Shiva, who treats the entire bar as her personal domain (as cats are wont to do). In fact, she spent a reasonable part of last night sprawled out on the bar. I could see the food inspectors in Ireland having a nuclear conniption at this, however the Dutchies just make sure that everything is clean, letting the cat do as she pleases, while continuing to serve great food.

Ranting aside, the Irish pub food scene has taken some very encouraging steps lately. I had eaten in the Exchequer ages ago, soon after it initially opened and I had enjoyed it very much. However, I didn't have cause to return until recently. Thanks to CityDeal, I had 2 vouchers (for one main course, one side dish and one cocktail of the day) which were shortly approaching their expiry date. I may fight against those genes I share with my mother, but just like her, I do hate to throw money away, so I was determined to use these vouchers.

We ended up at a cosy table for two near the fireplace in the back of the bar. The decor at the Exchequer is just lovely and the dining room space was warm and comforting. The waiters were well aware of the CityDeal vouchers and we were quickly offered the option of having our cocktail straightaway or waiting for dessert. No competition really, and we were quickly served with 2 passionfruit caipiroskas. I chose crispy pork belly with a fish sauce caramel, crispy calamari and carrot & chili puree, while himself went for the ling fingers with chips, tartar sauce and pea puree.

Both dishes turned out to be excellent choices. The pork belly was tender, pulling apart easily with the fork. If I had a complaint, it would be that the skin wasn't quite crispy enough for my liking. The carrot & chili puree was an excellent sweet contrast to the pork, while the crispy calamare had a slightly salty and sweet batter. The ling fingers came in a delightfully light beer batter and the pea puree was a vivid green pea experience.

During the meal, himself decided that he would like to switch to the beer and he ordered a bottle from the beer menu. The waitress returned after several minutes with the unfortunate news that they didn't have it in stock, and would he choose another. However, it transpired that the second choice was also not in stock, at which point the bartender recommended a beer personally to himself and provided us the bottle, gratis! Excellent tactic, which completely made up for the lack of the previous beer choices. In addition, the recommended beer was well received.

I like the Exchequer - it serves good food, good cocktails and beers in a comfortable setting. Essentially, I consider it to be the standard that all food pubs should aspire to. Here's hoping that more pubs will take note.

The Exchequer, 3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2 
Tel: 01 - 670 6787

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