If you know anything about the Irish food scene, then you will know about Dylan McGrath, once the Michelin-starred chef at Mint in Ranelagh, and now the chef at Rustic Stone on Georges St. I'm a bit late on the scene in visting Rustic Stone which is shortly celebrating its first anniversary. Still, better late than never.
We visited Rustic Stone as a party of four using the Irish Times reader offer, which consisted of a special menu priced at €25 per head. This menu offered a selection of bread'n'dips to begin, followed by a starter and pasta dish, then a main course with a side and finally, a dessert. This seemed like a fantastic offer, and it was clear from the packed restaurant that we weren't the only diners to think so. Arriving at 19.30, all the tables were fully occupied and waiting staff were zipping around resetting tables and dealing with customers. Clearly McGrath is doing something here that people like.
So what does an ex-Michelin chef do to keep his creative juices flowing? It seems that McGrath has chosen to go down the route of healthy, lifestyle-inspiring dining. Quoting directly from the Rustic Stone website
Rustic Stone’s philosophy is simple: tasty, nutritious, innovative cuisine that is accessible to all. Simple and scientific techniques are used to release the maximum flavour. Rustic Stone only uses the best of local produce, sourcing our ingredients from local producers.
So the word "simple" is mentioned twice in the blurb. However, when presented with a Rustic Stone menu, simple is not the word that jumps immediately to mind. It's jammed with little coloured dots, representing concepts such as gluten-free, wheat-free and super food. It's like a polka dot kaleidescope at times. In addition, each dish is accompanied by a verbose description that takes time to read. In fact, it might be an idea to order a glass of wine and kick back in your seat before you start to read the menu.
Our waiter took all our order, including dessert, in one go and following that, a wooden stand arrived quickly at the table, with a selection of breads, cumin-scented hummus and baba ganoush. Breads were ho-hum but the dips were tasty variations on the normal versions. Very quickly afterwards, our starters and pasta dishes arrived at the same time. In the space of about 10 seconds, our table went from empty to heaving, as each of us had two dishes placed in front of us.To be honest, although it may have made life easy in the kitchen, it felt over-whelming.
I had chosen a starter of cold marinated prawn which came served on little boats of scooped out cucumber. Despite the weird appearance, the cool, fresh flavours were very welcome on a hot sticky evening. My penne pesto was rich and very tasty with marinated tomatoes and black olives. I'm a massive cheese-fiend (my favourite dish could be described as grilled cheese served with grilled cheese) but even I half-baulked at the amount of parmesan on top of this little bowl of pasta. A special mention has to be made for the chicken wings, which were coated in a sticky, sweet soya sauce with sesame seeds and were utterly finger-lickin' good.
At this stage, we were all feeling pretty full. Two quick courses had dampened our appetites and any questions we had about limited portion size on this special value menu had disappeared. Thankfully, our main courses did not appear for quite a while. We had all chosen the meat for 2, cooked on a lava stone for our mains. Two lava stones were deposited on the table, covered in a selection of beef cuts. We could immediately feel the heat off the stones, and temperatures in our local vicinty rocketed up a few degrees. When combined with the smoke streaming off the stones, it felt as if we had been transported to a sauna where the naked inhabitants had a fetish for BBQ.
|Meat on the stone|
Overall, the meat cuts were excellent quality, but I really can't see much point in cooking the meat myself. The smoke and heat at the table is an unwelcome distraction in a restaurant like the Rustic Stone which is already warm and busy. My accompanying side of pesto chips were fabulous - four big fat chips, skewered and served with a dollop of pesto. It was the spot-on carby accompaniment to the steak-fest. Another side, green relish with peas, broad beans and spring onions was surprisingly rich and buttery, and definitely didn't feel as healthy as the name suggested.
Finally, we were ready for dessert. All four of us had chosen the Brulee Pain d'Epice, which was a baked, spiced low-fat custard served with a pear sorbet. Desite the low-fat tag, I found this to be an indulgent dessert with the pear sorbet cutting through the gently sweet creaminess. The portion size was quite generous, meaning that I left half of mine unfinished.
|Brulee Pain d'Epice|
By the end of the meal we were absolutely stuffed to the gills. But we were also hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. We called for the bill, which came to a very pleasant €130 for 4, people with €100 of that being for food, and headed outside to the fresh, sweet air of ... well Georges Street.
As an aside, Rustic Stone continues to offer a very similar €25 menu all day on Sunday, and between 18.00-19.30 Monday to Thursday. It must be said that this represents stonking value for money and is probably the way I will return in future. I cannot fathom why people would pay the same amount of money (or even more) for a single dish from the main menu. Next time however, I'll be looking for a table outside, or in a well-ventilated spot.
Rustic Stone, 17 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: +353 (0)1 707 9596