Every city suburb needs a neighbourhood joint. In high-flying Ranelagh, the neighbourhood joints are pricy and packed. In nearby, but slightly dingier, Rathmines there is a joint that is just as packed, but far more affordable and easy going on the auld wallet. Rathmines has been hiding the light that is Little Jerusalem, probably in an effort to ensure that seats will remain for the locals, rather than blow-ins from adjoining suburbs.
Little Jerusalem, a Palestinian & Lebanese joint, is located on Wynnfield Road, which is also home to an internet cafe, an adult shop and an amazing little sports shop. It's not really a street that you stroll down, it's a street that demands a purpose. When we stepped inside the restaurant late on a Thursday night, it was packed to the rafters, with a single empty table. I muttered a short prayer to the restaurant gods, and they listened.
Another little secret about Little Jerusalem is that it's a Bring Your Own (BYO) venue, which means that you can bring in your own alcohol and enjoy it with your meal. Corkscrews are even provided on the tables. We bought along a bottle of the light and tasty Durvillea Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from O'Briens Wine which had been on special offer at €9.99. As we settled in at the table, we poured some wine and watched the chefs hard at work behind the counter of the original kebab joint. The interior is dimly lit with rugs scattered on the floor, contributing to the sense of coziness and intimacy.
The menu is printed on a simple cardboard booklet with straightforward selections of mezza (starters), with chicken, lamb, fish, vegetarian dishes and salads. I love baba ghanoush or grilled aubergine mashed with olive oil and seasoned with tahini and other spices (€5.50), so that was an easy choice for me, while he chose the tasty sounding Palestinian salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, red onions, mint, parsley with a sumac and fresh pomegrante seed dressing (€5.50). My baba ghanoush came in a little dish accompanied by a fresh naan which was perfect to scoop up the smoky, richly flavoured mush. (Although it must be said that I ate most directly from the bowl - still on low carb). His salad however, was disappointing, with no real trace of the listed pomegrante dressing.
For mains, I chose the Mashawi Mushakla, which is a mixed plate of grilled chicken, lamb and kofta skewer served with hummous, tabbouleh, sauce and more naan bread (€14.99). The grilled meats were rasty, with the lamb really standing out due to a spicy flavour that reminded me of that Cork Christmas favourite, spiced beef. He chose Samak Mashwi, or seasonal marinated & grilled fish, which is served with rice and salad. (€13.99) The fish was fleshy and juicy, served simply with a tasty, spicy sauce, plenty of rice and more of the tabbouleh. By the way, this was well-made tabbouleh, featuring plenty of vegetable and a light smattering of bulgar wheat.
Little Jerusalem is a small, cosy spot that cheerfully feeds a crowd every night. All of the about cost us approximately €40, exlcuding the BYO wine. We were quite full after all this, but other diners around us clearly weren't and we watched little plates of baklava and tiny pots of Turkish coffee being delivered by the well-worked waiter. Little Jerusalem delivers. Now you've finally got a purpose to walk down that street.
Little Jerusalem, 3 Wynnfield Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 412 6912