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!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Il Primo, Montague Street, Dublin 2

I have a slight addiction to Masterchef. I watch it in all its variants, although I must admit that I'm not that partial to Masterchef Australia. Perhaps it's a bit too relaxed for me, which is probably the reason I adore the more high octance Bristish Professional version. In order to cook for Michel Roux Jr, the contestants must first pass the gauntlet ferociously guarded by sous-chef Monica Galetti. The withering looks from this woman are a joy to behold as the contestants inevitably fail to live up to her high standards. The standard is high, very high.

Therefore, it was with interest I watched the Irish Masterchef series. Dylan McGrath (from Rustic Stone) shone as our home-grown culinary superstar chef, and eventually the lovely Mary Carney was crowned the first Irish Masterchef. Mary's cooking in the final was superb (and looks like it was partially inspired by her stint at the great Chapter One), but my lingering memory of the entire series was the line "A hake died for no reason today". This putdown on a contestant's cooking was was delivered by Anita Thoma, head chef at Il Primo.

Her appearance on television reminded me that I had been passing by Il Primo for many years. The hand-written menu on the front window had often caught my attention, along with some tempting lunch time prices, but for some inexplicable reason I had never visited. One quick Twitter lunchtime booking and everything was put right. On arrival, we were warmly greeted and given two small flutes of prosecco to relax with while we read the menu and daily specials.

Stitch and Bear - Veal salad at Il Primo
Veal salad at Il Primo
Stitch and Bear - Grilled vegetable and goat's cheese salad at Il Primo
Salad with warm grilled vegetables and goats' cheese
We both decided to go for salads for starters - veal salad for him while I had warm grilled vegetables with goat's cheese. In my case, asparagus, courgettes and sweet grilled peppers mixed wonderfully with the tangy goats' cheese and the emulsified balsamic dressing. His salad of cooked veal slices and richly coloured leaves was equally substantial and well-dressed.

Stitch and Bear - Crab and leek lasagne at Il Primo
Crab and leek lasagne
Stitch and Bear - Pappardelle with sausage at Il Primo
Papardelle with sausage
Crab & leek lasagne sounded so intriguing that I had to order it for my main course. It featured dense layers of homemade lasagne sheets, sweet chunky flakes of crab meat and gently cooked leeks. A creamy tomato sauce bought it all together beautifully. Our server told us that it was one of the few dishes to constantly remain on the menu during the 20 years that Il Primo has been open, and it's easy to see why.

For himeself, ribbons of pappardelle with sausage was a winter warmer dish. The smoky meaty rich tomato sauce had beautifully coated the pappardelle, and a quick scattering of freshly grated parmesan was all that was required. This really was rustic, hearty Italian cooking done simply and done well.

The lunch menu offers 1 course for €13, 2 courses for €16 or best of all, 3 courses for €19. We might have stopped after two courses, but the daily menu featured chocolate cake with vanilla cream. The cake turned out to be moist and rich with a fudgy centre, but still have a light texture. A food contradiction! Two delicious espressos went fantastically well with the cake.

Stitch and Bear - Chocolate cake with vanilla cream at Il Primo
Chocolate cake with vanilla cream
My one regret about our lunchtime visit to Il Primo was that we hadn't visited earlier. The very generous portions meant that I spend the rest of the afternoon struggling not to fall asleep while a total of €38 represented great value for a lunch of this quality. Service was perfect throughout the meal, and the cosy nature of the interior means that it would also be perfect for a romantic and sophisticated evening meal.

Il Primo, 16 Montague Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 293 3804
Twitter: @IlPrimo1

Il Primo on Urbanspoon



Ariane said...

That sounds fantastic - never heard of Il Primo but that's probably cos I'm a culchie only occassional up in the big smoke - this is on the to try list now :)

Jason Mathew said...

I have heard of Il Primo from trip and also yelp,yes i had to accept that their pizza is really up to the mark, in fact i was in Dublin for 2 months a back , what to say!! there are so many restaurants for fine dining, Looks delish! their recipes but on the last day of my trip i had a early bird menu from Toscana - Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, few i liked and many i didnot like , specially their steak

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