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!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipes from the Tapas Trail - Havana

It's time for some more recipes from the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail. I've previously printed some of the delicious recipes shared with us by Bar Pintxo, but this time the focus is on Havana Tapas Bar on George's Street. Hopefully, these recipes will inspire the sun to shine on us for some Spanish joy.

Montado with Tortilla and Jamon Serrano

Garlic Chili Prawns with Orange Sauce 
These tasty prawns make for delicious finger food.

Main Ingredients
600g king prawns, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 dried red chili peppers

Sauce Ingredients
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 green peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh green parsley, chopped
Juice of 2 oranges

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, chili, salt and pepper. Fry over a medium heat until the garlic colours slightly. Add the prawns to the pan, turn up the heat and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. 

Arrange the prawns on a plate, drizzle over with the garlic infused oil from the pan and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Blend all the sauce ingredients together and serve alongside the prawns.

Chicken and Chorizo in Filo Pastry

These little parcels looked like spring rolls when they arrived from the kitchen, but they turned out to pack a different punch with lots of paprika flavour coming through from the chorizo. Apologies for not having quantities on the ingredients, but I'm sure that a little trial and error will produce some good results.
Chicken breast, baked and sliced
Chorizo, sliced and chopped
Onions, chopped
Garlic, chopped
Filo pastry

Mix together the ingredients and roll up into sausage shapes with the filo pastry. Deep fry until golden and serve with salsa. of your choice

Montado with Tortilla and Jamon Serrano

These are classic tapas - egg omelette with Serrano ham. 

8 organic eggs
Sliced and cooked potatoes
Cooked onion
1/2 red pepper, chopped
Salt & pepper
Sun-dried tomato pesto

Mix the eggs with the onion and potato, add the parsley, red peppers, salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan until very hot. Turn down the heat to low. Put the mixture in the pan and fry until cooked, then turn over. Cook until golden brown, and remove from the pan to sit for at least 10 minutes. Slice into small squares.

Toast slices of baguette and spread with sun-dried tomato pesto. Place a tortilla square on the bread, place some serrano ham on top. Spear through with a cocktail stick and top with a black olive.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Recipes from the Tapas Trail - Bar Pintxo

Recently, I was fortunate to receive a chance to participate in the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail. This excellent value event features some of the best tapas in Dublin city from 5 of the city's tapas establishment, all accompanied by loads of Campo Viejo red wines.

Several of the venues were kind enough to share the recipes for some of the tapas we enjoyed. In the interest of spreading the tapas love, I will share the recipes with you over the coming weeks, so that we all can enjoy a little taste of Spain at home. First up are the excellent tapas from Bar Pintxo. From top below, going clockwise, you can see Lomo en Adobo (pimenton pork sandwiches), Garbanzos con Morcilla y Espinacas chickpeas with black pudding and spinach) and finally, Brochette de Pollo (marinated chicken skewers).

If this tickles your tastebuds, then make sure to drop into Bar Pintxo in Templebar for a wider selection of their fine tapas!

Brochette de Pollo - Marinated chicken skewers

3 chicken breasts, chopped into 9 pieces
2 fresh lemons, juiced
50g flat parsley, chopped
10g garlic, chopped in oil
1 teaspoon salt
500ml vegetable oil
9 - 10 wooden skewers soaked in water

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Thread the meat pieces onto the skewers and grill on a ridged griddle pan, or on the BBQ (if we're lucky enough to get the weather). Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve.

Garbanzos con Morcilla y Espinacas - Chickpeas with Black Pudding and Spinach

This was by far and away my favourite dish of the entire tapas trail. The addition of black pudding, sultanas and pine nuts to chickpeas results in a fabulous fusion of flavours.

Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Handful of baby spinach, shredded
25g sultanas, soaked
15g pine nut, toasted
150g morcilla (black pudding)
1 x 400g can cooked chickpeas
Salt and pepper

Chop the black pudding into 2cm chunks and fry in a little olive oil. Once the pudding is cooked on all sides, crush it in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula and allow this to cook for a minute more. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan clean, add a little more oil and cook the onion until softened. Add the garlic, spinach, sultanas and pine nuts. Toss around the pan for 2-3 minutes and add the black pudding and chickpeas, along with plenty of salt & pepper. Toss around for 3 more minutes and serve. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve alongside some good bread.

Lomo en Adobo- Pimenton Pork

This recipe makes about 4 sandwiches, which are luscious and stuffed full of flavours.

350g pork fillet
2 tablespoons pimenton dulce
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
2 green peppers
4 small pan gallego (or small ciabatta rolls)

Mix together the pimenton, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, olive oil and salt and rub all over the pork. Roll the pork up in clingfilm and marinate for 24 hours.

Rub the green peppers with olive oil and roast in the oven until soft and charred. Place in a sandwich bag whilst still hot and allow to cool in the bag. Once cool, peel off the skin, deseed and slice into 2cm strips.

Slice the pork into 1cm thick steaks. Place the steaks between two pieces of clingfilm and baton out with a rolling pin or steak mallet. Grill on a ridged pan for 60 - 90 seconds per side.

Slice the bread rolls and toast on the griddle. Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the bread, then lay the pork slices along the bread, overlapping each other. Top with green pepper strips, close up the rolls and enjoy.

Seapoint Restaurant, Monkstown

This summer is literally doing my head in. It is impossible to anticipate the weather, and hence, dress appropriately. Take this past Saturday. Friday had been a miserable wet day, but when I stepped out of the house on Saturday morning, it was balmy and warm, more like a day in Portugal than a day in Portobello.

After realising that the weather was actually nice, the consensus was that we should go for a little drive towards the sea which is how we ended up in Monkstown. Seapoint restaurant is an inviting venue with an attractive coutryard entrance. Inside, it's elegantly decorated with gray and white tones, with sprigs of lavendar in little white vases and artwork on the walls. There is something infinitely calming and soothing about the restaurant. 

There is a special lunch menu offering two courses for €22, but as we had dinner reservations for later that day, we chose to have just a main course. The menu is short and simple, but full of tasty offerings. I chose the warm spicy beef salad with honey toasted sesame seeds, lime & ginger dressing with Seapoint fries (€16.50). I received a plate piled high with salad leaves which covered soft, seared pieces of beef. The dressing was fragrant and I especially loved the extra crunch and taste delivered by the toasted sesame seeds.

Warm spicy beef salad
Himself chose the pan-seared sea trout with spicy sauteed bok choi and Seapoint fries (€16.50). This comprised of two beautifully cooked pieces of trout in a light sauce with crunchy vegetables. It was simple and fresh and a winner.
Pan-seared sea trout
It's clear there's a clever mind behind the menu at Seapoint, as both our dishes were accompanied by Seapoint fries. Someone there understands that we all crave some fries, even when we order healthy salads and fish dishes. But let me make one thing clear, Seapoint fries are not regular fries, they are amazing fries. They are skinny fries, softly cooked and covered with parmesan, rosemary and sea salt. They are simply rather moreish and definitely hit that spot that craves fries.

Seapoint fries
Still or sparkling water is available from an in-house bottling systems and costs €1 per person for unlimited amounts. We finished our lunch with two good americanos which bought the bill to approximately €42. I do think that this is definitely on the pricy side for lunch, but there was no doubting the good cooking in the Seapoint kitchen. I could definitely foresee a return visit to Seapoint on a summer's evening for dinner and a walk along the sea.

Seapoint Restaurant, 4 The Crescent, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. 
Tel: (01) 663 8480

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dining in the Dark - Jacob's Creek Pop-Up Wine & Dine Experience

Pop-ups are the fashionable words around town right now and the latest brand to join the trend is Jacob's Creek, who are offering a bit of a special experience. For 4 nights, between June 28th - July 1st, a super secret Dublin city centre location will be the venue of choice for a sensory, gastronomic experience. I tried to guess the location, but to no avail. I have been promised in confidence that the venue is somewhere you'd never expect.

Wine expert David Whelehan will conduct a wine tasting masterclass, while chef Clodagh McKenna will provide a unique menu, designed to match the wines on offer. The ultimate aim is for the diners to "See beyond the label" and truly uncover the character of the wine and food on offer.

The venue choice remains a super-secret and it will only be revealed to the chosen few on the day of the event. Guest will be chosen at random, so visit Jacob's Creek Ireland on Facebook or else email with Jacob's Creek Pop-Up Wine & Dine Experience in the subject line, your name, date of birth and contact details for you you and a guest. Best of all, this experience is completely free, so get your entries in as soon as possible.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Butcher Grill, Ranelagh

Himself surprised me a while back by telling me that he was taking us out for dinner. That's not the normal chain of command for us, but I was pleased by his choice of The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh. This relatively new venue promises the finest cuts of meat cooked over a wood smoked grill. It's part of the booming restaurant scene in Ranelagh and is a sister restaurant to Dillinger's further up the road. 

First impressions of the restaurant are cosy. And not in a good way. They have packed in too many tables in this too small restaurant for it to be truly comfortable. We were seated at a table for 2, separated from the next table by 3 inches. in fact, when the couple occupying the table next to us arrived, we introduced ourselves to them. We figured that as we were going to be in each other's faces for the next period of time, that it would be rather rude not to become acquainted. We might have scared them a little. 

Next to us, a table for 4 sat in the window bay, but one of the benches is more suitable for one person of wide girth rather than two more regular pilates-toned D4ites. In addition, the seats are high and narrow and you can never truly relax. Perhaps the pilates-regulars like this, as the required thigh clenching to keep you on your seat, means that you continue your fitness routine long after you've left the gym.

At the Butcher Grill
However, it was a lovely sunny Sunday evening, and the light was shining in the windows, putting the restaurant to best effect. The walls are tiled in while butcher tiles, featuring home ecconomics-style diagrams of meat cuts and joints. Wine is listed by the glass and bottle on the walls (although the prices per glass made me gasp a little). We had already decided in advance that we were going to have the  Cote de Beouf (for 2 people, requiring 40 mins to cook), so we settled in with a basket of bread and good olive oil. I had chosen a fresh glass of Bovine I wine  for €6 (better known as an Italian Falanghina) while himself ordered an old-fashioned cocktail as an aperitif (later pronounced to be good). When we later received the bill, this cocktail turned out to cost a gobsmacking €10.

Our starters arrived quickly, himself having the Tuna Carpaccio and me going for the caesar salad with grilled prawns. The carpaccio featured two large thin slices of tuna, served on flasky tortillas with a mexican-style avocado salsa. It was a generous starter, and tasty. My salad featured a skewer of grilled, shelled prawns, served with heads on. It seemed as if they had been flavoured with paprika and the delicious juices were mingling with the dressing on the salad. One complain here is that I never received a bowl of lemon water to clean my hands, as gettings the prawns off the skewer and de-heading was a juicy business. However, the end result was delicious.

Tuna Carpaccio

Grilled prawn Caesar salad
We had ordered our Cote de Bouef rare and we were pleasantly surprised when it arrived quickly at the table. Granted, we had arrived at a quiet time in the restaurant's evening service, and as the place filled up, service definitely appeared to slow down. The steak came served on a wooden board, oozing juices and with a knob of garlic butter and thick sage onion rings resting on top. Smoky beans come as a standard side, which we complimented with french fries at €4 (served in the ubiquitous bucket). If you're a meat-lover, then you won't be disappointed by the steak here. It was silky smooth in the middle, tasty and juicy, with a slightly smoked taste. It was the standard to which all steak restaurants should aspire, but at €50, it is not cheap.The smoky beans didn't do a whole lot for me and could well be left out from the dish.

Cote de Boeuf for 2 with garlic butter and onion rings
Service throughout was slightly erratic, and overly in-your-face-friendly at times. But that's kind of inevitable in these close quarters. The food was very good and I was really pleased with my glass of wine. But with a total bill in excess of €90 for two courses each and two drinks with one additional side (and a lot of thigh-clenching to stay on my seat), it's a bit too expensive for a casual dining experience. 

The Butcher Grill, 92 Ranelagh Village, Dublin 6. (01) 498 1805

Ginger Biscuits

I used to view shop-bought Ginger Nut biscuits with a lot of trepidation when I was young. The sight of a Ginger Nut biscuit was something that made you assess the state of your teeth and general dental health. It was a continuous game of mental chicken. More often than not, I backed out, utterly convinced that biting into a dry Ginger Nut would mean losing all my teeth. So instead, I would resort to a cup of tea and some dunking.

All throughout my childhood, I remember my mother using tonnes of ginger in her baking, so it wasn't a surprise when I visited home recently and found that she had turned her hand to making ginger biscuits. Depending on how long these spend in the oven, it is possible to have soft-chewy biscuits, or alternatively, the more traditional, crunchy ginger biscuit.

The following ingredients will make about 24 biscuits. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius and line some baking trays with greaseproof/baking paper.

175g plain flour
2 level teaspoons ginger powder
2 level teaspoons baking soda
75g sugar
90ml golden syrup
75g buter

First of all, you will need to gently warm the golden syrup. You could do this in a saucepan over a gentle heat, but I prefer to measure the golden syrup in a pyrex jug and then place the jug in the oven until the syrup has thinned and has pouring consistency.

Meanwhile, sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Once the syrup is ready, pour it into the dry ingredients and mix well. A dough should form easily and you will end up with a smooth, glossy paste.

Using your hands, form small balls (think a large cherry tomato) and arrange well apart on your baking sheets. You can make larger shapes, if you like, which will give you more substantial and chewy cookies. Place the sheets in the oven and bake for 
(a) 10-15 mins or until lightly golden, if you want to maintain chewiness or
(b) 15-20 mins or until dark golden, if you want a more traditional cruncy biscuit.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool on the tray. Once the biscuits have solidified and are cool, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Campo Viejo Tapas Trail

Studies into the DNA of ancient Europe have revealed a close genetic link between the Basque people of Northern Spain and the westerners of Ireland. It's a pity that the ancient travelling farmer-gatherers didn't bring more of good Spanish cooking with them as Irish cuisine might have turned out a bit better. I like my bacon and cabbage but I think that Serrano ham with Manchego cheese has the edge.

In modern times, the Spanish have decided to target the capital city, Dublin, and tapas are the weapon of choice. Spanish tapas bars are booming in the city, and many restaurants now offer tapas-style plates to go with your wine. How things have changed. Now, in a celebration of Spanish food and wine, Campo Viejo are offering a chance to exerience a tapas trail around Dublin during the month of June. (I received tickets to attend a complementary session of this event courtesy of Conway Communications and the Irish Food Bloggers Association).

The structure of the tapas trail is simple. Over the course of approximately 3 hours, groups of 20 people will be taken on a guided walking tour of 5 tapas restaurants in Dublin. At each location, there is a chance to sample the best tapas on offer from each location as well as enjoying some Campo Viejo Rioja wines. Tickets cost an amazingly good value €20, with some music, dancing and chat thrown in for good measure.

We kicked off on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Salamanca on St. Andrew's Street. We got a chance to get to know each other before our guide kicked off the proceedings. We were treated to some fantastic flamenco dancing before the chef came out from the kitchen to present us with our selection. We could choose from delectable-looking mini-burgers made from pork cheeks, bright saffron-coloured seafood paella or a smoked salmon Russian salad. Of course all this was washed down with plenty of red wine!

Pork cheek burgers with bacon & Teriyaki mayonnaise at Salamanca
Classic seafood paella at Salamanca
Flamenco dancing at Salamanca
All this choice does present you with one dilemma. You have got to resist the temptation to eat too much at the first location as there's plenty more to come. From Salamanca, we moved to the stylish Bar Pintxo in the middle of Temple Bar. Here, we were greeted by Franc, the charming French manager, who explained the history of the Port House, Bar Pintxo and the new Porthouse Iberico to us. He explained how the managers of the different restaurants take turns to rotate between the different venues in order to keep things fresh and interesting. His enthusiasm and enjoyment for his work was clear, as was ours when the tapas plates arrived from the kitchen.
The charming Frenchman at Bar Pintxo
Tapas selection at Bar Pintxo
Our tapas came as one plate, featuring Brochette de Pollo (marinated chicken skewers), Garbanzos con Morcilla y Espinacas (Chickpeas with Black Pudding & Spinach) and finally Lomo en abodo (Pimenton Pork). I am not a chickpea fan, but this chickpea dist wowed me with delicious flavours, plump sultanas and pine nuts. Second on my list of favourites was the pork sandwich with the bread soaked in tasty garlic juices.

The next stop on our tour was the second Salamanca venue located at Parliament Street, opposite Dublin Castle. As we waited for the food, we were treated to some atmospheric Spanish guitar music and singing. As we enjoyed our food, sitting in the evening sunlight, it was hard to believe that we were in Dublin.

Spanish music & singing at Salamanca
As we left Salamanca, our tour guide continued on his mission of educating us to the food and & Spanish history of Ireland. We stopped near Dublin Castle to listen to a recitiation of a Joycean homage to food. As our guide orated, crowds of passers-by and tourists stopped to listen and enjoy the entertainment. From there, it was on to Havana. I must admit that Havana was the one restaurant I wasn't anticipating as much as the others (I've never really enjoyed a trip to Havana) but I was impressed by some simple, but extremely plump garlic chili prawns with orange sauce. A chicken and chorizo roll in filo pastry proved to be a surprisingly good counterpoint to the  dark fruit  flavours from the Campo Viejo Reserva on offer.

A Joycean homage to food
At this stage, our group had been in a bit of a lull, full of good wine and food. But it was time to rally and face our finest hour as we headed for the final stop at the Port House on South William Street. I've loved the Port House since it opened, but haven't visited there in a while as it was too hard to get a seat when it was busy. It turns out that the Port House has addressed that problem with the opening of a new upper level which is marginally better lit than the famously dark lower levels.

At the Port House
We settled into our nook seats in the Port House and were greeted by another of the Port House managers. I really warmed to his passionate telling of the Port House history. It's clear that the restaurants in the Port House group have dedicated staff who care about their offering. Our final tapas selection consisted of Seafood Paella, Pinchos Morunos (Moroccan spiced chicken skewers) and Papas Arugada with Salsa Mojo Roja (salted new potatoes with red spicy sauce). I really enjoyed the simplicity of the baby new potatoes which are boiled in salted water (traditionally seawater) and served with a tasty almond-based sauce.

I understand that tickets for the Campo Viejo tapas trail have now sold out, so if you were lucky enough to procure some, then enjoy. You'll have a very good time. More information to be had at the Campo Viejo page on Facebook.

Salamanca, 1 St. Andrews's Street, Dublin 2. (01) 677 4799
Bar Pintxo, Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. (01) 672 8590
Salamanca, 38-40 Parliament Street, Dublin 2. (01) 671 9308
Havana, George's Street, Dublin 2. (01) 400 5990
The Port House, South William Street, Dublin 2 (01) 677 0298

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Green Hen, Dublin

Where to lunch? Believe it or not, this is a question that occupies a lot of my time. Even when I'm at work, and the choice is Costa Coffee, Subway (guilty pleasure) or the canteen, I will still give this very important question a lot of consideration.

So it was on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of Dublin. Where to lunch? We wanted something somewhat substantial, given our post-inebriated state, but not too much. We wanted tasty but in a quiet and comfortable atmosphere. And it had to be close by (we were too lazy to consider anything further than Grafton Street). And so it was that I recalled previous brunch visits to the Green Hen.

The cute little Green Hen logo
Located on Exchequer Street, the Green Hen is ideally located to capture a lot of lunch trade, and yet it never seems to be too busy. It's a French bistro which serves a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays from 12. Also available is a selection of brunch cocktails, including champagne mojitos and raspberry bellinis, priced at an attractive €7.50. The cocktail option really finalised the deal for us. Hair of the dog was going to be the order of the day.

I really like the interior decor of the Green Hen, and especially like the fact that they always have a large bunch of fresh floors on the counter top. The sight and smell of fresh flowers always does something to cheer me up. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Green Hen serves a Brunch menu from 12 pm onwards. On previous visits I had enjoyed a crispy squid Caesar salad, but disappointingly it was no longer offered on their menu. Himself chose the grilled beef burger, served with bacon and blue cheese, pommes frites and mixed salad (€12) while I chose the more expensive ribeye steak with bruschetta, confit shallots and fried hen's egg (€14).

Ribeye steak with mixed green salad
The burger came piled high with bacon and cheese, and was juicy and tasty. They were accompanied by a large side bowl of thin pommes frites, which definitely helped with the hair of the dog therapy. In comparison, I was diappointed with the ribeye steak. It had been shaped into a small round to match the piece of bread on which it rested and was covered with a layer of the confit shallots and a fried egg. The layer of shallots was too thick and sweet and didn't really work with the egg. Also, I hadn't been given a steak knife after ordering, and therefore I found it hard work to get through the steak with the regular knife. The final disappointment came when I realised there was no accompanying side dish. To be fair, I should have realised this when reading the menu, but that didn't really console me as I watched himself enjoying his bowl of pommes frites. It was clear that the burger, at €2 cheaper, represented a far better meal.

Overall, the meal at the Green Hen came to somewhere in the region of €50, once some coffees and other drinks were added. The burger shone as a great value meal while the more expensive ribeye steak left a disappointed feeling. Overall, the Green Hen offers some good food in nice surroundings, but choose carefully.

The Green Hen, 33 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2. 
Tel: +353 (0)1 670 7238
Green Hen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Apple Crumble Cake

A while back, I posted my recipe for Apple & Oatmeal biscuits. When buying the apples to make those cookies, I ended up purchasing a large bag of Granny Smith's, so even after making the cookies, I still had apples coming out my backside. Therefore I decided to make an apple crumble cake. This a bit of a mixed bag, a bit like a crumble but with a light sponge-like base. The addition of a little cinnamon to the crumble gives it a little lift.You can pile it up with apples, resulting in a juicy, moist cake that goes lovely with a dollop of cream or scoop of ice-cream. (The photo below shows a slice of cake with the delicious vanilla ice-cream from Green & Blacks.)

For the sponge base
60g butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
140g plain flour
1 teaspsoon baking powder
pinch of salt
80ml milk
3 Granny Smith apples

For the crumble
70g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
40g butter, chilled and diced
70g soft light brown sugar

Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius, then grease and flour a 20cm springform cake tin.

Start by making the crumble topping. Sif the flour and cinnamon together, then, using your fingertips, rub in the butter until you reach the famous "breadcrumb" stage. Mix in the sugar and set aside.

The next step is to make the sponge. Cream together the butter and sugar until plae in colour and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla essence and mix well, making sure that all ingredients are incorporated. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add half this mixture to the butter and sugar along with half the milk. Mix well and then repeat with the other half. Once everything is well mixed, pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.

Peel, core and slice the apples and arrange them in circles on top of the batter. Be generous here, as the more apple you use, the moister and juicier the resulting cake will be. Finally, sprinkle the crumble topping on the apple slices, making sure to form an even layer.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown, and skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake. Set aside to cool in the tin and then remove. Serve with some ice-cream while still gently warm, or else perhaps some custard or cream.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dax Cafe & Bar

Dax restaurant is long-established in the inventory of fine Dublin dining. More recently, the team behind this beloved establishment have opened a French-style cafe and bar on the ground floor above the restaurant, overlooking the Georgian elegance of Dublin's Upper Pembroke Street. 

Open from breakfast onwards, Dax Cafe offers breakfast, lunch tapas along with an extensive selection of wines and beers. I really appreciate restaurants and venues that work with the features of the building they inhabit, and Dax Cafe is no exception. The elegance of the Georgian hallway makes a perfect entrance to the cafe, and once inside you can choose a table at one of the sash windows or else opt for a dark leather sofa and a spot of lounging. Dax Cafe is that dangerous beast - perfectly chic and very comfortable. You could get caught very easily here on a Friday evening when out for after-work drinks.

And so it was with us. Three of us arrived a little late on a Friday evening and decided to choose a selection of tapas along with a bottle of house white wine (covered by a voucher purchased from Boards Deals). The wine turned out to be a 2009 Vin de Pays de la Loire (Lombeline - 100% Sauvignon Blanc) which was listed at a price of €26. It was a light, citrussy white, perfect for a summer's evening. Our deal covered 2 cold and 2 hot tapas (with a €2 supplement for the hot pork and salmon options, although this was not mentioned in the T&Cs of the voucher).

We chose the salmon tartar with rocket salad (€7.50) as well as the chicken salad served with homemade blinis (€6.50) for our cold tapas. These arrived quickly at our table, served on the omnipresent slate plates that are in fashion right now. We received three little timbales of salmon tartar, succulent and juicy with a light dressed set of leaves. The chicken salad featured little pieces of marinated chicken in a tasty dressing with rocket leaves.

For hot tapas we ordered the Clams & Chorizo (€8.50) as well as the Pork Fillet stuffed with Chorizo and served with Fava Beans (€10.50). The clams were the star of the show for me. They were so fresh, with a lovely taste of the sea that shone through the spicy, salty broth in which they were served. I found myself sucking on the shells, eager to enjoy every last drop of their marine goodness.

Clams & Chorizo
The pork fillet came served on a slate plate in three pieces on top of a scattering of bright green beans.. As I cut into one, I realised that it was served pink in the middle - a very confident step when it comes to pork. It was succently juicy with bags of flavour, while the fava beans gave a crunchy contrast.

Pork Fillet stuffed with Chorizo & Fava Beans
As there were 3 of us, the 4 tapas didn't go very far, so we also ordered the delicatessen plate, (€14) which arrived full of top-quality meats served with pickles and olives. Served on the side was some amazing french bread. I'd love to know where Dax source their bread, as this was manna from heaven - soft and crusty with a buttery sweet taste.
DAX Delicatessen Platter
To finish the meal we decided to order a cheese platter (€15), which featured a selection of French and Irish cheeses. The cheeses are cut from a cheese trolley located in the corner of the room. When the waiter lifted the lid of the trolley, the room filled with the pungent aroma of Epoisse. When the platter arrived at the table, the waiter took the time to walk us through the rows of cheese, explaining the best order in which to enjoy the selection. I was delighted to see Coolea cheese featured (a local cheese from home) and more pleased to see that it was the mature version which has a lovely nutty taste. The cheeseboard came piled with fruity toast crisps and grapes.
DAX Mature Cheese Platter
We decided to push the boat out and finish our meal with some dessert wine. I chose the Jurançon "Cuvée Jean" 2008 purely on the basis that it was listed as 100% Petit Manseng, which I couldn't recall tasting before. It turned out to be truly exquisite, with a fabuluous honeyed fruit taste that lingered well. For wine of its quality, I thought that it was well priced at €7.50 a glass.

I was highly impressed by the quality and panache of the food at Dax Cafe. It is confident and poised cooking, with superb flavours. However, on the negative, I did think that some of the tapas were on the small side and I really do wish that they all didn't come served on slate plates. It makes it hard to mop up the juices and scrape up those last delicious bits. One last gripe before I finish up, Dax don't offer a cheese and meat platter, but instead do cheese and meat platters separately. Personally I like platters that combine both, so Dax, please take note.

Total cost for all this (including the deduction from our voucher) and including some additional beers was approximately €75.In conclusion, it's not a cheap tapas bar. But it is elegant, relaxed and very high quality. There are still plenty of people left in Ireland with this amount of money to spend on food, but these days they tend only to spend it on quality. I think Dax Cafe & Bar meets that mark.

Dax Cafe & Bar, 23 Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 662 9381
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