The two hottest new restaurants in Dublin's fair city lie close to each other on Great George's Street. On one side lies San Lorenzos (yet to be experienced by moi), while nearby is 777 (or Triple 7 as the staff say). A fun Facebook and Twitter campaign preceded the opening, offering a lucky winner free food for a year in return for posting pictures of themselves wearing a temporary 777 tattoo. It was pretty clear that 777 was going to be something different.
Fast forward to a week after opening, and we arrive for Sunday lunch. (Tip: If you book Sunday lunch at 777 via Twitter, using the hashtag #sundaze, then you will receive a free cocktail with your meal!). The exterior of 777 is determinedly plain, with only a discreet sign pointing the way. In fact, it even looks like something the Celtic Tiger left behind i.e. unfinished and closed. But inside, it's very very different.
Buckets of diffused light floods in through the big frosted windows, adding to the reflections from the engraved mirrors. Tattooed lovers embrace and Cadillacs vroom in feature panels on the tiled walls. If you've ever been to the Butcher Grill in Ranelagh, you'll recognise the vibe (in fact, 777 is the latest offering from the team behind Dillinger's and the Butcher Grill). A bright orange counter runs the length of the room, with leatherette high stools, while shelves groan with bottles of tequila and wines. In short, it's Kool and the Gang.
|The stylish interior at 777|
|Place setting at 777 (love the cocktail recipe)|
The barman was on the ball, because as soon as we were seated on our stools, we had two fresh cocktails placed in front of us. I belatedly stopped trying to spin myself on the bar stool (What is it about barstools that always turns me into a child on a roundabout?) and gave my attention to the house special cocktail (not featured on the cocktail menu) which consisted of fresh homemade ginger beer, spiced rum and lime. It was simply delicious, with a real mouth-warming, ginger kick. A definite favourite for summer evenings.
A starter of ensalada de betabel (€9.00) served in a old-fashioned enameled dish was a mix of grilled romaine lettuce hearts, regular and candy cane beets, dressed with cilantro yoghurt (no coriander here folks) and garlic crisps. I've heard of braising lettuce, but grilled lettuce was new to me. The charred warm exterior contrasted nicely with the crunchy interiors, which I swirled around in the tasty yoghurt dressing.
|Ensalada de betabel (beetroot & grilled lettuce salad)|
Torta cubana (€14.00) was a large grilled sandwich packed full of slow roasted pork belly, ham slices, avocado spread, habanero mustard and cheese. Red pickled onions are sharp and intense, cutting through the roast pork fattiness with ease. Vuelve a la vida (€11.00) came served in a sundae glass and was a mouth watering cold velvety smooth mix of spicy tomato sauce, cooked shrimp & clams with avocado and cilantro. It might have been a bit on the small side but it was refreshing and tangy good.
As we eat, the barmen are working hard preparing cocktail ingredients for later service. After we're finished, a mug each is slid along the counter to us. Inside it contains a scoop of sorbet, margarita sorbet to be precise and it is delicious. Cool and crisp with typical lime and tequila flavours. I could eat gallons of this stuff.
|Vuelve a la vida|
There's no doubting that the food and drink at 777 is something special. It's an original and great addition to a city with an already cool dining scene. Outside, it looks like a closed or vacant premises, but inside it's buzzing. The barmen clearly know their cocktails and tequilas, but for the prices that they're charging, I wouldn't expect anything less. (Cocktails are generally around the €11 mark, rising to €13 for a special margarita).
This brings me to the only fault I have with 777 - the pricing. Everything is just that bit too expensive. My (admittedly excellent) sandwich was €14 and a small salad bowl of lettuce and beets for €9 is hard to take. I thought cocktails that cost in excess of €10 had gone the way of Anglo Bank, but 777 clearly aren't with the new austerity chic. 777 only operates a reservations policy for tables of 6 and more. Thus, if you're eating as part of a pair, there is a high likelihood that you'll be seated at the bar.
|Only a small sign points the way to 777|
Pricing issues aside, this is seriously good food and drink. It's no more related to the common fajitas and nachos restaurant than I am to the Man in the Moon. It reminds me of great Mexican food that I've enjoyed in Calfornia tacquerias. With bucketloads of lime and coriander (sorry, I can't say cilantro again!) and rows of tequila bottles to choose from, this is a restaurant that will get your taste buds going.
777, 7 Castle House, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 425 4052
URL: www.777.ie or visit on Facebook