As the past year drew to an end, I read many articles summarising the food trends of 2012 and/or looking to the future trends in 2013. One common theme from food journalists and bloggers from our neighbour to the East (i.e. England) was the emergence of "gourmet junk food", a phrase I borrowed from Marina O'Loughlin of the Guardian. London has been innundated with burger joints, hot dog joints and fried chicken joints just to name a few. The latest and greatest trend to land on English shores involves ramen. At Bone Daddies, tonkatsu comes with pipettes of pig fat, allowing the diner to oomph up the fatty goodness of their ramen.
This trend of dirty gourmet dining has been a little slow to come to Dublin. The Crackbird, Jo'Burger and Skinflint group have done their bit for informal dining but it's safe to say that Dublin isn't knee-deep in sloppy-joe burger joints (much to my dismay). However, the lobster roll trend has finally made it over here, even if it is a little behind the London times. The international lobster market has collapsed recently, which means that lobster prices in Ireland are now far more reasonable.
Rock Lobster is a newly-opened cocktail, seafood and primehouse (aka steak) located about Kiely's pub in Donnybrook. I've eaten in several different restaurants that occupied this space, including a Japanese teppan venture and an Indian restaurant. Rock Lobster have made a serious effort to improve the space by hanging graphic prints and large bold butchers' diagrams. But under it all, there's still a discordant note that isn't helped by the fact that Donnybrook is one long string of constant traffic which is nigh on impossible to traverse.
|The Menu at Rock Lobster|
The menu starts with a selection of titbits and we took advantage of the 3 for €10 offer (normally €3.50 each) to create a starter for two. Piggy puffs with apple and ginger puree were light and puffy, but could have benefited from more salt. Posh fish fingers were satisfyingly meaty while a chicken liver brulee was delicious, but quite hard to get out of the small jar in which it was served. Each of these titbits came on a separate plate, so by the time 3 had arrived, the table was dangerously full to overflowing. The same plate size was used for all, which meant that the posh fish fingers looked rather meagre due to the large amout of white space around them.
|3 titbits for €10 - piggy puffs, posh fish fingers and chicken liver brûlée|
Steak tartare came redolent with the scent of truffle and with a tiny egg (quails?) sitting on top (€7.00). Himself took an alternative starter route and ordered two portions of mac'n'cheese, normally available as a side (€1.00 as upgrade, €3.00 as side). We were both enchanted by the fact that the mac'n'cheese had been shaped into bricks and fried to a crispy crust. This would be a perfect bar snack.
|Mac'n'cheese and steak tartare|
The star of the show at Rock Lobster is their whole split lobster served with fries and salad (€20), which I had with a sauce Bearnaise upgrade (€0.50). I'm not a massive fan of melted butter with lobster, but I can never say no to a good Bearnaise and I would happily cross many lanes of traffic to get to the version served at Rock Lobster. Armed with my claw cracker and pick, I searched out the chunks of sweet, succulent lobster flesh, depositing the shell and other bits in a little bucket. Despite being the destroyer of several crabs, this was my first time tackling a lobster. However, the people at Rock Lobster have already thought of that, with an infographic printed on the back of the menus.
Himself went the easier route by ordering a Maine lobster roll also served with fries and salad (€20). It came served in a toasted brioche-type roll packed with chunks of meat. The fries at Rock Lobster also deserve a mention, being properly skinny and soft-fried, perfect for dipping in Bearnaise.
|Whole split lobster with fries and salad|
|Lobster roll with fries and salad|
I sampled one cocktail, a New Old-Fashioned on the Rocks (€9.50) and thought that it was excellent; a really well-made drink with a good balance of flavours.
Rock Lobster is cracking (groan!) good value - a whole split lobster for €20 will catch my attention any time, and it's even served on greaseproof paper to capture that gourmet junk food vibe. But Rock Lobster is not a junk food venue; instead it's a weird mix of trying to be hip (cool graphics) and staid (over a rugger-bugger pub in Donnybrook). I really hope that it will not be a victim of its location. If Rock Lobster was just a little closer to town, it would be heaving every night. But then, the prices would probably also go up.
It's worth mentioning that there's a lot more on the menu at Rock Lobster besides lobster. There are several steaks that I have my eye on for future visits, especially a porterhouse for 2 that I saw listed once. It's definitely one to revisit.
Rock Lobster (above Kiely's pub), 22-24 Donnybrook Road, Dublin 4
Tel: +353 (0)1 202 8585