What does an award-winning chef do when faced with the challenge of developing a new restaurant bang in the middle of Dublin city centre? If you're Oliver Dunne, former holder of a Michelin star at Bon Appetit, you launch a very time-limited pop-up while thinking about the more permanent presence.
EATily, located at the former Fiorentina premises on the corner of Dame Street and Parliament Street, is the result of a collaboration between Dunne and chef Aaron Carroll, formerly of Casadelmar in Corsica and Dunne's own Bon Appetit. Dunne has long been a proponent of Italian food, and one of the finest meals I've ever enjoyed was his celebration of La Pergola in 2013. With a name that's confusingly close to New York's "Eataly", the concept at EATily is simple. It's a fixed price menu for three courses, with cichetti (little bites), tea/coffee with petits fours and a bottle of house wine. Wine upgrades are available at an additional cost.
|Pre-dinner Negroni cocktail at EATily|
We enjoyed a brief catch-up with Graham Dunne, Oliver's brother and more than capable front-of-house-man, as we relaxed with two fine Negronis, from a short selection of Italian-inspired cocktails. The selection of cichetti (an Italian phrase for small plates or bites, originating from Venice) were a welcome warm-up. Crisp grissini with ricotta and pesto, glazed roast Chantenay carrots, hummus and finally olives. We decided to go with the bottle of Sicilian house white wine, which turned out to be a very enjoyable dry, minerally wine.
Sicilian burrata was beautifully creamy with tangy flavours coming from the sun-dried tomatoes, pomegrante seeds and slight slick of vinegar. To be frankly honest, a little more sharpness would have been appreciated to contrast with the smooth milky burrata. The tomato cannelloni was the starter of desire with a fresh, crab filling, a basil and marscapone mousse and dried cherry tomatoes.
|Selection of cichetti|
|Sicilian burrata with pomegrante and hazelnuts|
|Crab and tomato cannelloni|
Onto the mains. Roast rump of Leccese lamb (from Salerno in Puglia) with sprouting broccoli and divine roasted garlic cloves was bang on the money. Slow-cooked and spiced rare breed pork fillet was an extremely generous portion, each piece topped with a Dublin Bay prawn raviolo and served with pea puree. The plates here are more than ample, but we did supplement with a portion of very good parmesan and pancetta fries.
|Roast rump of Leccese lamb|
|Slow cooked spiced rare breed pork fillet with Dublin Bay prawn ravioli|
|Parmesan and pancetta fries|
When it came to dessert, there was only one option that both of us were interested in. You could say that the measure of an Italian restaurant is to be found in their tiramisu and the EATily version comes covered in a dulse chocolate glaze with malty stout ice-cream. As we declined tea or coffee (I really don't know who has the space for tea or coffee late at night after a large meal), we didn't get to sample the listed sweets, but I think my waistline can live with that.
Our total bill, if I recall correctly, came to approx €130. I'm still not quite sure whether I consider that acceptable or slightly expensive. What we had was very good Italian food, made with well-chosen ingredients, and cooked with definite skill. However, it also felt somewhat safe, somewhere to take the parents for a very good meal, or somewhere to go for a comforting meal.
I do look forward to what will eventually replace EATily in the Parliament Street premises. Located where it is in the middle of town, in Temple Bar, and close to Dunne's other restaurant Cleaver East, it needs to be exciting or offer some excellent value for money. In the meantime, EATily runs for just 16 nights, every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for four weeks starting on June 8th, and finishing July 2nd.
Eatily, 40 Parliament Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 531 3810