I was intrigued when I heard about a new restaurant opening in Milltown. Oddly though, my major source of puzzlement was not about the venue itself, but trying to figure out where "Milltown Shopping Centre" was located. After a few seconds, it clicked with me that this was the fanciful name for the stretch of local shops and services that are located outside the entrance to Mount Saint Annes. Fair enough, I'm going to rename Chez Cronin to Chateau Cronin.
Ember is the latest in a very welcome series of local restaurants and bistros that are opening up around the suburbs. As it happens, it's a few minutes brisk walk from my house and is a very welcome alternative to schlepping around for a taxi to make me into town. Owner and chef Greg O'Mahony brings his fine dining credentials to bear in this very stylish venue. The interior is extremely smart and luxurious and will only get better over time as the parquet floor picks up some lustre and the red leather acquires a patina imparted by well-fed backsides.
|The elegant interior at Ember|
We dined on a Saturday lunchtime, and were the very first guests in the restaurant that day. The menu is straightforward with 4 choices each for starter and main. However, the appearance of simplicity is quickly dispelled as the options are read in greater detail; slow cooked squid risotto, buttermilk potato and homemade sage gnocchi. I would have been happy ordering any course.
Once our order was taken, a wooden board with crunchy herby flatbread arrived at the table, served with a delicious pistachio (if I recall correctly) pesto. Tasty and moreish, this set a strong tone for the food to come.
|Herby flatbread with pistachio pesto|
Both starters were excellent; a slow-cooked squid risotto with caramelised onions and tangy Gruyere cheese for him (€9) and a seasonally appropriate chestnut veloute with buttermilk potato and smoked chicken (€6) for me. Cheese and seafood are not generally deemed to be good bedfellows, but like any maxim, there are always exceptions. The chestnut veloute was silky and richly flavoured, perfect for a cold winters day. Pardon the photos below, there really is no way to make food that is brown and liquid look good on camera!
|Slow cooked squid risotto with caramelised onions and Gruyere cheese|
|Chestnut veloute with buttermilk potato and smoked chicken|
A half free-range chicken came "Embered" which I assume means cooked in the wood-fired oven, and served with a classic Caesar salad (€15). It was good, but I would have liked to see an actual half chicken on the plate. An 8oz feather blade was cooked well, and served exactly as I like it, with a spicy rocket salad and a generous knob of garlic butter (€18). However, the garlic butter failed to melt, probably as the steak had cooled down just a tad too much while resting on the pass.
|Half Embered free range Irish chicken with Caesar salad|
|8oz feather blade steak with skinny fries, watercress salad, garlic butter and beef jus|
My only complaint at Ember (and this is a complaint at many restaurants) is having another party seated right next to our table, even though the restaurant was empty when we arrived. Why do servers always feel the need to put tables right next to each other? In this case, I really did not need to hear the family conversation of nights out and Christmas parties.
Ember has opened strongly, and is geared for success in the demanding South Dublin market. It's already refined and polished, and Brunch will be added to the menu in 2017, which is guaranteed to pull in the local customers over the weekend. O'Mahony's mix of classic bistro dishes, with gastro-twists is definitely bound to please.
Ember, Milltown Shopping Centre, Milltown Road, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 444 3783