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!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

[Review] Host, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

This review is a love story, a story of a girl and the perfect grilled pork chop. But before we get into the details of how this came about, I need to get something off my chest.

We've all become conscious of the horrendous lives of battery-farmed chicken but we don't yet have the same awareness when it comes to pigs. Pigs are smart, very smart in fact. I've laughed as my father has duelled with Houdini-like pigs, determined to escape their field at all costs and I've cursed when they manage to find, dig up and chew through the solitary water pipe that ran under their large field. I've enjoyed glorious pork, ham, bacon and homemade black pudding from the free-range pigs occasionally raised by my parents, and I wonder why we tolerate treating such a smart animal with such utter disrespect, raising them without sunshine and open air, and slaughtering them to produce discounted €3 packs of bland pork chops. 

Anyway, back to the review and why this porcine diatribe is relevant. Host Restaurant in Ranelagh has been open for nearly a year now and during that time, I've become quite a fan of the approach of co-owners Chloe Kearney and Niall McDermott (also head chef). The style at Host is minimalist, all the way from the bright white exterior with its oh-so-discreet signage right through to the exposed air ducts and open kitchen. It's a small space, but a clever mix of seating options brings a form of texture to the dining room which is bright in daytime and alluringly cosy at nighttime. 
Host restaurant, Ranelagh

The vibe at Host is about sharing plates, grilled meats and great wines, all succinctly listed on a menu the size of a small leaflet. This short and snappy menu changes regularly, but usually follows the same structure of 4 starters or small plates, 4 pasta choices (available as small plates or mains ) and 4 larger plates of grilled meats and fish. Housemade focaccia with brightly green olive oil is delivered as a small snack while we decide what to order.

Pasta at Host is superb, with a very special mention for the sage and pumpkin cappellacci (€9.00). If available, this dish should not be passed up and has become an established signature dish. Beautifully sweet pumpkin filling bursts open into a browned butter sauce flavoured with sage, and I doubt anyone sends back their plate without first having licked it clean. A seasonal dish of grilled peaches with milky burrata and balsamic sauce (€12.00) is a wonderful combination of creaminess and sweetness, while a complimentary plate of tomato dressed with the freshest, sweetest crab salad is light and refreshing. 
Pumpkin cappellacci with sage and browned butter
Tomatoes and crab
Host has developed a solid reputation for the quality of their grilled meats, as evidenced by the most incredible free-range velvet pork chop sourced from Andarl Farm in Galway. These pigs live a happy outdoor life just a few miles from the Wild Atlantic Way and therefore it's fitting that their resulting pork is cooked with respect and care. 

Not to worry, McDermott delivers a perfectly grilled on the bone pork chop (€20.00), deftfully charred on the outside with a touch of pink in the middle and served with a honey-based sauce. Each mouthful is a glorious combination of juicy tender meat and melting fat and I wish it would never end. This is proper pork from a pig who lived well. Sides of fluffy thick cut fries with aioli (€4.50) and grilled tenderstem broccoli with almonds and romanesco sauce (€6.00) round out the meal. 
Grilled bone-in velvet pork chop
Like the food menu, the wine list is similarly short. It's a nicely assembled list with good influences from the Mediterranean, very much in keeping with the food vibes. Over the course of the meal we enjoy glasses of the house white, a Sicilian Fiano (€7.00), a Falanghina from Campania (€8.50) and a powerfully rich Negroamaro (€8.50). For the beer drinkers, crisp Estrella beer from Spain is served on draft in elegant branded glasses (€5.50). 

Service is always friendly and knowledgeable, veering nicely towards the modern casual style, working well with the open kitchen. I recall reading a rotten review slating mostly the service, but I have to say that it's never been anything but charming. 

So there you go. If you're the kind of girl that likes to pick up and gnaw on the bone from a grilled pork chop, then Host may be the restaurant for you. 

Host, 13 Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 561 2617


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