Monday, February 8, 2010

And all for a tenner!

Speaking of all things cool and in the vicinity of Camden Street, I had to write to you about Green Nineteen, just in case no one else has. This place has become a hot spot and even hard to get into on a Tuesday night. Not surprising for a cool little eatery doing good food and all mains at 10 quid! And what a cocktail list too; a mint julep which comes in an icy cold metal cup, or the zingy Mexican Green, a blend of Tequila, Marachino Liqueur, pressed apple juice, fresh chilli and bitters. On my last visit I chose something called ‘All business’ (given it was a week day and that) which was a berry delicious concoction finished off with fresh raspberries and mint – very healthy!

The food is also something to write home about, most of all because of the great value. The chicken supreme with mushroom and tarragon cream and lemon zest mash, adorned with a tasty selection of roast root veg, is a very generous portion for the price. And yum-looking, and wolfed down by one fellow diner. A bargain at €10, although no indication of the chicken’s provenance and no clue from our server. The menu does indicate that all beef cooked in the restaurant is 100% Irish.

The grilled seasonal veg sandwich on brown toast with smoked Gubeen and Irish leaves was a very tasty and filling lunch, but ironically possibly a little expensive at €8.50. However, I do get it. High cost items like the cocktails, sarnies, cheese boards etc (which personally I really enjoyed and which cost the same at other venues) may be what allows Green Nineteen to offer its fab main courses at such a low price. And as I’ve mentioned, without moving more mark-up onto the rest of the menu than consumers will find elsewhere.

The atmosphere is relaxed and funky, the cocktails are grrr-eat, and all in all, this is a genuinely good idea. So I count myself lucky to have Green Nineteen, and long may it satisfy our need for lovely hearty food at a keen price, accompanied by decadent cocktails.

Review, 15th August 2009

Green Nineteen
19 Camden Street Lower
Dublin 2

T: 01 4789626


Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 11pm, and noon to 6pm on Sunday. Doesn’t take reservations for early sitting i.e. until 4pm, then kitchen closes until 5pm. Booking for evening is possible however, and advisable.

Le pichet, s'il vous plait

Owners Stephen Gibson and Nick Munier describe their new venture as ‘a modern take on the classic bistro,’ which is fair enough. Modern incarnations of classic dishes such as citrus cured organic salmon, avocado, salmon wasabi crème fraîche and soy and mirin dressing (€9.00), and mackerel, brick pastry, horseradish, shaved fennel and
beetroot vinaigrette (€7.00) certainly live up to the reputation.

Having visited last Sunday I think ‘an Irish take on the classic bistro’ is an equally apt description. Despite their complicated sounding titles, it’s clear that quality fresh, produce is the cornerstone of all dishes at Pichet, presented in suitably unfussy fashion so as to allow diners to appreciate them.

Pichet bears the hallmarks of experienced restaurateurs. Although open only three months the operation appears to run like a well-oiled machine; the interior is well thought out and well finished, the service is friendly and professional, the menu is concise and appealing from top to bottom, and the wine list – as the bistro’s name implies – allows plenty of options by the glass, 250ml or 500ml pichet, and bottle. They also have beer and stout on draught behind the bar which serves as a deli counter during the day.

We were impressed before we’d ordered a thing, and even more so when they obligingly brought my fellow eater his required balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping the fresh, crusty bread. After long deliberations (always a good sign when the menu is relatively concise) I opted for the Castletown Bere crab, chorizo mayonnaise and sour dough toast, and mussels and clams à la Grèque (€12.00), and cleared my plate. The crabmeat was fresh as a daisy and dotted with the tiniest bits of chorizo, which when combined with the creamy, yellow mayo was melt-in-the-mouth to the last bite. While the mussels and clams in their chilled herby tomato base gave a nice little taste of something else, just for interest.

The salad of crispy hens egg, Serrano ham, baby leeks, and caper vinaigrette (€7.00) also disappeared without a trace, as did the small pichet of rosé we to chose to accompany the first course (La Vie en Rose, VdP des Collines Rhodaniennes, Domaine du Monteillet, France 2007, €10.25).

The mains were equally hard to choose for all the delicious-sounding options, but we did at last decide on the certified Hereford 10oz ribeye, (from Peter Hannon,
Co Armagh), béarnaise sauce, watercress salad, and chips (€26.00), and the confit suckling pig with puy lentils, Toulouse sausage, sauerkraut, and Dalkey mustard (€20.00). Despile my best efforts, I could not stop myself from finishing off the molten suckling pig and trimmings, the meat topped with generous slabs of salty crackling. And the steak was deemed to one of the best we’d seen in a Dublin restaurant – and I must also mention that the chips tasted as though they’d been cooked in a good quality fat, staying delicious to the end of dinner.

To go with the second course, I had chosen a glass of Barbera d’Alba, Prunotto, Italy 2007 (€8.00) which proved to have been so popular that night they’d run out. So I went with a tasty pinot noir instead (Lake Chalice Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand 2007 €9.25), which worked perfectly with my suckling pig. My lad, being his own man, chose Sauvignon Blanc ‘Reserva’, St.Digna, Miguel Torres, Chile 2008 (€5.75) to go with his steak – each to their own!

Seeing as I’d been so bold over dinner already we shared dessert (€6.00); a yummy puff pastry tart filled with caramelised apple and topped with banana ice cream (although it had said vanilla on the menu, the surprise substitution did it for me). And next time I vow to be a beast and try some of their other creations, such as white chocolate cheesecake with passion fruit jelly and raspberries.

Pichet really has it all. By day it’s a nice little deli serving sandwiches, soups and pastries, as well as wine to takeaway. Then by night it serves up exceptionally good food for very reasonable prices, in cosy yet modern bistro ambience with great service. I haven’t a bad word to say about Pichet, it’s a star and one of the food highlights this year. According to Stephen Gibson they’ve been doing very well since they opened, booking out each weekend, so I have every confidence the bistro has what it takes to endure – it’s one of the few places delivering on the name ‘bistro’.

Review, 23rd September 2009


Café, bar/wine shop and restaurant
14 – 15 Trinity Street
Dublin 2

T: 01 6771060

Open Monday to Friday from 8am to 10.30pm, Saturday from 10am to 11pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 9pm

New pub for the old corner

It was high time something opened in the prime spot at the Central Hotel on Dublin’s Exchequer Street. Fallon and Byrne and Ukiyo reside across the street, Odessa, Shebeen Chic and the Stag’s head occupy the far end of Dame Court and, of course, let’s not forget the Library bar above it. This corner has been sorely in need of something to complete the area, and something good too.

Well it seems the perfect solution has just landed right in it. The Exchequer, which opened on Halloween weekend, is everything we could hope for from a modern Irish pub. By day, and evening, the kitchen turns out an assortment of gastropub fare, based on quality Irish produce and artisan ingredients. By night, its talented bar staff offer up an impressive range of beers and unique cocktails not to be found anywhere else.

The brainchild of partners Ian Tucker and Peter Rock (son of Dickie), The Exchequer describes itself as a gastropub – quite literally, as it includes a dictionary definition of the word on its website: “A public house which specialises in serving high-quality food.” I would venture to define it further however, as a quite distinctly ‘Irish gastropub,’ one which makes a conscious effort in every way to appeal to a new generation of Irish gastronauts – and socially and environmentally aware to boot.

As we’re about food, I must draw attention first to the menu, which deserves some consideration. It gives plenty of choice – although not easy ones as it all looks good – but it doesn’t overreach and consequently, doesn’t overcharge. For starters I chose the Doran’s smoked chowder with potato and leek, at €4.95 a bowl. I always consider this dish to be a good benchmark and The Exchequer’s version, laden with tasty fish and seafood in the shell, over-delivers on price. We also sampled the potted Clogher Head brown crab with soda bread, severed with organic leaves (€8.95) and that was equally praise worthy.

In subsequent conversation with proprietor Ian Tucker, we learned that almost everything on the menu is sourced in Ireland and locally as possible. Gold River farm in Co Wicklow supplies the organic leaves, meat comes from O’Malley’s in Limerick, and all fish and seafood is supplied by Doran’s in Howth – mostly from Carlingford and some from the west of Ireland – and 100% from sustainable sources. This principle is followed through on the menu with the choice of battered ling ‘fingers’ as opposed to cod or haddock. And it’s actually a bestseller, as ling’s light texture lends itself well to frying in batter, not to mention its lower price.

The Exchequer is also a supporter of Irish artisan food producers, using Silke Cropp’s Corleggy Farmhouse goat's cheese in its warm roast organic beet salad, with prune and walnut relish and organic landcress (€11.95), and Desmond cheese from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers in its slow-cooked crispy duck salad with poached duck egg (€8.50). In addition, all air-dried meats and other charcuterie is supplied by James McGeough in Connemara, and the organic ice cream – apart from the delicious house-made stuff – comes from Tipperary Organic Ice Cream.

As I said, the whole menu looks really good! Back to our own selections on the night we visited, I went with the bowl of steamed cockles and West Cork’s Roaring Waterbay mussels (€11.95), which comes in a lovely white wine broth. My companion meanwhile scoffed the chargrilled rib of beef, champ, roasted shallot and red wine jus (€17.95), which was amply hearty to stand up to a pint, if you were that way inclined. All was yum, the plates went back spotless.

To it wash down, there is a selection of around 30 beers by the bottle, 11 special cocktails in addition to all the standards, and a very decent range of wines by the glass or bottle. In spite of it being a Tuesday, I couldn’t resist a list as tempting as this, so opted for a fragrant Basil and Elderflower Collins (€9) for an aperitif (heir cocktail menu is conveniently divided into starters, mains and afters), a glass of Kremser Kremsleiten Riesling (€8) for the starter, a Diva Chenin Blanc (South Africa, €7.25) to go with the cockles and mussels, and then finished with a Mr Exchequer (€9), a fab blend of bourbon or rum with clove syrup and angostura bitters.

All the cocktails are original recipes from multi-award-winning mixologist Darren Geraghty, who was overall winner of the first-ever Irish Open cocktail competition and is competing for Ireland in the forthcoming world championship contest. At €9 his creations put the €12 and upwards offerings of other not-too-far-away establishments to shame.

So finally, we rounded off our dinner with The Exchequer jelly and ice cream. (€4.95), which was served with autumn berries and homemade amoretti ice cream, and the chocolate platter which contains a sumptuous chocolate ganache tart, chocolate fondant, white chocolate mousse and organic chocolate truffle ice cream (€9.95). The platter is actually intended for two people to share, which makes it extremely reasonable price-wise, but if you’re feeling indulgent I advise you to go for it, you can always take the leftovers home. And the tart is great for breakfast with coffee….yes, I did just admit to that!

All pastries and ice cream, save those from Tipperary Organic Ice Cream, are made by The Exchequer’s own pastry chef Isabella, formerly of Thornton’s restaurant.

There’s nothing bad you can say about this new gastropub that has just blazed a trail into Dublin’s city centre. This is the pub we’ve all been crying out for and hope to see a lot more like it. It’s clear from their operation that its owners are genuinely into food and good old-fashioned Irish hospitality; they’ve just repackaged the Irish pub for today’s audience. So lets hope it succeeds and shows the rest how it’s done.

Review, 18th November 2009

The Exchequer
3-5 Exchequer Street
Dublin 2

T:01 670 6787


Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, brunch and roast dinner on Sunday. Full late bar at weekends