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
3-5 Exchequer Street
T:01 670 6787
Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, brunch and roast dinner on Sunday. Full late bar at weekends