Wednesday, February 2, 2011
This night in question I decided we should eat too – eating is so in right now – so we tucked ourselves into a table too big for us in the gastropub’s rear dining room, without a word of complaint from the good looking owner at attendance. Then, sipping a delicious martini with three olives (Tanqueray, naturally…although Hendrick’s was another option, probably for another kind of night) we took nearly an hour to order, as we gabbed about all our important news, again without a word of complaint, despite the fact we’d taken the big table at 7.30pm. Finally we decided on starters of oven-baked cod with a tomato, fennel and spring onion shellfish soup and chargrilled toast (€9.50), and (the utterly fantastic man that is) Jack McCarthy’s own Irish haggis with brown onion purée, roasted garlic and Bushmills sauce and wild mushrooms (€8.95).
In the two dishes there was more than enough for three people, and even the non-meat-eater couldn’t help swiping a bite of the haggis, enveloped in that wonderfully rich sauce. In a way it’s not surprising that the soup failed to impress quite so much next to Jack McCarthy’s scrumptious handy work, but apart from a slight lack of seasoning and/or some spice (one of the chef friends offered), it was nicely redolent of crustacean, and the cod and ubiquitous sea molluscs were juicy and good.
The pre-dinner cocktails were replaced by a bottle of zingy Graf Joseph Grüner Veltliner 2009, and after a quick stop-out for some lippy retouching and another flirt with one half of the handsome duo, mains were served. Whole Irish baked seabass with peppery fresh rocket, oven dried tomatoes, black olives and a great big mound of the most finely shredded matchstick chips you ever saw in your life (€33.95), all served up on a board for two people to share. In case you didn’t cop that we’re dealing with proper ladies’ men in The Exchequer, this dish can leave you in no doubt. The fish was baked to perfection and slipped down beautifully with a little squeeze of lime – a great dish, not surprisingly fast becoming one of the most popular since the appearance of the new menu. We also nibbled the crispy pork belly, which very cleverly was paired with perfectly fried curls of crispy squid, with a fish caramel sauce and a carrot and chilli purée (€16.95). The cute waiter advised us that we might want a carb on the side so we went for the champ (€3.25) and weren’t sorry that we did. The pork was meltingly tender and worked well with the squid (which being lighter than crackling but equally satisfying was another winner with the ladies) and all in all we were very happy bunnies by the time we’d daintily munched our way through it all.
Two hours after we’d first sat down, the cute waiter was happy to leave us with the dessert menu and treated us to a new cocktail the bar was trying out: a pretty orange-coloured concoction involving mandarin vodka, cointreau and fresh mandarin. With a second mojito and a twisted lime and clove daiquari (one of the many special recipes from the hot barman/cocktail genius Darren), we decided to share a round of warm cinnamon and brown sugar doughnuts with blueberry jam and custard, and toasted sesame ice cream (€5.95). Not every part of the dish worked to our liking – we could have lived without the sesame ice cream – but we could each have demolished a pot of the blueberries and custard, which featured tart little berries perfectly off-set by the creamy vanilla custard. Once again the course was as well turned out as ourselves, and provided a more than suitable end to our girly dinner.
Unfortunately, time had come go home, and as I air-kissed handsome one last time for the night amid profuse thanks and flattery, I remembered why The Exchequer ticks every single box on this girl’s wish list. Now why instead of going home we found ourselves draining a second bottle of prosecco in the new club of Dublin’s original ladies’ man, is another story!
Peter Rock and Ian Tucker. 3-5 Exchequer St. Ph: 01 6706787, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.theexchequer.ie. Accepts cards. Booking required for Sunday roast. Open 12pm-11.30pm Mon-Thurs, 12pm-2.30am Fri-Sat, 12p-11pm Sun