One of the first restaurants to find it's feet when Temple Bar was re-juvenated all those years ago, Elephant and Castle is still packing them in. Paolo went along with Sarah Owens and found a busy and friendly spot for a bite.
Whatever they're doing in this restaurant pleases a great number of people. Sarah Owens and I got there quite late one evening, around ten o'clock, and for once there wasn't a queue. We were shown to our table immediately and Sarah let me sit looking out at the restaurant, a seating position I rarely get. It's a pleasing room, neither fussily decorated nor plain. The tables and chairs are simple and brasserie-like, the service is both attentive and quick. As soon as we'd sat down we were brought glasses of iced water and these were topped up frequently throughout the evening. After a few weeks on the trot of paying absurd money for mineral water, I found this to be immediately endearing.
is a place that's designed as far as I can see, for the one-plate diner. You come in, you get a plate of something, you leave. As a result the menu isn't set out in the classical starter, main course, dessert format, but rather in the type of dish format. So there's a section for salads, a section for sandwiches and one for burgers. There's a long listing of various drinks, ranging from health-type smoothies to different teas. Still, we were there to eat and we were both hungry, so we finally settled on a Caesar salad to share as a starter, a loin of pork for Sarah, which was a day's special, and a burger for me with the added bonus of cheddar atop.
The first thing I noticed is that the portions are American; they're big. Big plates, big portions. The Caesar salad, described as a 'Baby Caesar' on my bill, was bigger than most I've seen as a starter. It is, by many accounts, a signature dish and has been praised in print more than once.
Next came the mains, Sarah's pork loin was in spiced medallions and was served with a radicchio salad. Sarah enjoyed it and so did I, when I tasted a bit. My burger was good too, and it came with plenty of chips. By this time we'd fallen into conversation with Eva and Allan from Stockholm, who were sitting alongside us, so any quibbles I may have had with my food were sublimated by conversation. We finished our meal with an agreeable dessert, a yoghurt Frou-Frou. Elephant and Castle is a friendly place and the waiting staff are excellent. There's a friendly buzz and it has just the sort of easy feel that makes talking to your neighbours easy.