The 101 Talbot is an institution in Dublin. It’s open for almost twenty years, which in restaurant years is ancient. However, about four years ago Neal and Jenny Magee took over the kitchen and front of house respectively and the food is imaginative and vibrant with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences.
101 Talbot is on the first floor, appropriately enough on Talbot Street in Dublin 1. This is a tough part of town to make a restaurant work, and while the 101 benefits from its close proximity to the Abbey Theatre around the corner and the cinemas and Gate close by, for a restaurant to thrive here it really needs to be more than the sum of its parts, and that’s probably what has made it so successful for so long.
The entrance downstairs is a set of double doors painted red, and upstairs the dining room has a sunken floor in the middle with a higher level running around the edges. The walls are painted in teal and light blue and it’s all dominated by a beautiful picture window. Nice modern canvases run around the walls and plants and foliage add to the charm. Simple wooden tables and chairs complete the ensemble.
They open daily for a busy lunch trade, and the local office workers devour their salads and light lunch. There are three dinner options, including the early bird menu which runs until 7.15pm and is obviously very popular with the theatre crowd. It offers two courses and tea of coffee for €19.95; which incidentally is €2 less then when we last wrote about the 101 a couple of years back.
There is a three course set menu for €28, which features most of the highlights of the A la Carte, while offering value, and of course the A la Carte itself. There is a definite Mediterranean, almost Middle Eastern flavour to some of the dishes. Chilli and coriander hummus makes an appearance on starters, alongside roasted peach and goats cheese salad, potted ham hock or warm smoked salmon with poached egg and asparagus.
Main courses include char grilled pork cutlet with chorizo and smoked paprika potato, braised lamb shank with Moroccan vegetable and chickpea tagine, pan friend hake with smoked garlic and chilli butter or a char grilled, 28 day aged rib eye steak
My starter of Wicklow pigeon with bacon and thyme potato and orange jus was simply delicious, the orange flavour especially memorable. My main course of panko battered sea bream came with an Asian salad, and lime. Perfectly cooked crispy outside fish contrasted very nicely with the crunchy salad, and some lime and coriander flavoured rice on the side was a fine accompaniment
The 101 is always consistent, with food than is delightfully surprising. In a part of Dublin not exactly brimming with restaurants, it’s a sign of its quality it has thrived for so long. If you have managed to pass the last two decades without ever trying it, rectify immediately.