The Dublin Wine Rooms is in Mayors Square in the heart if the IFSC. It is near the Gibson hotel, and the LUAS stop. The Wine Rooms has had a few iterations, but for the last couple of years, it has been run by Antoin Dempsey, the young man who brought France to Dublin 1 with Le Bon Crubeen back in the day.
The Wine Rooms has several offerings; during the day the Deli does a roaring trade in lunches to go, with a great range of salads and sandwiches, all made from the best of fresh ingredients. Inside the wine bar and restaurant do a choice of lunches; the long and leisurely, or the quick and easy. There is a range of salads here that can be mixed and matched, and for a quick lunch, that adds the pleasure of sitting and talking, they are hard to beat.
In the evening the wine bar has a nice buzz with the early evening crowd, and this is also the spot for some casual dining; albeit of the high end variety. Upstairs the restaurant serves the same menu, but in a slightly more formal setting. The Enowine system is in place here. This means you can try many of the wines by the glass, and sample taste more, to find the perfect bottle for you. It is a great system, and as a night out with friends, even without the wonderful food, it’s definitely worth trying
The chef here is James Ainscough, an Aussie who trained in Sydney’s Michelin Star restaurants and made his way to the ancestral homeland to cook in Dublin, bringing plenty of influences with him, many of which are apparent on the menu.
There are a couple of menus in the Wine Rooms. There is a selection of small plates; almost like tapas but with more elements, which are perfect to have with the huge selection of wines on offer. There is also the A la Carte, but since we were starving, and also since we weren’t drinking, we figured we could have a few tasters, and still do justice to the main menu.
The Small plates are priced between €3.50 and €7.50, so they won’t break the bank. We had to try three; the crispy crab lasagne with avocado puree, rabbit and Iberico ham meat balls and Popcorn langoustines.
The A la Carte is short, but perfectly formed, and tempts with starters such as seared scallops, cauliflower puree and Jane Russell black pudding, terrine of langoustine and leek with water cress and crème fraiche , snails with garlic butter or some choice Jamon Iberico. The prices are also good, as all are under €9.
Main courses continue to hit the heights and we had to choose between several dishes I would happily have demolished; roast halibut with beure blanc, hand rolled spinach and fresh Ricotta gnocchi, Hereford fillet with Lyonnaise potatoes and red wine jus, pressed duck or lamb with Parma ham. Some evenings this job is just tough.
An amuse bouche of duck liver pate with Calvados and apple syrup did indeed amuse and stir the taste buds. The three small plates were wonderful; I defy anyone to make a better crispier, crabbier lasagne, while the lovely langoustines were coated in rice flakes (Pawa) and deep fried, so they end up really crunchy outside, but still soft prawn within. They were brilliant with a red pepper dip. The rabbit and Iberico pork meatballs were very identifiably rabbit and again the flavours were great.
Starters proper brought us a plate of snails, which were very garlicky and very light, and a plate of the excellent Jamon with aged pecorino. This dish isn’t about great cooking; it is about finding excellent producers and respecting their product by leaving it alone, and that is what we got.
Main courses of noisettes of lamb, wrapped in Parma were perfectly pink and a garden pea risotto was a fine accompaniment, while the pressed duck on the other side of the table was set off with potato mousseline and its own juices. Again, great produce cooked carefully and allowed to do its thing.
Two desserts followed after a brief respite, and both the sweet Arancini and the sticky date pudding with wonderful. Follow that with two coffees and on the 1st may I have the best meal of 2014.
Gotta love this place. Definitely heading back to have the rest of the small plates and attack the wine list.