Ember restaurant is a bright, buzzy addition to Milltown. This neighbourhood restaurant is a bit more than just that; it's smart, beautifully designed and wouldn't be out of place in D2, or W1 for that matter.
Greg O’Mahony opened Ember at the end of 2016, creating a restaurant in a leafy Dublin suburb that surprisingly never had one. Sure there is Wilde and Green nearby, but that's daytime, and for some reason affluent Milltown has been by passed through booms, busts and everything in between. It took a man who was cooking in Kerry for the last 10 years to come along and fix that particular curiosity.
We went along as a quintet; part IT crowd, part finance and a medical professional in case of emergency. Seated at a lovely round table close to the hatch that gives a glimpse of the kitchen we were in a great position to survey the room as well. The buzz of conversation filled the space, the bar stools were all taken and the tables were filled with well heeled locals on a night out, enjoying good food, some nice wine and each other's company.
Deep buttoned leather booths run along the walls, and Scando chairs in wood and leather surround the solid wood tables. There's a hanging garden of glass ware over the bar, and statement lighting and a very nice parquet floor complete the look. The menu is not long, but well chosen and the emphasis is on real food, well prepared and presented.
Three starters were ordered; some were planning on the Cote de Beouf and were saving themselves. I have the barely seared tuna with dressed crab, black sesame, avocado and a wasabi dressing. It was beautifully presented, one of those plates it's almost a shame to disturb. I ate it anyway, and with relish, all the while fighting off would be pillagers who had forgone their own.
Deirdre had the slow cooked squid and caramelised onion risotto, with gruyere cheese. This was a fabulous plate of food, the risotto thick and soft and creamy, and the flavours leapt off the tongue, causing little frizzants of excitement in the mouth, a veritable assault-in-bocco. I have had some good risotto, but this was one of the best ever. A bottle of Pinot Grigio was shared over the starters, and it was light and crisp and, well, Pinot Grigio.
Main courses came to the table with some ohhing and ahhing. I find sharing plates do that, and we had two of those; the beef and the sole as well as a Billy no mates hake for Deirdre.
Deirdre's hake was served with Patata Rota, Pock Choi, Samphire, Wakame, Citrus Vinaigrette & Clams. A delicate dish that was still big on flavour and with a perfectly cooked piece of fish.
The Cote de Beouf was not delicate. It was big and rich and came with a feast of sides including great onion rings, flat capped mushrooms, home cut chips and tomatoes. There was also a dinky little jug of intense jus and a pot of Bearnaise sauce. It's a while since I have had Cote de Beouf, and it was deliciously indulgent, pink slices of meat and a big bone to fight over.
Angie and Grainne shared the sole, which again came with plenty of accompaniments, and the ladies thought it delicious. You may see a pattern here; this is serious food, served with style and elegance, but it is unpretentious, and it is confident cooking.
I shared a delicious bottle of Randon Reserva Rioja with Gerry over the beef, while the three amigas had a bottle of the Ethereo Albariño, so we kept it all Iberian.
After a decent break and some chat we managed to share some of the desserts, a Tonka bean panna cotta with poached rhubarb and honeycomb which wibbled and wobbled, lemon meringue pie with Earl Grey infused strawberries, which was very good, but the dark chocolate brownie with hazelnuts, salted caramel and bourbon ice cream took dessert of the day amongst stiff competition.
I really liked Ember; this is a grown up restaurant that raises the bar for neighbourhood dining. Confident, unpretentious with excellent service and striking decor it is a great addition to Milltown and south Dublin dining in general. Well worth a visit.