Not content with their award winning Ely Wine Bar, Eric and Michelle Robson have stormed the IFSC citadel with possibly Dublin's biggest restaurant. Paolo goes along with Harry Crosbie and finds some meaty wines by the glass to match the excellent steaks from Robsons family farm.
There can't be many people who haven't at some stage enjoyed the remarkable range of wines by the glass in The Ely Wine Bar, it's become one of those Dublin institutions. Their sister restaurant Ely Bar and Brasserie is at Custom House Quay. You'll find it on the north side of The Liffey where the wobbly foot bridge is.
Ely Bar and Brasserie is huge. It seats about 350 people, which probably makes it the biggest restaurant in Dublin. The old stacks', which were once the bonded warehouses, are now mostly glassed and will soon be shopping malls. Below ground level in the brick-vaulted supports for the stacks, is the Ely. I counted seven of them, each parallel to the other, and each seating about fifty people. This very structure though has its draw-backs: the vaulted ceilings and the hard floors combine with the piped music and the background chatter to produce a very noisy room. If I'd been trying to whisper sweet nothings into Harry's ear, he'd never have heard me. It was pretty full, too, so I was surprised at how good the service was given the numbers - prompt, courteous and professional.
Neither Harry or I wanted half a bottle of wine each, but in the Ely serving good wines by the glass is what they do best. Two really fine glasses of Feudo dei Barbi at 9.30 each was our choice, plus two bottles of mineral water. The wine list verges on the encyclopaedic - it's very long and full of surprises, the sort of list that makes you go ooh' and occasionally ahh.' It's definitely one of the best restaurant lists in the country.
The menu isn't cheap, most of the starters are priced in double figures. There are good dishes on offer though, and from the starters Harry chose the marinated and grilled baby squid, and I picked the tian of crab with smoked salmon. Both of these dishes were good, the squid was tender and well flavoured and my crab meat had just the right consistency, firm and not dry. The smoked salmon that accompanied it was very good, possibly because it was wild salmon and not farmed.
There were ten main courses to choose from, including tuna, sea bass, chicken, venison, veal and pasta. But it wasn't those that took our fancy, Harry decided on the organic sirloin steak and I thought I'd try the Ely organic burger. Good meaty choices to go with our good meaty wine. Harry's steak came with sautéed mushrooms and home-cut chips, and my burger came with roasted tomatoes, onions and home-cut chips. Nothing remarkable here, except perhaps the size of Harry's steak, which looked more like a minute steak to me than a full sirloin. Still, the dishes were well done and the chips went down a treat.
We finished up with a couple of espressos, which brought the bill to 114.20, without service.