Browne’s of Sandymount is now a duet; a café on one side of Sandymount Green and a French Bistro on the other. During the day the cafe is packed out and in the evening the bistro buzzes with chatter, the clink of wine glasses and the sounds of people having a damn good time. This is the review for the cafe; bistro to follow.
One place where I drop into for an espresso on occasion is Browne’s on Sandymount Green. A feature of Sandymount for years, Peter Bark has expanded his popular spot into the old art gallery space next door and now Browne’s dominates one side of Sandymount Green.
During the day Browne’s is a deli and coffee shop, so the tables and chairs are designed for a quick turn-over. Simple tables and un-upholstered chairs mean that comfort isn't the main attraction. It still feels like a coffee shop, but the menu transports you instantly to France, to small provincial bistros, where this kind of furnishing is perfectly normal. If you've ever stopped off at a wayside Routier on a French Nationale, you'll have seen menus like this. All the starters are less than €8 and they include French onion soup, a duck confit, a crab meat tart or a terrine.
The main courses continue the French theme: a steak hâché, Toulouse sausages with purée potatoes ( French bangers and mash) mussels either Marinière or Provençal, Boeuf Bourguignon, a bigger confit of duck, or a carré d'agneau. All the main courses, with the exception of the steak and chips are under €20.
We decided on French onion soup and the duck confit to start, followed by a beef Bourguignon and a steak and frites with a Béarnaise sauce. Starters were good – Deirdre’s confit duck leg was crisp and the slow cooking had left it very tender. It was served on a bed of red cabbage, which had been braised with apples, giving it a sweet and sour taste that went well with the duck. I had the onion soup which I enjoyed a lot - it had the flavour of a soup that has been maturing in a marmite, cooking slowly and developing a fine, rich flavour.
The main courses worked just as well. I had the steak and frites and if ever a dish was a perfect copy of its French equivalent, this was it: a very rare 10oz sirloin steak properly seared with thin, string frites and a very finely balanced Béarnaise sauce accompanying it in a ramekin. A simple dish, but perfectly executed. Deirdre’s Boeuf Bourguignon was perfectly cooked, tender and moist without that too much wine taste that sometimes lingers. The mash potato was creamy and a perfect accompaniment. Again, a simple dish but nicely done.
What I like about Browne’s is the authenticity of its fare. The dishes aren’t just French in name and description, but are done exactly as you'd get them in France. By Dublin standards the prices are very reasonable and since you can bring your own wine, you don't get hit with a massive wine bill either. We were there mid week and it was very busy with people queuing for tables, so Sandymount residents have taken it to their hearts. Try it soon.