Two new Michelin Men, both in Kilkennt
Now, did you wonder what happened to Mint after it closed amid the melt-down earlier this year? Well, wonder no more: it's reopened as Dillinger's, and Temple Garner -- who was executive chef for Town, South and The Bridge Bar -- is cheffing and John Farrell from Il Primo is doing front of house. That's a formidable amount of expertise, so I was expecting good things when I went to eat there. They only accept reservations for large groups, so I decided I'd just turn up with Gill Hall and see what happened. Last time we tried that in Ranelagh we ended up waiting for ages to get a table in Eatery 120. As luck would have it, there was one empty table when we arrived, so we got that.
What was surprising about finding it so full was not just the fact it was mid-week, but the fact it had only been open for just over a week. Does word of mouth really spread so fast? We sat down and looked around. The first thing you notice is that the seating arrangement has changed to fit in more tables. As Mint, this room sat about 36, which is generally accepted as being not enough seats to be viable. It now seats about 50, obviously with less space between the tables, but commercially more sensible.
It has a new look, too. If I were to use shorthand to describe it, I'd say it has a New York eatery feel about it -- some white 'metro' tiles on the walls, brushed steel tables and seats that are comfortable for about an hour. All of these hard edges make it noisy -- my Decibel Meter app gave me an average reading of just under 90 decibels, noisy enough to make it necessary to shout at Gill across the table. The menu and wine list use 'Courier', the mono-spaced typewriter font, and they're printed on lined paper to look as though it had been done on a Gestetner copier. For the historians among you, that was how multiple copies were made before the photocopier was invented. It had the effect of being retro, while at the same time being very cutting-edge design.
Appealing as that was, it was the content that was more interesting. Temple Garner's menu has echoes of Town, with dishes that are modern and quite robust. There's more than a touch of America on the menu -- New England crab cakes, Manhattan clam chowder and Tex-Mex chilli. Maybe it's just that, after a year of special offers in restaurants, my idea of pricing has changed, but at first glance the menu looked more expensive than I would have expected. For example, a pork belly starter is €7 and calves' liver and mash is €19. On the other hand, the half-pound burger for €14.50 and the whole roast sea bream for €19 looked like better value.
The wine list is short enough, but it does have one novel twist. There are six house wines that Dillinger's imports directly -- three reds and three whites -- and they are labelled in big integers, 1, 2 and 3. One is cheap, two is decent and three is good, and they're priced accordingly, from €20 to €26. The wine snob in me wouldn't let me order a wine by a number, so we had a Grüner Veltliner from Austria, listed at €26. Three bottles of mineral water at €10.50 completed our drinks.
Gill doesn't eat meat, but there was plenty on the menu that she could enjoy. We started with the whipped goats' cheese for Gill and the devilled eggs for me, and we followed with sea bream for Gill and the fish of the day, hake, for me. The starters came and I noticed that you don't get given bread here. I didn't see it on the menu as an extra either, so maybe they've decided to dispense with the stuff. Pity, I rather like bread with my meals.
Gill's whipped goats' cheese was really very good, a soft consistency and a great taste. My devilled eggs were okay -- that's the dish when you take out the yolk of boiled eggs, mash it up with flavourings and then put it back in the hollow -- but not remarkable. I really preferred Gill's choice.
We both got very well-presented fish dishes for our main courses, and I liked how both of them were prepared.
For dessert we had a well-made pannacotta for Gill and a lemon sorbet for me, both of which we liked. Two good espressos finished up a good meal with very quick and attentive service. Our bill came to €105.50 without service charge.
Dillinger's, 47 Ranelagh Road, Dublin.
Tel. 01-497 8010