Darwin’s is deservedly one of our favourite restaurants, and has just got bigger and better having expanded into the unit next door. Darwin's is a family-run restaurant, operated by mother Dolores and daughter Amy, with partner Michael being the supplier of the award-winning meats.
Dolores and Amy are life-long vegetarians while Michael is a master butcher. The upshot of this unusual pairing is very good meat and excellent vegetarian food as well. Having won many awards for their food, wine and service it is no wonder they are so popular.
The last time we reviewed it Paolo went along and here is a little of what he had to say... 'I suspect that I'll remember the lamb dish that Marian had for a long time. I'd love to bring Italians here so they can taste how good lamb can be, as opposed to what passes for it in Italy. Even apart from that sensational dish, I found myself well pleased with Darwin's. I liked the decor, the service was very professional and the whole ambience was friendly and welcoming' So would the bigger Darwin’s hold it’s charm?
The interior design is based on Charles Darwin's 'Origin of the Species' and you will see many references as you are looking around and taking it all in. There is a new cocktail bar with a nautical theme just inside and it is a great place to start with pre-dinner drinks while waiting for your table or perusing the menu. The craftsmanship that has gone into all the woodwork from the boat to the main bar is only spectacular.
There is a choice of menus and their pre-theatre menu is served all night Monday to Wednesday and until 7pm Thursday & Friday or 6pm on a Saturday. It evening it offers 2 courses for €20.95 or 3 courses for €24.95, a set dinner menu offering 3 courses plus tea/coffee is €49 or there is of course the a la carte
All the starters were under €10 - mostly around €8 - and there were plenty to choose from – fillet of plaice, quinoa sushi, avocado salsa, lime & rocket oil, fish soup infused with orange & cardamom served with homemade breads or buffalo mozzarella marinated in a truffle crème fraiche to mention a few.
Main courses offer a great choice of fish or steak, while the vegetarian menu is one of the best in the city.
The wine list is well written and explains all choices accurately, and we shared a bottle of South African Stonewalker modestly priced at €23.50.
To star I ordered the four spiced baby calamari rings, with garlic & smoked chilli aioli and an organic mesculin salad with citrus dressing. The calamari rings were delicate and dry while the dressings added zest and balance.
Fred went with the pan fried tiger prawns, served with char grilled chilli, shallots, garlic piri piri and slow roasted cherry tomatoes with home made bread which was great for mopping up the garlic piri piri. He had to share some, but it was a generous portion and there was plenty to share.
Main courses brought the special of Hake served with creamy spinach, asparagus, peas & cherry tomatoes. Perfectly cooked fishand crunchy asparagus with a delightful duo.
Armed with the knowledge that the restaurant's steaks had won multiple awards, Fred cast his eye over the six varieties on offer. They were all dry-aged, mostly for around 28 days, so he expected a good flavour and very tender meat. There was a choice of sauces too – pepper, garlic butter, mushroom, red wine jus or Bearnaise. He had the pepper sauce on a rib eye on the bone while she went with the fillet with red wine jus. What can I tell you about the steak? Fred had taken Tom's advice to go with medium rare as it allows the marbling through the meat giving it a chance to render and impart its flavours. Judging by the reaction he was right and it has to be said Darwin’s probably have the best steaks in Dublin.
From the dessert menu we picked the vanilla cheesecake with raspberry coulis for himself while I went with the Eton mess, all light and well executed, and the perfect end to a perfect evening.
Paolo was right, Darwin’s is memorable, and the whole package, from the food to the service flows seamlessly. If you haven’t been now is the time to rectify that omission.