It’s true that we don’t eat out as much as we did in Austin. Before we moved to Texas in 1998, we read that Austin had one of the highest restaurants per capita in the U.S. We certainly lived as though that were true–and Austin’s cuisine offerings continue to grow. Raheny’s restaurants per capita is a bit on the low side, but Dublin city centre has plenty of dining options and we recently tried a couple new places.
The Green Hen
On a recent unassuming Monday night, Bill and I met for dinner at The Green Hen, a French bistro on Exchequer Street. I liked this restaurant immediately–the walls covered with French movie posters, shelves full of wine bottles reflecting glowing candles, and a lovely iron stair railing. We settled into our table and started on a tasty bottle of Aranleón Crianza, a youngish wine from Spain, which happened to be organic. Bill started with a rabbit terrine and I had the Pickled Pear and Walnut salad. The rabbit terrine was served with a plum relish that was a perfect match with the wine. I was quite happy with my salad–I’m a sucker for blue cheese, pear and walnuts and even more so when pomegranate jewels are thrown in. I pondered my entree choice for a long time and finally settled on the Plat de Jour, a Navarin stew of lamb. I thought I should get something with a longer description, like Bill’s Roast rump of lamb with boudin noir, rosti potato spinach, parsnip purée and jus, but I could not have chosen better. The rich tomato flavor of this stew continued to delight until the very last bite. It was delicious. Bill’s lamb with boudin was lovely as well; he particularly liked the boudin, but thought the rosti was perhaps a bit too much extra flavor. Mash would have worked fine. A shared cheese plate was the perfect ending for the meal.
The Hen was hopping on a Monday night, so much so that our server apologized several times for slow service. “It’s busier than we expected,” she said. “Well, that’s a good problem to have.” “I hope the customers think so!” I did notice a dip in the happy diner buzz when I accidentally swiped the metal dish containing our bill onto the floor, producing an amazing, resounding gong, which I stopped with my foot. Well, Goodnight, I said in the silence.
I look forward to returning, and also would like to try a couple other places I noticed on Exchequer. Has anyone eaten at Cornucopia or Gibson’s?
L. Mulligan. Grocer.
When my parents were here and we were on our way to the Cobblestone, I called a friend for suggestions for a place to grab dinner nearby. He directed us to Mulligan’s on Stoneybatter, which unfortunately was fully booked when we arrived. While standing on the sidewalk considering our options, some helpful smokers from the pub next door asked if we were lost. No, I replied. We know exactly where we are. We chatted with these fellows for a bit and one of them said, You know, you’re in one of the worst parts of Dublin. I really don’t think so, I replied. We’re outside a gastro pub, not a crack house. But his comment did add some spice to the evening.
We were eager to return to Mulligans, so last weekend I booked a table for Saturday. After seeing an amazing movie with friends at The Lighthouse in Smithfield–Of Gods and Men, a beautiful and affecting film about French monks–we made our way back to Stoneybatter. Lots of fun touches at Mulligan’s–the menus are slipped into hardback books, the chocolate mousse served in a teacup. I loved that every menu item had a beer or cider pairing. Bill’s scotch egg starter stood out as the most amazing dish of the evening, decadent and delicious–a creamy egg surrounded by pork with Dijon mayonnaise and salsa-like relish. The flavor combo is a bit reminiscent of aioli and spicy tomato sauce served with patatas bravas and worked with the scotch egg. I think we’ve had Leffe Blonde before but I don’t remember it tasting so spicy. I had an India Pale Ale with my blue-cheesy mushrooms on sourdough toast. We shared a bottle of Galician cider with our entrees. Bill enjoyed his pork belly with lovely cracklins. I love moules frites and Mulligan’s version served with Hoegaarden mayonnaise did not disappoint, and again the mussels were charmingly served in a sauce pan accompanied by a paper cone of chips. These touches work because they are supporting good food, not trying to outshine it. A sea salt ice cream was a happy surprise with apple crumble.
L. Mulligan. Grocer. opened in July and is part of the growing focus on Irish ingredients. (And they really like beer and whiskey.) On Mondays and Tuesdays Mulligan’s serves a Bangers and Mash menu featuring sausages from Irish artisan producers. The menu changes every week. Last week I saw this delectable post in my Facebook newsfeed:
Bangers and Mash Menu for this week: Ardrahan Cheese and Smokey Bacon with Mossfield Cheddar Mash; Glamorgan Vegetarian Sausages with Mustard Champ; Black Pudding and Apple with ‘heaven and earth’ mash; Garlic Italian sausages with herby mash.
Bill I decided that Bangers and Mash Monday would make the perfect Valentine’s dinner, so we’re headed there tomorrow night.
We’re really excited that places like Mulligan’s are focusing on Irish ingredients. Ireland is really waking up to its culinary identity and many farmers, food producers and chefs are working to make Ireland a cuisine destination. Bring it on!