26 Parkgates Street, Dublin 8, Telephone: 01 670 9820
Published 23/04/2010 | 05:00
There's a perception abroad that the only people opening restaurants these days are lunatics and Lotto winners. Well, take it from somebody who's always looking out for new hoardings and 'wait staff wanted' signs -- there's plenty happening on the restaurant scene in Dublin.
I suppose chefs are as compelled to cook as the rest of us are compelled to eat. So they'll keep sweating and barking down the chain of command, regardless of how the wind blows. All the same, there's no denying restaurants are struggling to find bums that can be banked on to fill their seats.
This is where Juno's has stolen a march on the others. Having pitched their stall in the shadow of the new criminal courts complex, they've hit the ground running. And for as long as people rob, kill and maim each other, there will be work aplenty for solicitors and barristers who must, in turn, feed themselves. That's the natural order of things. Justice doesn't come into it.
So I suppose you've got to hand it to Juno's for spotting the opportunity and grabbing it by the horns. It's a sweet little place, bright and modern, but with a cosy neighbourhood feel to it. I was having lunch with the Ex, who lives nearby. Our meeting was part of this peace process we've signed up to: decommission the hurt, bury the hatchet and let bygones be your template for what not to do in a relationship. If you ever have another relationship.
"Flannery", he snorted, when I arrived 20 minutes late. "I see your punctuality has improved none."
"Traffic and parking is a nightmare around here," I replied.
"And," he continued, "you still can't drive. Well, I got tired waiting and I've already ordered." With that, a waitress put a plate in front of him and when she stepped aside, I saw his revenge in all its meaty glory -- he'd committed the most heinous of crimes against restaurant reviewing and ordered the full Irish breakfast.
"You know the rules!" I snapped. My annoyance was the perfect condiment for the rasher he had just forked into his smirking gob. "They don't apply to me any more," he slobbered. "I'm a free man."
Never eat with people you don't like; it's like washing your windows with an oily rag. He had crumbs in the corners of his mouth and a spot of egg yolk on his chin, but he proudly refused to do anything about it. "This," he declared, "is the most enjoyable breakfast I've had in a long time."
He was hungover but happy, and his crumpled look told me that I wasn't the first woman he'd seen that day. If there wasn't a law against it, I'd have run him through with my fork. I ordered a glass of Loire Valley sauvignon blanc and plunged my head into the lunch menu. How much was his victory breakfast going to set me back? €9.95. It could have been worse. He could have ordered the chip buttie made with buttered batch loaf (€6.45). Sandwiches feature high on Juno's lunch menu: roast in a roll, a bacon buttie, smoked salmon with brown bread, and a special sandwich that changes daily.
There's a crossover between the dinner and the lunch menu, with fishcakes, charcuterie and fish and chips appearing on both. The fish and chips were made with blossom -- a native, sustainable alternative to cod. Blossom is just a fancy name for pollock. Irish reluctance with fish and sensitivity to language means it's easier to sell blossom in cider batter than it would be to sell pollock. No matter what you call it, pollock/blossom is, to my mind, the best white fish for deep frying; it is firmer and more flavoursome than cod, and it comes away in large fleshy petals.
And a finer fish and chips than Juno's, you will not find. The batter was delicately spun and impossibly crisp, the tartare sauce was creamy and piquant, the half-a-dozen fat blocky chips were freckled with sea salt and cooked just enough to avoid a parboiled centre. Even The Ex couldn't spoil my enjoyment of it.
Juno's is the kind of place I'd love to have in my own neighbourhood. It's uncomplicated, affordable and the staff clearly give more than a hoot. So improved was my mood that I agreed to split a dessert with The Ex. We chose a divine lemon and almond sponge cake that was soft and fluffy and served with a jug of zesty lemon syrup. It was the sweetest moment I'd shared with him this year.
TYPICAL DISH: Fishcakes
RECOMMENDED: Fish and chips
THE DAMAGE: €33.65 for two mains, one dessert, one glass of wine and two coffees
ON TH ESTEREO: Lou Reed
AT THE TABLE: Solicitors
WHAT TO WEAR: Reiss
DO SAY: See you in court
DON’T SAY: The law’s an ass