Eating Out: Paolo Tullio at Platform, Bray
There’s one review that I write every year that I find difficult, and it’s this one. You see, I’ve been in Italy for my annual holiday and after a few weeks of being spoiled in Italian restaurants by great food and low prices, a return to the Irish system can be traumatic.
What surprises people used to Irish prices is that a €5 note is useful currency in Italy. You can buy things with it. If I go to the local shop in the morning and buy bread, milk, mozzarella and a few slices of prosciutto, I get change from my fiver. And it’s the same in restaurants: unless you’re in a really top-end restaurant, a meal for two with wine is around €40.
So my first meal this year on returning to Ireland was a meal in Bray. I’ve been hearing about Platform for a while, and the reports that I got were good, so I arranged a visit there with Gemma Kenny and Gavin Cullen, the newlyweds.
If you know Bray seafront, Platform is to be found at the sea board side of Bray station. It does have the word ‘Platform’ written in very large letters on the wall outside, so even first-time visitors to Bray should find it easily enough.
Platform takes up the ground floor of what looks like a building made of poured concrete. There’s a definite industrial look to it, and that look has been embraced by the designers, because inside the whole effect works very well. It has that look that you’ll know from Joe Macken’s Crackbird or Bear — the filament light bulbs, tea towels as napkins, cutlery in tin cans and drinks in jam jars, but it has its own touches as well. For example, what looks like a wardrobe (well, it is a wardrobe) is the door to the loos, so you walk through a wardrobe to get to the conveniences of Narnia.
The tables are made from heavy pieces of varnished wood, the chairs are comfortable enough, the kitchen is on view at the far end of the dining room, and the whole thing has a busy, buzzy air to it. Plenty of floor staff meant that service was both good and quick.
The menu is divided into six sections — small bites, wings, flatbreads, salads, oven and broiler, and pizzas. With a menu like this it’s possible to arrange just about any combination of foods, from a traditional starter, main course and dessert, to tapas-style bits and bites. In fact, what we ordered was a bit of everything, but as is so often the case, we ended up ordering more food than we could eat. Thankfully they’re really good at boxing up what remains of your meal here, so we took quite a few little boxes home with us. Order carefully, the portions are generous.
We started with falafel for Gemma, Spitfire wings for Gavin and deep-fried calamari and prawns for me. Gavin’s Spitfire wings are described on the menu as ‘extra hot’ and our waitress did check that that was exactly what he wanted. “Shall I bring a glass of milk?” she asked. “Not for me,” said Gavin defiantly, “if they’re fiery hot, then bring it on.”
Gemma’s falafel looked good, a flatbread topped with crumbled chickpeas, tomato sauce and cheddar cheese, making it look for all the world like a pizza. It was good too, said Gemma. As for me, this was the first time in my life that I was unable to finish a dish of calamari. I tried, but was defeated by the sheer number of rings before me. Meanwhile, Gavin offered both Gemma and I a taste of his wings, but seeing tears in his eyes was enough of a heat warning and we both declined.
I think it was with the main courses that our ordering system broke down, because we ended up with the Paleo chicken for Gemma, the seafood pasta for Gavin, the rib-eye steak for me and a margherita pizza for sharing — far too much food. If you haven’t come across the ‘Paleo’ concept before, it just means ‘early’ in the sense of geological time. It’s food the way our ancestors of 50,000 years ago may have eaten it during the palaeolithic era — nothing processed, no dairy, no grains and no legumes.
The Paleo chicken was marinated with mustard seeds and lemon juice and came with tender stem broccoli. “Delicious,” was Gemma’s verdict. Gavin’s seafood pasta was linguine with a mix of tender shellfish and a well-made pepper sauce to go with it.
We had just a couple of desserts, a pecan pie with a scoop of salted caramel ice-cream, and a scoop of salted caramel by itself. All the desserts were €6, which really isn’t expensive. We ended the meal with two espressos and this was the only thing I’d ordered that I didn’t like. Even with sugar it was a bitter roast, not a good taste to end with.
The bill came to €131.25, including a few craft beers and minerals. By the by, I’ve never seen a bill as well broken down as this was. Each part of the meal was under its own heading — starters, main courses, desserts, beverages, drinks (alcoholic) and side orders. So I can tell you we spent €29.75 on the drinks, so about €100 for the food.
ON A BUDGET
The chicken wings at €7 are good value. There are five sauces to choose from: Kansas style BBQ sauce, Caribbean Jack, Buffalo, Spitfire and Habanero with mango for the very brave.
ON A BLOWOUT
The most expensive dish on the menu is a 10 oz. New York striploin for €21, which is the cheapest I’ve seen it for a long time. The pizzas too are well-priced — all between €11 and €14
THE HIGH POINT
The atmosphere and the quirky interior give the place a great buzz. You can’t help smiling.
THE LOW POINT
The bitter tasting coffee. Surely they can find a better roast than this?
8/10 value for money
Whispers from the gastronomicon
AMUSE is a new restaurant on DAWSON STREET, DUBLIN, which specialises in tasting menus. Conor Dempsey’s love for French cuisine (following his years spent working in celebrated Michelin restaurants in France) and passion for all things Asian, has resulted in his new restaurant which is French fine-dining mixed with Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai flavours — a warm corner of aromatic heaven in the heart of Dublin. A four-course lunch is €40, a five-course dinner is €55 or pay €76 for seven courses. Further information from amuse.ie