Friday 28 July 2017

Sophie's at the Dean: 'An impressive new kid on the block'

Lucinda O’Sullivan

Lucinda O’Sullivan

With amazing views, good casual food and a buzzing atmosphere, Lucinda O'Sullivan was impressed by new kid on the block, Sophie's, based in the hip Dean Hotel on Harcourt Street.

In days gone by, the fine Georgian houses of Dublin's Harcourt Street were easily transformed into small hotels and guesthouses. However, most gave way to hotel chains with more modern facilities. So, more recently, Harcourt Street has been associated with nightclubs and offices, and being the 'drive-through' of the Luas line. However, a new, hot, hip hotel may be about to change all of this. The Dean opened pre-Christmas, having had millions spent on it by Paddy McKillen's Press Up Entertainment Group, which also owns Wagamama, Captain Americas, the Vintage Cocktail Club and many more.

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Popping in to check out its Sophie's restaurant and bar, I also managed to see some rooms. They are very cool. The entry-level 'Mod Pod' room, at €109 per night, is a comfy lair, with everything from a Smeg mini-fridge to Grafton Barber toiletries.

Suites are stunning, and well-priced in suite terms, while four wheelchair-accessible rooms seem to have been installed with meticulous care and attention to detail. Forget a vast hotel reception area, you're straight into a combined bar cum leisure/workstation, with a discreet reception desk. It almost feels like a townhouse, or a contemporary take on the old gentlemen's clubs, because of the number of areas for socialising.

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London has the Duck & Waffle, on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, and Paris has Ciel de Paris on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower. We now have the relatively diminutive Sophie's which, while perhaps not quite such a skyscraper, is head and shoulders above everything else, height-wise, in the restaurant world here.

A virtual glass box on the top floor, it has wonderful views over our fair city. On this level also is a smashing outdoor terrace, with a Brazilian barbecue for private parties or warm summer days. A big feature bar centres the room, where the music and ambiance is just buzzing.

The food is casual New York-style Italian, with a big pizza oven producing fine-base pizzas at €12-€16. Starters included raw tuna, shallot and potato salad; creamed mussel bruschetta; and salt and pepper chilli squid. Paul had two very tasty roasted red peppers (€8) stuffed with burrata and lardo di Colonnata, while I was delighted with the simplicity and healthiness of two crisp lettuce 'cups' sporting a melange of crab (€10) with diced pear and a blood-orange dressing.

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Mains, €15-€28, included a 12oz rib-eye, a trio of pasta dishes, and venison with honeyed turnip, parsnip and roasted pear. Paul chose a rustic, Tuscan-style tagliatelle, tossed with an oxtail and apricot ragu at €17. Sprinkled with pistachios, the sweet-sour combination of the apricots and shredded oxtail meat was rich and satisfying, and he loved it.

I had baked hake (€24) which was a perfectly seared tranche of the poisson, served with deep, rich cavalo nero and a tomato and brown shrimp 'dressing', the flavours of which were wonderful. Desserts at €7-€8 were simple, but again it was the flavours and combinations that made them superb.

Paul's dessert had a mixture of spiced pineapple and coconut ice-cream, topped with pistachios, for €8, which was sweet, sharp, and a great palate cleanser. I would go back for my slice of frangipane, which looked a bit like gur cake, but was pure heaven, topped with prunes and a large quenelle of rum ice-cream, for €7.

The restaurant has great-sounding cocktails at €10-€11, and a wide selection of wines by the glass. We enjoyed a bottle of Chateau La Coste Lisa Blanc Vermentino Sauvignon Ugni 2013 (€27) from Paddy McKillen's French vineyard and, with a double espresso (€3.60), our bill with optional service came to €115.10.

Sophie's opens for breakfast from 7am-11am weekdays; for brunch at weekends, 7.30am-3.30pm; and dinner every day from 5pm until late. Cool.

Sophie's,

The Dean,

33 Harcourt Street,

Dublin 2.

Tel: (01) 607-8100

sophies.ie

lucindaosullivan.com

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