Tabletalk: The next chapter for Ross Lewis
Michelin-star chef Ross Lewis is turning his hand to casual dining - our reviewer found his new venture into contemporary Italian cuisine a delight, from antipasti to pudding
Ross Lewis is a star; one of Ireland's finest chefs. His Chapter One restaurant on Dublin's Parnell Square is probably the most revered and popular restaurant in the country. Now, like many international Michelin-star chefs, having conquered the culinary heights, he has taken on the world of the more casual eatery.
Never content to sit still, it's a fresh arena for a man who is always challenging himself and the foodie world with ideas. So, the question here is: how do you simplify from elaborate and detailed Michelin-style food to less formal presentations?
Contemporary Italian food is what Lewis now wants to bring to Dublin, in as slick a citified atmosphere as you would find from New York to Sydney. With this in mind, he has just taken over the former Pizza e Porchetta in The Malting Tower on Grand Canal Quay, rebranding it Osteria Lucio.
A somewhat novel part of this building has always been its cool 'tented' tunnel right under the Dart line - and yes, you do hear it rumbling above as you sip your pinot grigio and nibble your cicchetti.
Never fear, pizza lovers, it's hasn't gone so posh that you can't get your favourite pizza (€14-€17.50) anymore. The layout and decor remains the same, with the big, wood-fired pizza oven and casual area to the front, where you can pop up on stools, have an antipasti plate, or just a few glasses of wine, and chill.
Paul and I bagged a table on the banquette in the 'tent', where we could see all the activity - it's always a hot spot for people-watching!
Antipasti (€9-€13.50) gave prominence to vegetables, which is not only very now, but which I personally love. Roasted beetroot salad was served with blood orange, hazelnuts and Fivemiletown goat's cheese; while Iona Farm carrots were served with in-house prepared ricotta and gremolata. Salt-baked celeriac came with crispy pancetta, walnut pesto, apple and grated egg yolk; and fried sole had an agrodolce (sweet-sour) sauce.
There was a trio of fresh pasta dishes (€18 -€19), including lamb ragu tagliatelle; and seafood and shellfish chitarra.
I kicked off with a special of agnolotti (€9) - Piemontese- style ravioli filled with roast meat, spinach and cheese, and rolled over into little parcels - a bit like Chinese dumplings, pot-stickers or Japanese gyoza. Absolutely delicious, they were scattered with a veal jus, spinach and finely grated Parmesan. Paul found them totally irresistible - as his fork kept sneaking across the table from his own salumi misto of excellent Italian artisanal charcuterie and focaccia.
He was eating from a two-course pre-theatre menu - great value at €40 for 2 people (€20 for 1), as it featured what he wanted to eat anyway. I had pan-seared fillet of sea bream (€22.50), which was served on a piquant sweet-sour dice of vegetable caponata with pine nuts and two sprigs of broccolini; while Paul had Tuscan slow-braised, meltingly soft cubes of short rib of beef (€22.95 on the a la carte menu). They were served in a little black cast-iron pan on soft polenta, topped with spinach and scattered with pine nuts.
Both dishes had immense flavour and were quite delicious, but if you aren't worried about staying a size 10, you might fancy a side order of crispy baby potatoes.
Desserts (€6.95) included the popular Italian stalwarts of tiramisu; semifreddo; affogato; plus an Italian cheese selection (€11). We shared a chocolate bonet (€6.95), beautifully presented with blood orange segments and amaretto crumb. It's also a Piemontese speciality, and has the texture of creme caramel and is much lighter than a floury chocolate pud.
With a bottle of Gavi Picollo 2013 (€35), water (€4.50) and service, our bill came to €107.95.
It's an interesting project from Signor 'Lucio' Lewis, which should be a winner.
The Malting Tower, Clanwilliam Terrace, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 662-4198
Three to try... Darting Dinners
10 George's Quay, Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 677-0626
Style: The former Kennedy's pub, beside Tara Street station, has morphed into a new cool, chic gastropub. From meat and fish boards to quinoa 'power' salads and rib-eye steaks - with a French accent
Price: Mains €15-€24
Try: Braised beef cheeks Bourguignon, with Alsace bacon, pearl onion, pomme mousseline, and red wine veal jus, €18
Wine: From €23
The Hen House
The Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Tel: (01) 663-6611
Style: Located opposite Dun Laoghaire station, The Hen House is much more than 'chicken and egg' - featuring duck, steaks, fish, great burgers and vegetarian lasagne. Excellent kids menu and early bird menus too
Price: Mains €13.95-€24.95
Try: Malaysian chicken, €15.95
Wine: From €22.50
The Pig's Ear
4 Nassau Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 670-3865
Style: Around the corner from Pearse station, chef Stephen McAllister serves the best of Irish produce in a chic, contemporary style.Menu choices include tartare of venison and spiced tapioca pudding
Price: Mains €18.95. EB 2/3-course €21.95/€26.95
Try: Irish salmon, cauliflower, samphire, potted brown shrimp, caper and almond butter, €24.95
Wine: From €22.95
Sunday Indo Life Magazine