A previous incarnation gave Lucinda O'Sullivan a real 'Allo 'Allo experience but, now under new management and relaunched as The Green Hen, this brasserie-style venue displayed a definite Gallic flair
You know, we are a terrible crowd of snobs here, really. We only have to hear the words "new French bistro or brasserie" and there's a rush of Mrs Bouquets from Foxrock to Howth to try out their snail pithiviers and plonk, so they can drop the word in suitable places. You wouldn't get the same response to a new Italian trattoria -- even if it was far better.
The Green Hen is a brasserie-style restaurant right beside the very popular Old Stand Pub. I'd been there before when it was Leon Bistro, promising "traditional French cuisine" but we'd had a real 'Allo 'Allo experience, departing sans our main course. It has now been taken over by Paul Rooney, former general manager of Frank Gleeson's Cafe Leon Group, and he has morphed it into The Green Hen.
There is an oyster bar to the front where you can have a few molluscs: hot with chorizo hollandaise, or cold with limoncello -- three for €6, six for €12, or 12 for €24. To the rear is a larger dining area, decorated in a faded French chateau style, with grey, panelled walls, bentwood chairs and tables, and a banquette across the back wall -- the best seats -- above which an ornate, gold-framed mirror sports the specials of the day.
The lunch menu offered 2/3 courses for €16/€20; or a la carte, with starters €5-€8 and mains €11-€15. A plat du jour at €15 is available until 7.30pm -- add a glass of wine and coffee for an extra fiver. Starters included sweet potato soup with chilli; and rabbit terrine with a plum relish. There was also crispy squid Caesar salad and confit of duck leg salad, both of which could be had in small or large portions at €6/€11.
We started with a small portion of each, and both were enjoyable -- nothing overly fussy or mind-blowing -- but they were well dressed and flavoured. Miranda's duck salad had a good fluff of mixed leaves, which came with fresh fig sections, crisp green beans and a sweet walnut dressing. The cephalopods in my crispy salad weren't crispy per se, more soggy, courtesy of the Caesar dressing, but nonetheless, with croutons and robust pancetta, it was tasty, so I won't bitch about it at all. Hot tip -- just drop the word "crispy".
A pinot grigio wine special from the blackboard, €19, brought me straight back to the Seventies and those monstrous two-litre bottles of naff white plonk that tasted like cat pee. Seeing my face, the delightful waitress whipped it away. We moved on to Fox Mountain Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc and Calatayud DO Langa at €6 and €6.50 by the glass, of which we had two each.
Mains included home-made lamb and black pudding sausage with herb mash and shallot jus; steak baguette; and grilled beef burger with blue cheese, bacon and pomme frites. Miranda opted for grilled chicken pyard (€11). Come on, guys, leave it at paillard -- don't be smart and confuse the natives. Paillard basically means flattened -- put the chicken breast between some clingfilm and bash it down -- and, sprinkled with herbs, it is tasty and fast cooking. The Green Hen served it on balsamic roast red onions, sweet potatoes and a whack of chilli jam -- it tasted good.
I had the duck and mushroom pie plat du jour (Friday). Other daily plats, starting Monday, include navarin of lamb, confit pork belly, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, ox-cheek pie, and sauteed lamb's liver. I am not a pastry fan, but the pie proved very homely, and very amply filled with duck, mushrooms, green beans and a few peas -- all in all, very nice -- topped with nicely anointed, mixed leaves and pea shoots.
No tarte Tatin or clafoutis, instead, tiramisu and key lime pie, which seemed quite out of place. I had the panna cotta (€4.50) with poached pear and a sticky caramel sauce -- sinful! Our bill with optional service came to €74.50.
Simple but pleasant, so bon appetit.
The Green Hen,
33 Exchequer Street,
Tel: (01) 670-7238