Restaurant review: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Bedlam, 4-5 Castle Market, Dublin 2
You don't have to be mad to dine at a restaurant called Bedlam. Lucinda O'Sullivan discovers that entrepreneur May Frisby has certainly not lost her marbles and her new eaterie has outstanding food, good value and a buzzy atmosphere
Bedlam is the name of May Frisby's new happening in Castle Market. I guess if I said her restaurant was bedlam she mightn't be too happy but, as she has named it so herself, let me say it is organised, buzzy bedlam, with rather good food and a fun, vibrant atmosphere.
Maybe in choosing the restaurant's name, she was thinking of her busy life working 80-100 hours a week between Bedlam and her ever-popular Pasta Fresca on Chatham Street, a venture which she started all of 25 years ago.
You have to admire May Frisby's resilience, as she has turned this around very quickly and created a really good, intimate, funky, fun feel with animal-print walls, non-matching chairs and tables, a touch of the over-the-top, and there you have it -- Bedlam!
What will make this place hum is that prices are reasonable for good food, which is described as Mediterranean meets New York or, to my mind, New Irish.
My dining companion was John Healy of RTE's The Restaurant, who sure knows how to run a restaurant with style. "If a restaurant's terrine is good, the food will be good," he announced, followed with a quick request to taste their wild rabbit terrine; they obligingly produced a tranche without charge. "It's delicious," he said, as it disappeared down the red lane. It was moist and sublime, sprinkled with pea shoots, broad beans, mint salad and white balsamic, but I wouldn't try John's tack if I were you, for only his panache could carry that off. He munched and raved away while I had a glass of Prosecco (€7.50) before choosing a punchy threesome of baby squid (¿9) which I loved, loved, loved! These chunky little bedfellows, which were sitting on a pastry base, were stuffed with good, robust chorizo and feta cheese, which melted, adding a silky moistness.
John's starter per se was bruschetta (€10) topped with a copious amount of decent king prawns and avocado.
At this point we were joined by my friends Mary and Miko who just happened to be in town shopping on a Thursday evening, so we had the benefit of seeing their food too.
Mary had the rabbit terrine (€8) and Miko had a mini tower of crispy egg on black pudding, which was napped with Hollandaise, and accompanied by some crispy maple bacon (€8.50).
Mains start at €14 and are generally under €20, apart from the 10oz rump steak at €26. A traditional Irish lamb pie comes with creamy mash, while tempura of lemon sole is paired with remoulade, pea puree, and thick-cut chips.
I had a fine tranche of hake (€18) sitting on a rondelle of celeriac, atop a fondant potato, with split peas and baby spinach -- really good value and I liked the interesting elements; it felt like a much more expensive dish. Rotisserie cooking is one of the specialities here, with the options being baby chicken or pork loin.
John opted for the pork (€18) which consisted of a good piece of pork, standing rack style, with a crispy pork belly square, some glazed pak choi, crushed sweet potato, and a rich jus.
Mary's risotto, which she absolutely loved, had wild mushrooms with Parmesan and sage butter (€14) while Miko had roast fillet of cod (€18.50) on a fresh, summery cassoulet of peas and carrots, bacon lardons, in a saffron broth and topped with a dill creme fraiche.
John had a raspberry and mango mousse (€7) -- it was a yummy tiered affair.
With a bottle of Pinot Grigio (€22), two espressos (€4), a large bottle of water (€3.95) and optional service, the bill for John and I came to €109.45.
It's the sort of bedlam I like. A sassy city spot in the centre of the action, and good, too, for lunch and weekend brunch.
4-5 Castle Market,
Tel: (01) 677-6001