Restaurant review: Lucinda O'Sullivan at The Magpie Inn, Co Dublin
The trend for relaxed but classy dining is growing apace, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, and Dalkey's The Magpie Inn, a new gastropub, fits the bill perfectly
Ever more we are veering towards the casual, relaxed, good-value dining ethos with good tapas, Italian, and gastropubs all flying. We've always wanted to dine like our Continental neighbours on a regular basis on reasonably priced, simple food and now, with an abundance of casual eateries, particularly in Dublin, it seems many are doing so.
Coming out of town any night through the South William Street area, Dame Street or George's Street, you can hardly get through the crowds of young people flocking into the bars and restaurants.
These days, gastropubs are judged just as severely by diners as restaurants are -- they are not any much cheaper than bistros or brasseries, so the grub has to be wholesome and cooked with a certain flair, unlike the old pub-grub world of meat and two veg. However, there is a place for that, too -- unlike some, I don't turn my nose up at the carvery -- many people love it and use it as a daily staple. However, the subject of my attention today is a new gastropub in upmarket Dalkey, Co Dublin, home to Bono and Pat Kenny et al.
The Magpie Inn has been taken over by Rachel Clancy, originally from Kilkenny, who has been involved in the Dublin restaurant scene for some 15 years and knows what she is about.
We really liked the atmosphere created in the Magpie and there were an awful lot of local faces tucking in there. "The lamb is really fantastic," wheezed one of them, unsolicited, as she stood outside the door puffing a fag between glasses of vino with her girlfriends. She should know, being married to a one-time prominent figure of the restaurant industry.
Starters (€6-€10) included fish cake with citrus and chilli served with capers and lemon mayo; while sea trout and mackerel terrine had a citrus cream cheese. Chorizo, red onion, Cashel Blue, chickpea and wild rocket salad (€8) was a whopper, with diagonally cut shards of chorizo laid on the ample compound ingredients listed -- it would make a fine lunch in itself.
Brendan's somewhat unusual starter of paprika confit of pork belly (€7.50) had me salivating: succulent slices of caramelised, crispy belly sitting on pickled red cabbage, and topped with apple marmalade. I can see the doughty men of Dalkey doffing their cap to Ms Clancy to be fed with this.
A dozen mains (€15-€24) included pan-seared hake fillet on sweet pea and chorizo risotto; a Moroccan organic lamb burger, with sesame yoghurt, tomato, lettuce and chips; while split gambas came with chive butter, seasonal vegetables and spuds. Brendan hopped on tempura of haddock with thick chips, chunky tartar and pea puree (€16) but I had been lured by the "fantastic lamb" which was a slow-roast rump served with seasonal vegetables of carrot and broccoli with mashed potatoes, red wine and Dijon sauce (€22). Despite the inclusion of chickpeas in my starter, and a Moroccan lamb burger on the menu, I hadn't, up to that point, copped on that the chef here is Hadi Fahes, who is Lebanese, and whose food I have had and enjoyed before. On realising this, I asked for a stir-fry of vegetables with a good whack of hot, hot harissa paste added. A delicious melange of peppers, red onions, mushrooms, and green beans ensued, topped with sublimely tender tranches of rump, seared on the outside, and pink in the middle. The food was nice, but I'd really like to see some more North African dishes on the menu as we don't have anything much like that in Dublin, never mind the Borough. Puds were sensibly priced at €6, and I had an interesting lemon carrageen moss pudding with glazed rhubarb and ginger and rhubarb ice cream.
Our bill with optional service, a pint of Guinness (€4.50) and two glasses of Pinot Grigio (€12) was €88.50 -- and nobody was rushing us to get the table back.
The Magpie Inn,
115 Coliemore Road,
Tel: (01) 202-3909
Sunday Indo Life Magazine