Friday 9 December 2016

Restaurant review: Manifesto, 208 Rathmines Road, D6

Tel: 01 4968096
TYPICAL DISH: Pasta/pizza
RECOMMENDED: Spinach with scallops/pizza
THE DAMAGE: €92 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, two glasses of wine, three beers, two espressos
ON THE STEREO: Jazz
AT THE TABLE: Italians

Aingeala Flannery

Published 11/11/2011 | 18:00

On Monday morning I drove Ui Rathaile to the airport. He was going to New York to woo an audience of beard-strokers and Hibernophiles with a story he had written. I hated him for leaving me behind in grey, dreary Dublin. It took hours to drive back across the city, the roads were wet and dirty.

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By the time I got home, I was starving, so I put three eggs in a pot to boil while I finished a review I was writing. When the eggs had cooled down enough to peel and dice, I stuck a bagel in the toaster and went to the fridge to get some mayonnaise. The jar was empty. Ui Rathaile brings love and joy into my life, and then he ruins it all by putting an empty mayonnaise jar back in the fridge. I kicked one of his boots (good enough for Dublin -- but not Manhattan) across the kitchen floor. And then I went to work.

Halfway through my shift, a neighbour phoned to tell me the Poddle had burst its banks and was flowing full force through our houses. Words like "disaster", "homeless" and "destitute" were tripping off her tongue. The Brother came to rescue me in his big white van and we camped out until the water receded. The next day, when I opened my front door, the first thing I saw was Ui Rathaile's boots floating down the hall.

The week that followed is a damp, toxic blur. The Brother stayed on to mind me and we dined on candle-lit takeaways -- until I could take it no more and dragged him to Rathmines for dinner. Why Manifesto? Because it was the first place we came across. I'd never eaten there before -- something about the name and the exterior had put me off. But everything is relative and, with my own patch looking like a war zone, Manifesto seemed positively luxurious. It was warm and inviting and full of fragrant, smiling people -- many of them Italian.

Must it take a cataclysmic event -- a deluge or a plague -- to make us see the folly of our ways? As we waited for a table, I watched the pizza chef throw dough and pull exquisite-looking pies from the oven, and it dawned on me that I had misjudged Manifesto -- and for the flimsiest of reasons. A sign on the wall said it all: it had been awarded Best Pizza in the World. The World, Aingeala. The World.

But Manifesto is more than a mere pizza joint. They make their own bread -- and their own pasta, which goes beyond the basics of arrabiata and carbonara. We're talking spaghetti handpressed from a chitarra and served with half a lobster in its shell, or cavatelli made from chestnut flour, with porcini mushrooms, prawns and borlotti beans. So far, so fancy, I thought to myself -- nose-deep in a glass of Friulano.

I kicked off with a millefoglie di cappesante grigliate con spinaci (€12). A nicely presented timbale of young, verdant spinach, studded throughout with fat, golden scallops, which were grilled to perfection -- crisp to the bite, but soft and buttery inside. The pungent spinach was gorgeously rich and vibrant with a cheeky can-can kick of garlic. I was dubious about the passion-fruit reduction -- yet it added whimsy and sweetness to this intensely rich dish.

The Brother went for profiteroles nero con spuma di spigola (€10). Profiteroles made with squid ink and filled with sea bass mousse that was as cool as it was delicate.

He wanted the macho-sounding Don Corleone pizza for the main course, but upon my insistence settled for the more effeminate Mamy (€15). It was, after all, the pizza that bagged the Best in the World award. I don't know who gives out these gongs, but when the Mamy arrived I saw no reason to question their credentials. It was, in short, a stellar pie. A crisp frisbee of a thing with the soft, warm smell of yeast rising in steamy puffs from the dough. The topping: three cheeses -- mozzarrella, Parmesan and mozzarella di bufala -- alongside smokey grilled aubergine and top-shelf Parma ham. No doubting the quality of the cast, but what impressed me most was the tangy sauce and the base.

I opted for pasta -- paccheri di Gragnano gratinati con Provola (€15): fat tubes of homemade pasta, stuffed with shredded chicken breast and Parmesan, on a bed of slinky red onions sauteed in Prosecco, and topped with a thick tomato sauce and oozy, warm, smoked mozzarella. Classic Italian flavours, rustic in style, but executed with the same skill and authenticity that had shone throughout our meal.

Desserts were traditional and kept the pace, and coffee was pitch perfect. Oh, I was a very happy reviewer indeed on the short walk home. Even when I turned the corner and saw my waterlogged car --its engine refusing to turn over. I had just a fleeting thought about how Ui Rathaile was going to get home from the airport. Then I slipped into bed, and drifted off to sleep -- with a full belly and a foolish notion that all was (more or less) well with the world.

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