Restaurant review: Paolo Tullio at Bedlam, Dublin 2
I did a lot of eating out this week, and it started with a meeting I had with Tom Kelly about websites. We'd arranged to meet in Dublin and Tom suggested the Alexandra Hotel in Fenian Street, just behind Merrion Square. I rarely have a reason to drive down Fenian Street, so I was unaware that the Alexandra Hotel existed.
I then discovered that there are three hotels, all owned by the O'Callaghan Group, and all three within a stick's throw of one another. Across Fenian Street from the Alexandra is The Davenport, and across the road from that is the Mont Clare.
Because we needed an internet connection, we ended up in the Mont Clare, a hotel that's been there for as long as I've been in Ireland, and that's not yesterday.
We finished our business about lunchtime, so a bite to eat seemed in order. The Mont Clare offers a carvery at lunchtime, so we went to try it out.
The room set aside for the carvery doesn't look like a typical dining room. The first thing you notice is that the tables are set out like a refectory, joined together to make large, long tables of a dozen or so seats each, and all lined up as in a canteen.
The carvery offered two roasts: turkey or beef. There was mashed potato, roast potato and a mix of carrots and parsnip as the vegetable offering. I took the roast beef and Tom took the vegetable soup.
Let me say at once there was nothing wrong with either plate -- the soup was warm and nourishingly winter-like, and the beef was tender and roasted to a medium cook.
But it was like a trip in a time machine, like being transported back to the 1960s when this was what was on offer in hotels all around the land. It was as if all the improvements in our national cuisine over the past decades had never happened.
Cold mineral water was unavailable, and I had the worst cappuccino I've ever had. The bill came to €22.90.
I had much better luck later in the week, when Marian Kenny and I had been to see the wonderful Dylan Moran in Vicar Street. The show finished after 10.30pm, so we had to find a place that was open until late.
That's not as easy a task as it used to be, but we found Bedlam, which promised it would serve dinner up to 11pm. Perfect.
Bedlam is relatively new and is in Castle Market, where the Bistro used to be, opposite La Maison.
The area between Grafton Street and George's Street is rapidly becoming a restaurant hub, and on this mild Friday night the pavement tables of the pubs and restaurants in this area were full of late-night customers -- from Exchequer Street and Clarendon Street, to South William Street and the transverses, such as Castle Market and Coppinger Row.
Mild as it was, we elected to eat inside.
As we walked in, we were greeted by Bruno Berta, who has run many res-taurants in his career, most recently Salon des Saveurs for Conrad Gallagher.
If you know anything about Dublin's catering industry, you won't be surprised when I tell you that I've never seen Bruno look so happy in his work.
Having a consummate professional like him running the front of house means you can instantly relax, knowing you're in capable hands.
Bedlam is very much a bistro, the menu is quite short and is very well priced -- all the main courses cluster around €16, with only the steak breaking the €20 barrier. It lists some quite imaginative dishes, such as a terrine of wild rabbit, stuffed squid and rotisserie poussin.
There was a day's special of roast rump of lamb, which Marian ordered, and she had the crispy egg with black pudding for her starter.
I chose the stuffed squid on Bruno's recommendation and followed that with a traditional lamb pie with a puff-pastry topping.
Good homemade bread came to the table and we had a couple of bottles of mineral water between us. I did scan the wine list -- it's short enough, with a dozen reds and a dozen whites, with the majority of the listed wines under €25 and two under €20.
Seven are available in 50cl size, and there are eight by the quarter bottle -- plenty of options to accompany a simple meal.
I liked our starters. Marian got an egg that had been breaded and deep-fried, and with it came maple-cured bacon and a slice of black pudding, while I got three baby squid, stuffed with feta.
This is not an easy dish to get right -- the timings are critical -- but it came very nicely done and prettily presented.
Marian's lamb dish was roast rump, and it was cooked pink and served in slices, with parsnip crisps and purée potato. My pie came in a small pot and was topped with puff pastry, under which I found chunks of lean lamb in a very tasty sauce. If I'd had a spoon, I'd have finished every last drop of it.
We finished up with a tea for Marian and one of the best espressos I've had in Dublin, made by our Italian waiter, who knew exactly how to coax a good espresso from the hissing machine.
I liked Bedlam. It produces simple, well-prepared food with good ingredients and doesn't charge a lot of money for it. It is precisely what a good bistro should be. We got a bill for €70.35 and went home happy.
My week ended with a very good meal to celebrate a friend's birthday in Barberstown Castle, which included a good roast partridge dish. I thought it much improved since the last time I reviewed it.
4-5 Castle Market,
Tel. 01 677 6001
VALUE FOR MONEY 9/10