Tabletalk: In Seventh Heaven
Dublin restaurant Seven Social may be diminutive, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, but such is the quality and provenance of its food that this little eatery's reputation continues to spread far and wide
You really do have to admire the get up and go of some people. Seven Social is a 24-seater restaurant on Benburb Street, which has never let its diminutive size or location curtail its ambitions.
Chef Emma Bowe and Piotr Kalkowski set up shop a couple of years ago, and soon had the nearby legal fraternity, among others, queuing for their lunches.
Twice a year, Seven Social hosts an Ancient Irish Feast, serving 10 courses, along with complementary drinks. It focuses on genuine Irish cuisine, food history and traditions, both current and ancient. This ambitious menu includes dishes such as pumpkin soup; smoked eel; rolled pig's head; organic Carrickmacross grey squirrel soup with wild mushrooms; and 17th-Century plum duff balls.
The pair have attracted international attention, with their little eatery being noted in the Huffington Post, among others.
Emma Bowe hails from Donegal, while front-of-house man, Piotr, is from Poland. She was raised in her family's restaurant, which goes back five generations, where natural food was the norm.
I hadn't been to Seven Social since it first opened for lunch, and wanted to revisit it in its normal course of running, rather than for a special event.
Starters were €6-€9. The aforementioned grey squirrel soup was a special of the evening, while Wexford strawberry salad had Fivemiletown goat's cheese with soy and hazelnut dressing. Baked globe artichoke was served with capers, Coolea cheese and carrageen moss seaweed crumb. I also fancied the Balbriggan razor clams (€9), which had two dramatic, long, black mollusc shells lined up side by side.
The clams themselves were cut into pieces and mixed lavishly with garlic, parsley, saffron aioli and gremolata, which covered the plate like a romantic camomile lawn. I was only short of licking the plate in a way that might have made Ms Bowe's great-grandmother proud.
Shavings of pink organic onglet of beef (€9) were fashionably scattered in a similar way -- this time mixed with mature Coolea, and topped with organic seaweed crumbs and lemon.
Moving on, a selection of antipasti plates -- cured meats and seafood, or meats and cheeses, to share -- were €16, while four inventive mains included Kilmore Quay scallops with shredded organic Tamsworth pork belly, wilted Lusk village scallions, purple potatoes, hazelnut hash and peach salsa (€22). Vegetarian millet and barley cake had baked Toonsbridge buffalo ricotta, king trumpet and horn of plenty mushroom steak, and roast tomato, caper and garlic dressing (€18). Sweet organic pheasant (€22) had the breast meat pulled and served on creamed corn, shallot mash, De Roiste handmade white pudding, black chanterelles and pickled cherries.
The fish of the day (€20) was sauteed mackerel and home-smoked squid, served on a delicious crab-and-dill mash with braised chard, brown butter and mint radishes, with piquillo pepper salsa.
It's all about colour, freshness and flavour combinations -- just as you have absorbed one, you are assailed by yet another burst of something unexpected.
We followed up by sharing a peanut butter sundae (€7) and a wonderful selection of Irish cheeses (€12), complete with honey, nuts and oat biscuits.
Wines are available by the half or full litre, from €15 and €22 respectively, plus an extensive, interesting wine list. We had a delicious bottle of Austrian Zantho sauvignon blanc 2011 -- normally €26, but we were charged €22, as our first choice was out of stock.
Our bill, with optional service, was €111.
From its Left-Bank feel to its Picasso-style cushions, this is a precious little place. French chanteuse Juliette Greco would have loved it in her beatnik heyday.
76 Benburb Street,
Tel: (01) 672-9080
Three to Try:
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
1A Crow Street,
Tel: (01) 658-6856
This restaurant offers a fresh take on old-fashioned hospitality, and the mantra here from Robert Smyth and Marc Gray is classical food. Head chef, Jack Duffy, catered for Queen Elizabeth II when she stayed at Farmleigh during her state visit in 2011
Roast quail with organic cider sauce, and braised red cabbage
From €23. A speciality wine list is also available
THE DANDELION RESTAURANT
4 Main Street,
Tel: (01) 890-2491
The new-to-Swords Dandelion Restaurant is a bistro-style, neighbourhood eatery in a fresh, bright setting, offering good prices and contemporary food
Roast, glazed rump of lamb
112 Church Road,
Tel: (01) 534-7137
This restaurant serves Italian and Irish-style food until noon, when panini, insalata and antipasti lunches kick in until 5pm. The evening sees pasta, pizzas and mains on the menu, which range from lasagne to fillet steaks. It's handy if you're heading for the O2
Grigliata mista -- a selection of grilled meats, chicken, sausage and lamb