Sunday 4 December 2016

Restaurant review: A warm welcome at Richmond

Richmond, 43 Richmond St South, Portobello, Dublin 2. (01) 478-8783

Katy McGuinness

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

Richmond restaurant. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Richmond restaurant. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Maggie Lynch of Soul Food
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Were you ever in the Gig's Place? It's understandable if you're not quite sure, because it was one of those establishments that you may only have ever visited in the early hours. (And in your cups.) I remember ending up there after the Trinity Ball, and on the way home from McGonagles.

It was a favourite with taxi drivers, musicians, and other night workers. These were the people who would drop in for breakfast on their way home to bed and, by virtue of the fact that it stayed in existence for so long, the Gig's Place became a Dublin institution.

I cannot recall much about the food offering (hardly surprising), although there is a hazy memory of good chips, but the Gig's Place never pretended to be anything other than a greasy spoon, and must have served a decent fry up to have lasted for as long as it did.

I'm not sure when it closed, but the last number of times that I drove past, the Gig's Place was no longer in business.

Late last year, there was a flurry of activity and word spread that the premises had been taken over by owner/manager Russell Wilde, formerly of The Butcher Grill and Café Bar Deli, and head chef David O'Byrne, who cooked at Mulberry Garden and La Mere Zou, which too closed its doors for good a couple of weeks ago. A smart makeover has been executed and now there is a chic grey paint job (F&B Downpipe?) with a snazzy yet subtle red neon sign to announce to passers-by that the Gig's Place is no more, and that Richmond is there in its stead.

Next door is the cheerful presence of Picado Mexican Pantry, Lily Ramirez-Foran's cute food shop selling, you've guessed it, all manner of authentic Mexican food.

I visited Richmond on the first Thursday in January, so it's fair to assume that there will be more people and atmosphere by the time you read this and are ready to consider venturing out from sofa- and Making A Murderer-land. No restaurant really deserves to be reviewed during the first working week of the year.

On a chilly night it's nice and toasty inside, and the welcome from Russell Wilde, whom I don't know other than as a familiar face on the Dublin restaurant scene, is just as warm. (My pal, Rebecca, who made the booking, said that Wilde "gives good phone".)

First things first, and Wilde points us in the direction of a silky Cotes du Ventoux while at the same time giving us a taste of a couple of other house wines that he happens to have open. We go with his suggestion, priced at a keen €29.

The menu is short and we're taken aback that there's no early bird or set menu deal. Prices are bullish for a neighbourhood bistro. There's house-baked bread and smoked butter. The bread is good and light but studded with golden raisins that make it over-sweet, more akin to brack than bread and not a great match for the sublime butter.

Seared scallops (three of them for €12.50) are beautifully cooked, still translucent in the centre. They sit happily alongside florets of roasted cauliflower, draped with slivers and fronds of pickled fennel, with a few foaming blobs of prawn bisque.

A starter portion of a single raviolo of smoked chicken topped with an assertive tranche of crisp chicken skin and accompanied by roasted hazelnuts, a watercress purée and watercress leaves is an artful plate that under-delivers when it comes to flavour. The chicken could do with being ramped up a notch or two.

Our main courses are priced at €26 and €26.50 respectively. My duck comprises three meaty tranches of traditional fine-dining breast, cooked pink, served with an individual venison pie that's got too much pastry and not enough filling, red cabbage, pumpkin purée and a game sauce.

Black pudding appears as substantial rock hard shards scattered across the plate. I'm worried that my fillings are in jeopardy.

Rebecca's choice is the daily special of pan-seared halibut that comes with a single langoustine, a few cockles and mussels, and a crouton topped with a truffle mousse that we think is based on potato. The fish is dry, and the dish could have done with a rich soupy stock to bring it all together. She is under-whelmed. Both dishes are a tad frumpy.

We try two desserts: an excellent date pudding with toffee sauce, vanilla ice cream and pecans, and a dark chocolate tart with mint ice-cream and honeycomb that is dense, stolid and disappointing.

Our bill, including one extra glass of wine, and two sides comes to €131.25 before service.

Richmond is a good addition to the neighbourhood, but if I were in charge I'd introduce a lower-priced set menu using fewer luxe ingredients mid-week and aim for a more modern sensibility in keeping with the location.

The rating

6/10 food

7/10 ambience

6/10 value for money

19/30

Whispers from the gastronomicon

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The Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health has launched its Taste Health Kitchen and Maggie Lynch of Soul Food will be directing its cooking classes and courses. Maggie's food is both super-tasty and super-healthy, and she has recipes suitable for people with diabetes, cancer, coeliac disease, and a host of other conditions. Saturday courses include A Taste of Health (Jan 30), Gluten & Wheat-free Cooking and Baking (April 9) and Easy Meals for Busy Mums and Dads (April 30). 20pc off all full-day courses booked before January 31. thesoulfoodco.ie

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