Tuesday 10 December 2019

Refuel: The Cliff Townhouse * * * *

22 St Stephen’s Green, D2. Tel: 016383939

Aingeala Flannery

Waterford's finest has arrived in Dublin. I am referring, not to myself, but to the lauded Cliff House of Ardmore. Its sister operation, The Cliff Town House, opened a few weeks back in a swanky Georgian residence recently vacated by Bentley's and the bête noir of the Irish chicken industry, Tricky Dicky Corrigan.

The Cliff House proudly holds the only Michelin star outside of Dublin and within the 26 counties. I reviewed it a couple of months ago -- and left feeling somewhat short-changed. Lunch in the bar, with just one dessert and two glasses of wine, cost more than 100 quid.

There could have been a sense of déjà vu when Ui Rathaile stepped into the grand, airy dining room of 22 St Stephen's Green, but from the get-go, lunch at the Cliff's city-slicker sister was miles ahead.

There's a fragrance of occasion about the place, gorgeous lighting, crisp linen, sparkling glassware, well-spaced tables, and waiters who appear when you need them and retreat when you don't. You'll be paying through the nose for this, Ui Rathaile snorted. And, not for the first time, he was wrong.

I gasped, drawing his notoriously flighty attention to the lunch menu. Three courses for €25. Oh, happy day -- there was no catch. From a list of starters, which included potted Helvick monkfish and lobster bisque with double cream and whiskey, Ui Rathaile chose the Irish charcuterie. It comprised almost translucent sheets of salt-cured beef, slivers of spiced beef and thin ribbons of braised tongue. All delicious.

My cured fillet of Glenarm organic salmon was soft as velvet, and wavered pleasantly between sweet and salty.

Our appetites continued to be wooed with the main courses. Here, the choices were more run of the mill, but not to be sniffed at.

Skeaghanore duck confit with potato, cabbage and butternut squash, and a posh rendition of fish and chips were overlooked in favour of roast rib of Donald Russell beef. It came with red wine jus, roast spuds, green beans and Yorkshire pudding, which I found a little brittle.

Ui Rathaile's fish pie was classically creamy, topped with golden, buttery mash and packed with undyed smoked haddock and prawns.

I ordered a cheese board in lieu of dessert. The quartet of fine Irish cheese -- Crozier Blue, Durrus, Ardrahan and soft creamy Cooleeney -- came with a knockout gooseberry jelly and oatmeal biscuits. Ui Rathaile's choice was excellent, if uncharacteristically chaste: Glenilen yoghurt pudding with plum compote and pistachios in a cornflake shell.

Wine-wise, there's plenty of choice by the glass, all reasonably priced. I switched between Verdejo and Grenache/Merlot, while Ui Rathaile pushed the boat out with a swanky Sancerre at €12 a glass.

Even with that, our long, indulgent Sunday lunch came to under €85, making it not just the best lunch around, but the best value too.

The set-dinner menu, by the way, costs €40.

Typical dish: Helvick monkfish

Recommended: Roast beef

The damage: €84.40 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, one cheeseboard and five glasses of wine

On the stereo: Van Morrison

At the table:Clever tourists

Irish Independent

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