Eathos, so its website announces, 'is an eatery like no other in Dublin'. That may be true, but it is very like an eatery I know in London. You may have heard of it; it's called Ottolenghi.
The first Ottolenghi shop opened in Notting Hill in 2002. Its offering of vibrant, abundant salads and the biggest, blousiest meringues that you had ever seen (exotic flavours included rosewater and pistachio) was an instant hit.
Now that Ottolenghi's signature repertoire of Middle Eastern-rooted food with a western twist is firmly established in the mainstream, it's easy to forget how exciting it was to encounter it back then. That first Ottolenghi book, published in 2008, blew us all away.
I'm not the only person who has cooked from it and its successors (Plenty, Jerusalem and Plenty More) extensively over the past seven years, although I have been heard to moan about the amount of time-consuming chopping involved. Who did we eat before Ottolenghi? I think it must have been Jamie.
The Ottolenghi shops in Notting Hill and Belgravia are mainly take-out, while Islington and Spitalfields have restaurants with signature white tables, all the better for showing off the colourful food.
Anyway, at Eathos it's almost as if someone from Dublin went over to London and saw Ottolenghi and thought: "Wouldn't it be great if we had a place like that in Dublin?" And they'd have been right.
And before you know it there was a new restaurant on Baggot Street, with its counter piled high with platters of glorious salads and mouth-watering cakes and pastries, that looks just like Ottolenghi, down to the red typeface on the menu and the packets of granola and jars of za'atar arranged on the shelves. But the new place isn't Ottolenghi at all, nor is it pretending to be. It's Eathos, which is completely different.
Lisa Murrin runs the family-owned Eathos along with her brother Peter and veteran restaurateur Ann Marie Nohl.
"We have been influenced by places that we have seen all around the world including in Chicago, New York and Paris," Lisa told me. "And Ottolenghi has been one of our biggest influences both in terms of the food and the interiors. We wanted that white, crisp look, and we have their books on the shelves.
"It's no secret, the Ottolenghi influence is huge. We've even had contact from Ottolenghi to congratulate us on our opening. We have a team of chefs and a pastry chef who puts his twist on things he has found on his travels around the world."
We were four and arrived without a booking in the middle of the lunchtime rush. The greeter offered us seats at a large circular communal table on the patio at the back. We declined - it would have effectively meant sitting in a row - and with a bit of huffing and puffing, and being told that they preferred to keep the tables for two-tops, a couple were pushed together to accommodate us. Except for that blip, the service was good, and the staff smiley and charming.
The deal is two salads for €9, and three for €13. Or, as is the current trend, a 'protein' with two salads for €14.50, and with three for €16.50. There's soup too, but the mercury was rising and it didn't feel like a soup kind of a day.
Between us we tried five of the seven proteins and each of the eight salads, bar one. Of the proteins, the tastiest was the seared tuna, perfectly cooked, which came with a stonking soy and sesame sauce, and plenty of kick from ginger and wasabi. It was great.
Spinach quiche with Cashel blue, caramelised onion and nutmeg was solid and too eggy; it was hard to discern the cheese or anything else. Turkey and courgette koftas looked terrific but were dry and tasteless.
The pan-roasted Tipperary beef also looked beautiful but had little flavour; neither did its accompanying horseradish sour cream. A supreme of free-range chicken with sumac, lemon, za'atar and chilli was dull.
A gorgeous coleslaw of savoy and red cabbages, pickled carrots and spiced cashew nuts; and puy lentils with sour cherries, bacon and Cashel blue were the winning salads.
Others were bland, over-chilled, under-charred, and lacking seasoning and oomph. The worst of the lot was the roast aubergine with saffron yoghurt, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate (you'll find the recipe on page 29 of Ottolenghi; it's a signature dish). It was unpleasant: greasy and flavourless. It's a pity that food that looks so good should taste so timid.
We took away a box of pastries to try later. An exquisite-looking raspberry, pistachio and chocolate tart, a gooseberry financier, peanut butter smores, a mixed fruit galette, and a brownie with macadamia and white chocolate. Despite their supermodel looks, the general consensus was 'meh', not bad but nothing special.
I have no problem with anyone wanting to bring Ottolenghi-style food to Dublin. The city could do with it. There is no copyright on cuisine, and whoever is behind this venture has nailed the visuals perfectly. Now they need to sort out the food.
The bill for four, with water, soft drinks and the pastries that we took home came to €92.85 before service. This did not include the cost of the €16.50 box that we took home for a hungry exam student.
On a budget
White onion soup, truffle oil and Mossfield cheese is €5.90.
On a blowout
Howth Harbour seafood chowder with Guinness and treacle bread, followed by a protein with three salads, and one of those raspberry, pistachio and chocolate tarts would cost you €29.90. (The two-course set lunch in Chapter One is priced at €30.) Also, what class of a blowout could you have somewhere that doesn't serve wine?
The high point
The food display is magnificent.
The low point
Eathos reminds me of that classic Dublin phrase, 'all fur coat and no knickers'.
5/10 value for money
This year, for the first time, the Irish Food Writers' Guild is presenting an award for social responsibility. Unlike the Guild's other awards, individuals, businesses or entities are encouraged to nominate themselves or others for the award, which will be made in October. The Guild is hoping for a wide range of entries, from small local community-focused initiatives to bigger projects with a national reach. There is no entry fee and further information is on the Guild's website, ifwg.ie, with application forms available from the Guild secretary, Kristin Jensen. Email firstname.lastname@example.org