Food review: Simply delicious at DeVille's in Dalkey
DeVille's, 25 Castle Street, Dalkey, Co Dublin. (01) 284 9071
If you eat out regularly, you'll be familiar with the current schtick in trendy restaurants. A meal begins with snacks and nibbles, perhaps with some house-made bread and fermented butter alongside. There'll be a short, sometimes very short, menu featuring an amount of fish and chicken skin used as garnish, some foraged ingredients, and a few dishes that involve the smoking of ingredients.
Some of this new breed of restaurants are good, some very good, and others less so. There can be a sameness to the offering, a sense that all the chefs have eaten in the same restaurants in Copenhagen, that they spend their time off flicking through copies of Sandor Katz's bible, The Art of Fermentation, while simultaneously planning their trip to Faviken, Magnus Nilsson's restaurant in Northern Sweden, a 16-seater billed as the world's most isolated.
I'm not complaining. Not really. I can remember when you were more likely to get a bad meal than a good one when you ate out in an Irish restaurant, and that is not the case any more. The standard of food available is far, far better than it was even a decade ago, and praise be for that.
But sometimes trendy food is not what you want to eat. Sometimes you don't want a meal in which the vegetables are centre-stage. You don't want to eat a type of fish that you've never heard of even if it is sustainable, you're not sure about that sea buckthorn stuff, and you've never really liked kimchi anyway.
Sometimes you just want a steak. Sometimes you're eating with friends or family and you don't want to be challenged or wowed by what you are eating. You don't want to feel obliged to Instagram your plate or tweet your ceviche. You'd prefer to concentrate on the company rather than the food.
On one of those days, the kind of restaurant that you might want to go to is one such as DeVille's in Dalkey. I hope that they will take it as a compliment when I say that what they do at DeVille's is classic, simple, uncomplicated bistro food, and that they do it very well.
The menu is short, but long enough that everyone from your 10-year-old to your granny will be able to find something on it to suit. It's not cheap - although the one-course bistro menu at €15 is excellent value, particularly when you consider the location, in upmarket Dalkey - but it isn't stonkingly expensive either.
I visited with four friends and so, between us, we tried a good cross-section of the menu.
Pan-fried lambs kidneys were pink, tender and tasty, far better than the ones I had in another restaurant recently. They came with samphire, which is not an obvious pairing, but the vibrant green made the plate look attractive. Salted chilli squid came with a couple of Asian dipping sauces, the rings delicate and crisp. A half dozen oysters tasted of the sea, as they should. Excellent.
Steak frites from the bistro menu attracts a €3 supplement but comes with pepper sauce or bearnaise and perfect shoestring fries, so €18 seems a fair price for a decent striploin, cooked by an expert. Duck confit was, we felt, under-seasoned and a tad dry. A dry-aged rib-eye was a fabulous piece of meat, succulent and full of flavour; with four plump, caramelised scallops added it turned into Surf & Turf. The bearnaise was great, but I found the pepper sauce over-sweet.
From a wide selection of sides (six out of 16 are variations on the theme of potato, which may not be fashionable but will surely endear DeVille's to many) we tried the roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, the carrot and parsnip mash, and nutmeg-scented creamed spinach, along with some fabulous crisp chunky chips. There were no complaints.
So, nothing to scare the horses, nor to frighten off any plain eaters, but some well-executed simple food.
For pudding, a crème brûlée came with a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and the perfect ratio of wide, crunchy surface area to smooth custard below. Chocolate mousse with - it has to be said - some less than seasonal raspberries came with a scoop of chocolate ice cream too. It wasn't exceptional, but more than adequate.
A selection of cheeses disappointed, in that the cheeses were not identified by our server and there were too many small pieces of too many different types of cheese, all of which were over-chilled. In the trendy restaurants, you're more likely to get one larger piece of a single cheese, and this is preferable, in that it allows a restaurant to focus on keeping one cheese in prime condition, rather than trying to achieve that with several.
Our dinner for four, with two bottles of the luscious Langhe Maretti nebbiolo / barbera blend from Piedmont that is cropping up on a few lists around Dublin these days (it's a few euro cheaper at DeVille's than I've seen it anywhere else), cost €218 before service, a fair price for quality food served with genuine charm.
On a budget
The 'Bistro Menu' offers a choice of main courses, including Duck Confit and Fish & Chips, for €15.
On a blowout
A Seafood Platter and Surf and Turf for two, with a couple of sides and desserts, would cost €125 before wine or service.
The high point
A terrific buzz in the room and excellent, friendly service. Every town or village deserves its own DeVille's.
The low point
The cheese selection was dull, unidentified, and over-chilled. I'd much prefer to have a single cheese in optimum condition. With so many wonderful Irish cheeses around, there's no excuse.
8/10 value for money
Whispers from the gastronomicon
Thankfully juice cleanses and strict diets seem to have fallen out of favour, so there shouldn't be as many 'hangry' people around this January as in previous years. That said, juicing is one way to introduce a significant quantity of greens into your diet without having to plough through platefuls of kale, and there are some nutritional advantages to consuming your vegetables in raw rather than cooked form. Pull that NutriBullet out from the back of the kitchen cupboard this week and aim for a juice a day, adding in some ginger for zing and fresh turmeric for extra anti-inflammatory goodness.