Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at The Woollen Mills
Lucinda O'Sullivan was so impressed by this new incarnation that she thinks eating there could easily become a habit
The Woollen Mills was where your granny, for more years than Harry Moore might have cared to remember, went to buy knicker-elastic, tweeds and buttons and bows.
It was in business for over a century before closing its doors in recent years - James Joyce once worked there, and one can't help but wonder if it was here, observing the middle-class society of the time do business, that he was partly inspired to write Dubliners.
Elaine Murphy came down from her neighbouring Winding Stair restaurant to turn this Dublin institution into a really cool eatery. The location is absolutely stunning, facing the Ha'penny Bridge, which links Dublin's north and south sides; it's a picture at any time of the day, but on a warm evening, with the sun going down, it is just magical.
As Dubliners dash about their daily lives, we sometimes forget what amazing architectural assets we have in this city. I love that restaurateurs nowadays tend to retain the ethos of iconic buildings by keeping their original names.
The former long, narrow, ground-floor shop has been cleverly converted to create a clean-cut space with no obstacles in your eyeline. Low-back, tubular chairs reminded my friend Paul of Zimmer frames - while I thought of those two-step ladders that you can plonk your bottom on. One way or another, they were inspired in the setting. The decor, with a white-tiled, open kitchen bar, is a combination of urban meets industrial in the colour du jour - grey.
The menu also is of the new-wave variety, and it takes a little time to get a handle on it. Sectioned into Fish, Meat, Vegetable, plus a half-dozen favourite dishes from Gruel, the former Dame Street hipster heaven, the size of the dish is indicated more by the price rather than its ingredients. So, small plates and larger plates are the general format. Fish (€9-€19) sported curried crab claws on toast with samphire; while mussel and leek pate was with toasted rye. I fell immediately for a tin of Ortiz anchovies (€10) served on a board with Cuinneog butter, a dish of chopped shallots and capers, and potato sourdough toast. It's basically an assembly job, but I loved it. Paul kicked off with ham hock (€14) and baby potato melange topped with black pudding, a poached egg and apple ketchup. He quite enjoyed it, but the egg was a tad overdone, so no gorgeous runniness trickling down.
The Meat section ranged from pork scratchings, to ox tongue fritters with beetroot pickle and horseradish mayo, as well as Peter Hannan's 10oz salt-aged Delmonico steaks with turnip tops and salted beetroot relish. You can also have a whole roasted Salter's chicken for two with roasted spuds, stuffing and gravy.
Moving on, Paul had "Black Sole Tongues" (€14). We didn't know what they were, but they are, apparently, small marine flatfish found in the tropics. One way or another, a brace of said fillets were delicious; they were served on a board with large, luscious, toothsome caper berries, salad and lemon, plus a side order of great big chips with roasted garlic aioli (€4).
I loved their vegetable combos, such as roasted cauliflower, celery and hazelnut salad, Sherry-soaked sultanas and Young Buck's Blue cheese buttermilk dressing. There were so many things here I could have eaten, but I chose the sweet potato and quinoa burger (€11) with whipped feta, pickled red onion and baby gem lettuce on a London bath bun, which was enormous, if a bit crumbly to eat, but I guess quinoa is that sort of animal.
To finish, I had a great big chunk of rhubarb and almond cake (€4.95) while Paul adored a perfect slice of Oreo chocolate tart (€4.95). With two espressos (€3 each), water (€1.50) and a bottle of Lombeline Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (€25) (the cheapest wine), our bill with optional service came to €105.40.
This Mill could become a habit!
The Woollen Mills, 42 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1.
Tel: (01) 828-0835