It's the movement that brought the vast array of wonderful cheeses that we now have, and bit by bit it's bringing us smoked fish and meats, outdoor-raised farm animals and even buffalo mozzarella.
here's a symbiosis that happens between artisan producers and chefs. Typically, the artisan producer approaches the chef and says, "Look what I produce". The chef thinks "I could use that" and before long, a link is made and the artisan food is on the menu. And in this simple exchange, many things have happened for the better - there's a new artisan product, the restaurant has another food that comes from nearby, perhaps the area begins to be known for that product and lastly the diner gets to eat real, authentic, unadulterated food.
So when I heard there was a new restaurant whose mission was to showcase artisan products, my interest was piqued. And when I discovered that it was in Ringsend, which has been something of a desert gastronomically for the past few decades, I realised I needed to visit. Even better, it was the perfect opportunity to go reviewing with Ringsend resident Sophie Gorman, who is a very knowledgeable dining companion.
Ringsend's newest eaterie is easily found in the lane behind the library, right in the middle of Ringsend. If you're lucky, you can even get parking outside Artisan Parlour and Grocery (for such is its name). Inside it has that 'artisan' look of recycled woods, produce on display, and simple tables and chairs set up for dinner. If I had a reservation about the interior it was that the tables were small and were placed very close together. As it happened, on the night we were able to move our table and get a bit of room, as the space behind us didn't get used, but had the room been full to capacity, I suspect we would have been uncomfortably squeezed.
The menu comes to you on a clipboard and is a single page, offering three starters, four mains and three desserts. The prices are very reasonable, the main courses run from €11 to €16, and this holds true of the wine list as well. We chose a Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige, which came at €27. It did need chilling, so we had to wait a while for an ice bucket to do its job.
The choices for starters were crab salad, a beetroot salad with Fivemile Town goats cheese, or a celeriac and mushroom soup. Sophie chose the crab salad and I chose the soup. The main courses were braised ox cheeks, pan-fried plaice, an open seafood pie and a vegetarian ragù with chickpeas and red lentils. Sophie chose the fish pie and I couldn't resist the ox cheeks.
I found myself looking towards the back of The Parlour, where the kitchen was. It was open-plan, so we could see the chefs at work. I was impressed at the way they worked, quietly and efficiently in what was a very small kitchen. I wondered just what the food would be like coming from so small a space, but that question was answered soon enough with very nicely presented dishes for both of us. The crab salad came as a tian with a citrus dressing and it was served with rocket. Simple, but tasty.
The soup was served in a marmite crockery dish and was good and thick, a warming and nourishing winter soup that I thoroughly enjoyed. We were also given some very good sourdough bread slices to go with our starters. I thought our main courses were very well done. Sophie had an envelope-sized packet of puff pastry inside which was a good mix of fish - hake, salmon, prawns and naturally smoked haddock.
Thankfully, naturally smoked, undyed fish is becoming more readily available. Quite why there used to be this insistence on dying the smoked fish a virulent orange I've yet to find out. The fish were poached in a cream sauce flavoured with dill and the whole dish worked very well.
The ox cheeks were served on a bed of mash and came with deep-fried kale, roast carrots and parsnips - a very seasonal mix of vegetables. The cheeks had been cooked long and slow, making them perfectly tender and very good to eat. Two very good dishes.
We thought for a while about desserts, since our appetites had been satiated, but a mini Christmas pudding and bread and butter pudding eventually proved irresistible. Sophie had the mini pud and it was good, drizzled with a caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of Featherbed Farm ice cream. The bread and butter pudding was less successful, having the look and texture of something that had been in an oven for far too long. I was offered another one, but by then my appetite was gone and instead I took an espresso.
The Artisan Parlour and Grocery is exactly the sort of place that I like to highlight. It's run by people who are passionate about their food and are careful with their sourcing. I suspect it will act as magnet for other businesses as it opens up new furrows. It's definitely a plus for Ringsend Village and it's great value. Three courses each and a bottle of wine came to €79.
On a budget
During the day you can enjoy salads and sandwiches, made with the same attention to detail. The coffee is also good, not just the grounds, but actually well made.
On a blowout
Recently they’ve started to open for dinner Thursday through to Saturday. It’s as close to a blowout as you’re going to get, spending a maximum of €16 for a main course.
The high point
The ox cheeks did it for me. Well-executed, nicely flavoured and plated up to please the eye.
The low point
The dry and overcooked bread and butter pudding.
Value for money: 9/10 value
The Artisan Parlour and Grocery, Ringsend, Dublin 4, 01 - 598 4000
Whispers from the gastronomicon
While we’re on the subject of artisan produce, there’s news from Avoca that three of their stores — Kilmacanogue, Rathcoole and Monkstown — have opened up a gourmet food market showcasing the best of Irish artisan produce.
There are well-known names like James Whelan Craft Butchers, the award-winning Michie Sushi and Irish free range rotisserie chicken and meat specialist Poulet Bonne Femme, who have opened their fourth rotisserie concession for Avoca in the Kilmacanogue store.