Michael Morrisroe’s beautifully presented dishes impress our critic at the reopened pub and restaurant in the coastal town
The pretty village of Dalkey, Co Dublin, hits the headlines now and again because it’s one of those places celebrities choose to live or stay in Ireland. No one blinks an eye when Pierce Brosnan pops up on a bar stool for lunch, or Matt Damon walks around with his togs in a SuperValu bag, or even when Bono takes Michelle Obama to lunch at Finnegan’s.
Neither is it a village of madly expensive boutiques or restaurants, and perhaps that’s what appeals to them: the normality of the place, where they can eat and drink like locals in great restaurants like the Guinea Pig or Jaipur, the Thai House, Ragazzi, De Ville’s, The Corner Note and more.
However, probably the most prominent pub is The Queens, beside Dalkey Castle, where I’m always envious of people basking over long lunches in their suntrap front terraces.
The Queens was first licensed to sell alcohol in 1787, so there was considerable shock when it closed in 2020. Happily, it was bought, revamped and relaunched by Ray Byrne of the Wineport Lodge and Eoin Doyle of BrookLodge at Macreddin Village.
Under their joint company, NHance, the duo have the Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff and the Kilkenny Inn. They’re also involved in the development of REZz, the new eight-storey landmark building on Cork’s MacCurtain Street, with 70 micro bedrooms, a café and bar.
At The Queens, they’ve installed Wicklow-born chef Michael Morrisroe as head chef, and launched his new menu, which includes a tapas section. Morrisroe started his career in the Strawberry Tree at BrookLodge aged 16, before gaining experience in the Michelin-starred Lady Helen restaurant at Mount Juliet, followed by Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, and Les 110 de Taillevent in London.
The daytime menu (11.30am-4pm) features brunch and ‘gastro sambos’, but friend Miriam and I were there for the dinner menu, which kicks in at 5pm. Covid-19 certs checked, we were shown to a spacious table and got down to business.
Oysters are €3 each, with tapas dishes at €7 or three for €18. From a selection including Hicks of Dalkey sausage roll, cheese and onion croquettes and warm cured salmon, we chose venison bonbons, king prawn tempura, and crispy, slow-cooked pork belly, plus a courgette-flower tempura (€13) from the starter section.
All were beautifully presented, with the three prawns being large, crisp and firm, served with chilli and lime aioli, while the golf-ball-sized venison bonbons were delicious and different, served with a black-garlic mayo.
Unfortunately, the large cubes of crispy pork belly were undercooked and far from crispy. The accompanying miso dressing looked and tasted like mayo, so the whole dish was bland. I asked for something stronger, but another similar mayo was no better.
The courgette-flower tempura stuffed with St Tola goat’s cheese, however, was fab.
A half-dozen mains (€19-€34) covered the spectrum from vegetarian linguine to a burger, catch of the day, Irish venison pie, plus 10oz rump cap and 8oz fillet steaks.
Catch of the day was ray wing (€25), which I love, so that was that, while Miriam ordered linguine (€19). We shared a side of fries (€5).
Both mains were elegantly presented; the ray fillets atop one another, with a couple of slices of baby potato and chard, topped with poppadom crisps. A delicious curried mussel sauce was poured at the table.
The linguine incorporated pearl onions, peas, broad beans and a delicious Pecorino cream.
Desserts (€9) included gluten-free chocolate cake, mini strawberry donuts, ice-cream and cookies, and an Irish cheeseboard (€16), but we shared a tasty little finger of salted caramel panna cotta, topped with coffee popcorn, hazelnut and yuzu.
Naturally, being a pub, there was a great range of cocktails (€12), bubbles, premium gins, whiskeys, tequilas et al, but we stuck with a bottle of Pirueta Albarino (€35). So, with service, which was pleasant, our bill came to €136.40.
I didn’t see any film stars this visit, but maybe next time.
12 Castle Street,
Dalkey, Co Dublin,
Tel: (01) 285-4569,