Top-notch food served up on a truly terrific terrace in Dublin’s Blackpitts
You’ve probably spotted some sad-looking outdoor dining situations in recent weeks. While many restaurants have put in a huge effort to make like proper Europeans and create an attractive space for people to enjoy, others have merely plonked a couple of folding chairs on the double-yellow lines, without so much as a flimsy garden umbrella to protect their customers from the vagaries of the Irish summer.
Thankfully, Hen’s Teeth on Blackpitts falls firmly into the former category, with a smart new deck installed on the fortuitously wide pavement in front of the building. The tables are well spaced, the colourful chairs cheery and the umbrellas sturdy; it’s properly ventilated, unlike some of the sweaty, largely structures with see-through sides you see. The mainly thirty-something clientele is cool without trying too hard, the playlist good enough to have us seeking it out on Spotify when we get home.
Hen’s Teeth covers a lot of bases. Allied to a design and branding agency, it calls itself a store, gallery, diner and wine bar. It stocks an eclectic selection of prints, books, lifestyle products, snacks and food — a kind of Urban Outfitters for grown-ups.
I was last here for a book launch just before the first lockdown; people joked about whether we should be air-kissing. Covid seemed like a novelty back then.
I haven’t eaten here before, and I’m only here now because my daughter has a booking that she can’t make and we don’t want to let the restaurant down. What a lucky bit of happenstance that turns out to be, because — somewhat unexpectedly — I’m getting to eat some of the best food I’ve had in Dublin in a while.
We start with a huge bowl of olives (when we marvel at the quantity we’re getting for €4, our waitress tells us, “We like to be generous here!”) and great sourdough with black lava butter (volcanic charcoal mixed with sea salt that I’m not sure does anything flavour-wise but looks good), followed by a few snacks.
Buttered, quick-fermented sourdough crumpets topped with a taramasalata of cod roe whipped with cream cheese and Goatsbridge caviar are so good, we give serious consideration to placing an immediate repeat order, while chopped Kelly’s oysters with ponzu and kelp are bright and citrus-fresh.
Slightly less successful is a truffle pudding — a kind of sweet/savoury bread pudding featuring Durrus and smoked maple syrup, topped with a flurry of microplaned summer truffle. We find it too sweet. There’s plenty of truffle, though.
Beef tartare is hand-chopped, combined with confit egg yolk and anchovies, encased in a shell of bric pastry and topped with peppery nasturtium leaves. The flavours are beautiful. A ceviche of sea bream with watermelon, jalapeño, cucumber and dill is summer incarnate; the only problem is the lack of a spoon for the juices, which are too good to ignore — so we lift the plate and slurp.
Hen’s Teeth’s take on surf and turf is barbecued free-range pork belly from Ollie Brady in Cavan, spiced with gochujang, with fried octopus and heirloom tomato. It’s tasty as anything — a brilliant dish with which you should order the (excellent) chips.
We finish with Wexford strawberries and a savarin soaked in a strawberry consommé infused with lime leaves, mint and vanilla, alongside sheep’s milk yoghurt and white chocolate — the only dessert on offer and a rather lovely one at that. One portion is perfect between the two of us.
Chef Killian Walsh came back from Australia last year, and before that he’d worked at Simon Rogan’s two-Michelin-star L’Enclume in Cumbria. He brings with him the lightness of touch you’d expect from Melbourne, and the elegant seasonality you’d find in Cartmel. When I call him a few days after our dinner, he tells me that although he’s classically trained and used to cook a lot of rich food, he has gravitated away from that in recent years.
Our bill comes to €129.50 for two, €38 of which is for a bottle of the fresh, fruit-driven La Stoppa Trebbiolo 2019. Wine prices in restaurants seem higher now than they did pre-pandemic so it is a pleasant surprise to learn the restaurant’s policy is to add a flat €10 to the price in the shop. The service is gentle, low-key and efficient, and we walk home happily, having discovered a wonderful terrace with food that will keep us happy all summer long.
Hen’s Teeth, Blackpitts, Dublin 8; hensteethstore.com
Lunch is simpler and less expensive.
Around €45pp before wine.