Loft Brasserie at Beaufield Mews: 'Squid bolognese on a bed of wilted spinach sounded bizarre, but tasted good'
Loft Brasserie at Beaufield Mews, Woodlands Avenue, Stillorgan, Co Dublin. (01) 288 0375
The first time that I went to the wedding of a friend rather than a relation, was in London back in the mid-80s.
My college pal was marrying an English nurse. The ceremony was followed by a reception in a function space somewhere around the back of Harrods. We queued on the stairs for what seemed like hours to be received by the happy couple and their parents, had a glass of fizz, declined the canapés because we were saving ourselves for the meal, and listened to a couple of speeches. By the time that we realised that there was to be no more food, and that the event had come to an abrupt end, the canapés had all been snaffled by the old hands who knew exactly what the format of the event was likely to be.
Outraged was not the word. For people accustomed to the free-flowing generosity of an Irish wedding - who had expected to be eating, drinking and dancing into the early hours - this was a shock.
The Irish contingent went in search of merriment elsewhere. (You'll be relieved to hear that we found it, in that Holy Hour era when the pubs all closed during the afternoon, in a French restaurant on the Old Brompton Road, and later in the bar of Jury's.) I think that the groom was embarrassed by the whole debacle and, whether directly as a result of this poor start or not, the marriage did not endure.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the first of my friends to get married in Ireland held her wedding at the Beaufield Mews. On a beautiful day in early summer we celebrated in the garden, before heading indoors to eat and drink. Later there was dancing and carousing and craic. Since then I've been to a few more weddings and a slew of family events, including Communion lunches and one golden wedding celebration, in the Beaufield Mews, and each time I go there I'm reminded of what a unique place it is.
The restaurant is the oldest in Dublin, founded by Valentine and Go-go Kirwan. Their granddaughter, Julie Cox, and her husband, sommelier, John Hoade, are now in charge, and they continue the tradition of old-style hospitality that is synonymous with Beaufield Mews, while introducing contemporary touches.
These days, for instance, couples can have their ceremony at Beaufield Mews, set up long family style tables in the garden, and opt for a barbecue and whole roast pig rather than sticking to a more traditional menu. A friend who went to a wedding there last summer told me that when the meal had finished and the tables were cleared, the staff gathered up all the half-drunk bottles of wine and left them alongside the bar for guests to help themselves, so that all the wine that the couple had provided would be drunk before guests had to put their hands in their own pockets.
My friend is at the stage of life where she goes to lots of weddings and she said it was the first time she had ever seen such a thing - usually all the wine disappears mysteriously, presumably to be re-sold.
Beaufield Mews is not just a function venue, however, and the dining room of the Loft Brasserie upstairs now occupies the Mirror Room which once housed the antiques business run by Julie Cox's late mother, Jill. The Loft Brasserie serves dinner from Wednesday to Sunday, while the Coachhouse restaurant downstairs serves lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Afternoon tea and cocktails are also available.
On a bitterly cold evening, the Loft is warm and cosy, with an open fire. (One of my dinner guests says that the room is too hot, but I am of the opinion that this can never be the case.) The menu offers a selection of small bites, so it's possible to eat tapas-style, and there is also an early bird menu and an à la carte. We mixed and matched, ordering from each section.
From the early bird, a hearty soup of cauliflower and Manchego with chestnut was perfect winter fare, while the rump steak was flavoursome and cooked medium-rare as requested. A starter of pork belly bites - deep-fried in a good tempura-style batter with sriracha and sweet soy dipping sauces - was pretty delicious in a 'you'll hate yourself in the morning' kind of way, while a raviolo of squid bolognese on a bed of wilted spinach sounded bizarre, but tasted good. My guest liked his surf and turf from the à la carte menu - the rib steak was excellent - but would have preferred more interesting surf than the tasteless tiger prawns.
Head waiter Paddy Rice, who has been at the restaurant for 49 years, filleted my sole on the bone with aplomb. It came with marinated salsify, asparagus (nul points for seasonality) and white truffle hollandaise and was cooked impeccably. An individual lemon tart had a crisp shell and pleasantly sharp filling. With sides, a bottle of good Spätburgunder (€36), and a couple of soft drinks, the bill for three came to €160.93, including service.
8/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
The early bird menu is priced at €20 for two courses and is available all evening on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and from 6-7pm on Friday and Saturday.
ON A BLOW OUT
Starters, steaks and pudding for two, with a serious bottle of Bordeaux such as Chateau Phelan-Segur 2010 (€115), would set you back over €200 before service.
THE HIGH POINT
Old-school hospitality from Paddy.
THE LOW POINT
There is too much going on in terms of presentation of the food and the number of elements on each plate.