Tuesday 18 June 2019

Restaurant review: 'Interesting dishes with an even more interesting wine list makes Gertrude’s one to watch'

  • 130 Pearse Street, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 (01) 5157563; gertrude.ie

Gertrude Café on Pearse Street, Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Gertrude Café on Pearse Street, Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Regular readers will know that it's the policy of this review not to visit new restaurants immediately after they open. The thrill of the new may be crack for professional journalists, and for eager beaver punters, yet the review that comes after a new restaurant has had a chance to bed down and iron out any teething problems is likely to be more measured, and perhaps fairer to both restaurant and reader.

Gertrude, which opened towards the end of last year on Pearse Street in Dublin, is a fine example of why patience in reviewing is a virtue - and also an example of this critic not waiting quite long enough before paying a visit.

Last autumn, it felt that Gertrude, the first full restaurant from Colin Harmon, the man behind 3Fe, which enjoys something of a cult status amongst coffee nerds, had been in the offing for what seemed like an eternity. It finally launched in early December, with an all-day menu that garnered plenty of Instagram love. I tried my best to ignore it.

A couple of weeks back, we booked in for dinner on a Friday night, only to arrive and be told that it was the last weekend of the then-current menu, a decision having been made to abandon the all-day menu in favour of a more traditional breakfast, lunch and brunch offering, with a set dinner on Friday and Saturday nights only. So the menu from which we ate is no longer what you will be offered if you visit, although many of the individual dishes are still available.

Croquettes may be ubiquitous as restaurant 'snacks' these days, but that doesn't make them any less delicious. At Gertrude, the Cooleeney version comes with an earthy beetroot ketchup for dipping. There's also a soft spreadable salami from Whole Hoggs (proper free-range pork from happy pigs) topped with sauerkraut on Bread Nation toast (Gertrude is hot on provenance; hip hip for that) and - our favourite - bacon and cabbage Asian-style dumplings topped with the crunch of buckwheat and a slick of dark, umami-richness. Don't miss these.

A tonkatsu sandwich of breaded pork with Kewpie mayo and shredded cabbage is the dish for which we'd go back. Steamed buns filled with duck are properly soft and pillow-y, the filling flavoursome but dry, while a (small for €11) portion of butternut squash gnocchi fails to excite. The 'furred and feathered game' pie, on the other hand, is generous, with a great pastry lid. The only dud is the 'seared' lamb tartare which is curiously unbalanced, lacking piquancy. Cinnamon-doused apple fritters and custard are divine, the custard more akin to crème anglaise, but while the filling of the brown sugar tart is lusciously good, the pastry is under-cooked.

The wine list at Gertrude is one of the most interesting that I've encountered in a long time, curated by Peter Conway who will be a familiar face from a previous incarnation at Green Man wines in Terenure. And the layout is perfect: clear and full of information, including the ABV of each wine. (Other restaurants please copy - it's an essential part of decision-making.) The only problem with the list is that it seems out of step price-wise with the level at which Gertrude is pitched in terms of budget, with a lack of lower-priced wines available, particularly by the glass.

A glass of Baglio Bianco, a delightful orange wine from Sicily, for instance, was both stingy and expensive at €12. Mark-ups on full bottles are hefty too. The Puszta Libre from Claus Preisinger, a wine that you'll find in the shops for around €18, costs €46 at Gertrude. That said, the Saumur-Champigny 'Cuvée du Domaine' 2015 from Thierry Germain at Domaine des Roches Neuves in the Loire, as recommended by Peter, was superb. At Gertrude, it costs €65, but I've just found it online for €25.95.

The bill for dinner for four, with two bottles of red and a glass of white, came to €238 before service.

THE RATING

7/10 food

7/10 ambience

7/10 value

21/30

ON A BUDGET

At breakfast, coffee and a croissant will set you back €6.15 before service.

ON A BLOW OUT

The three-course set dinner served on Friday or Saturday is priced at €35.

THE HIGH POINT

Some interesting dishes and a sense that Holly Dalton's food at Gertrude is only going to get better.

THE LOW POINT

Gertrude needs to turn up the heat - literally. It was brrrr chilly.

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