Tuesday 21 November 2017

Just relax and soak up fresh fare at its best

Brownes of Sandymount

18 Sandymount Green, Sandymount, Dublin 4, Tel: 01 2697316


Just relax and soak up fresh fare at its best

I'm going for dinner with the boy. Again. It's a sort of appeasement dinner, to make up for the fact that I've taken a unilateral measure to go on a solo-run holiday. So I've set aside Friday night for a date. This is normally my recuperate-from-the-week-that-just-happened time but tonight, I'm going to Brownes new brasserie in Sandymount. It's just across the green from their stalwart café, which is a popular locals' spot. I've heard good and bad reviews of this place in the five weeks it has been open, so I am delighted to see it's jam-packed.

The room is large, with a beautiful tiled floor and tables along the wall. Towards the back, there is a bar where a few progressive men are enjoying the football and some quality food and, to the left, there is what looks like old-fashioned snugs, where larger parties are dining.

Full restaurants give me the same happy feeling full cinemas give me, mainly because it is a sign of something good to come.

I'm a little early and, as I make my way towards the reception, a man in a shirt is walking as fast as it is possible to walk without breaking into a run, like one of those Olympic walkers. His face is a picture of stress. He makes the mistake of making eye contact with me and realises, too late, he will now have to deal with me. He skids to a halt, like a cartoon, takes my name and seats me at my table, before speeding off again, like the white rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.

I sit at the table and feel a little stressed myself now, as if it is somehow contagious but a relaxed and confident waitress erases the effect. After a few minutes, I'm thinking it would be nice to peruse a menu while I'm waiting for the boy to arrive. I watch the staff dart back and forth like exotic fish. I'm woken from my reverie as the boy arrives and we are promptly given menus. I ask for some water. Fifteen minutes later we order – me a Kir Royale (€10), I need to stockpile my drinks as I think it might be a while before I get to order anything again, and the boy orders the wine, which is the recommended wine of the day, a Malbec for €24.

The menus have today's date on them, which is impressive and all part of Brownes fresh food philosophy, which means they build their menu around the food that is fresh and available on the day. I like this idea. What I don't like are the little footnotes at the end of each page of the menu.

One page tells you about the restaurant and who it is run by, which is a nice touch, but then, another page has a joke saying that the boss doesn't pay the staff so tips are graciously accepted (not funny enough to justify the hint, I think) and another page says: "We are a fresh food restaurant. If we run out of your favourite please don't get upset. Relax. Just order some Champers and pick another dish. It'll be great. Promise."

Relax! Order some Champers! Perhaps the white rabbit should take his own advice.

The boy, on the other hand, likes it. He says, it's cool. This is exactly the sort of reaction I expect from a man who wears a T-shirt with a hole in it to dinner. Maybe I'm being unfair. As anyone who has ever had a text message misinterpreted will know, pitching your tone through text is a difficult thing to. It's why emoticons were invented.

Now that our food is ordered and I have a drink and (after a second request) some water too, I'm happy enough to wait 30 minutes for the food to arrive (which is how long it takes). It's Friday night, I have nowhere else to be. The room is lovely and the restaurant empties a little, the service becomes easier. The other diners seem perfectly happy. They are almost entirely within the 40 to 50 age range and very glamorous too. I know I shouldn't stare but I still find botoxed faces fascinating and there are quite a few. I'm hoping to see one of the stars the show Dublin Wives but am disappointed. All of the botoxed faces seem to know each other too, but their recognition doesn't register on their faces, natch.

They all decamp to the back terrace where smoking is welcomed (according to yet another menu footnote) and I focus on my starter, the amazing crab cocktail, while the boy has the duck confit (both €6.85).

The starters are an elegant size, not too much. The duck is served with red cabbage and the crab, with crème fraiche and lime, comes on a bed of warm, caramelised onions, which work surprisingly well together although they don't look so hot.

For mains, I have a brasserie staple, the steak with a fantastic béarnaise sauce and the boy orders the Madagascan prawns with rice (both €19.50). The steak is good, and tastes as if it came straight off the grill, while the prawns are served off the shell, which means you get all the delight of seeing them in their tails without the unattractive task of peeling them (not a good look on a date).

By dessert, many of the other diners have left and the staff are relaxed enough to stop and chat. The only real problem I can see is that, at busy times, it seems like the staff are a little stretched. My chocolate mousse dessert (€5.95) is light in consistency and in cocoa content, which makes it just right in my opinion and the boy is talked into trying the petits fours (€2).

When the waitress arrives with three little chocolate balls, covered in silver sugar, the boy is momentarily perturbed. Shouldn't there be four petit fours?

An extra petit four and an extra waiter would have made this night just right.

THE DAMAGE: €100.65 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, one coffee, one aperitif and one bottle of wine

RECOMMENDED: Madagascan Prawns

AT TABLE: The real housewives of Dublin 4

ON THE STEREO: Carla Bruni (an idol for real housewives everywhere)

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