Thursday 22 March 2018

Meal Ticket: Eat and drink, life is beautiful

Peruke & Periwig 31 dawson street, dublin 2, (01) 672 7190 - 4 Stars

The ground floor of Peruke & Periwig resembles an extended snug
The ground floor of Peruke & Periwig resembles an extended snug

Aoife Carrigy

Dublin once excelled at intimate spaces. Somewhere you could slip into, side-stepping the currents of the day's full flow for a stolen hour or three. Places like The Dawson Lounge (Ireland's smallest pub) or any number of wooden-walled snugs in any number of tobacco-yellow boozers, where sounds ripple rather than ring: a hushed conversation, ice shifting in a glass, the barman's hum. Backwaters of time within which to contemplate a crossword or tease out the troubles of the day, where the pace is set by a settling pint.

Then things changed and we wanted to see and be seen, to pick up the pace with a cheeky cocktail and turn up the volume to drown out the inner voice. Superpubs sprang up, cathedrals to upscale sociability offering escape of an altogether less intimate nature. Dawson Street – home to Ireland's smallest pub – became home to some of its biggest bars too.

Enter Peruke & Periwig, the latest addition to the growing stable from the Press Up Entertainment Group, who are also responsible for such successes as the Vintage Cocktail Club, Bison Bar, The Liquor Rooms and The Workman's Club amongst many others. Their new eatery and hang-out sits on The Dawson Lounge end of the street, both literally and figuratively, but with borrowings from both styles of bar evident throughout the tall skinny building it occupies.

The ground floor resembles an extended snug, with its shadowy corners and half- window shutters allowing daylight in whilst keeping prying eyes out. It feels like it has been here forever, as if the collection of 18th-century powdered wigs – aka perukes and periwigs – perched on the high shelf were ghosts of past patrons who had dropped in for a swift one too.

A narrow stairwell ascends to two further floors, where most of the eating and more of the drinking happens. Friendly staff soon had us settling into velure armchairs between tall windows and turf fire, and under the steadying gaze of a pair of life-sized ornamental Staffordshire dogs sat atop the mantlepiece.

An extensive A–Z cocktail list is at the heart of affairs here (with wine limited to a short selection from one French vineyard). We opted for one short and one tall for sipping on while we read the short 'modern Irish' dinner menu. Delivered in retro glassware, my 'Attitude Adjustment' was an excellent take on a negroni, with house twists including saffron-infused gin, artichoke-based Cynar as the bitters component and an edible garnish of crispy dehydrated orange slice. The bitter-sweet character suited the accompanying Marilyn Monroe quote: "So keep your head high, keep your chin up and most importantly, keep smiling, because life's a beautiful thing and there's so much to smile about."

Amen to that, we thought as we tucked into a pair of moreish starters. Like a hug in a mini-griddle pan, my gratin of smoked haddock and Dublin bay prawns (€12.50) would put a smile back on any face, especially when you hit on one of the chunks of leeks whose braised sweetness contrasted so well with the tang of melted Gruyére cheese. Also very good were the wild mushroom risotto balls drizzled with a hint of truffle oil and served on just-wilted spinach with perfectly poached little quail eggs.

For main courses we choose comfort, eschewing an interesting sounding monkfish and chorizo linguine for a steak and burger, both served with addictive shoestring fries. The striploin (€24) hit the spot: nicely seasoned, with good flavour and cooked as ordered with a decadent Bearnaise on the side and some glistening green beans. The burger – also cooked to order – was particularly good, its quality beef offset by the kick of green peppercorn mayo, rocket leaves and Gruyere cheese. Both dishes bode well for the house specialities of a weekend roast sirloin with all the trimmings (served noon to 5pm Saturdays and Sundays) and various lunchtime beef sandwiches served daily.

To finish, we shared a wickedly creamy pecan and buttermilk panna cotta with salted caramel, all of which helped to keep our attitudes adjusted and smiles secured.

As Marilyn says, life can be a beautiful thing.

Why go? For intimate escapism and some quality soakage

What to order? Your A–Z pick of classy cocktails Who to bring? chatty mates or cosy dates

How much? €108 for two people for starters, mains, shared dessert and a cocktail and glass of wine each

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