Restaurant review: 'There’s such choice and quality at Pickle, it’s easy to over-order'
Pickle, 43 Camden Street, Dublin 2. www.picklerestaurant.com
The other day I spotted an Instagram post from the happy team at Kildare restaurant Aimsir out celebrating their shiny new Michelin stars - two of them, such an achievement for a restaurant that's only been open since May - with a feast at Pickle. What a good choice of venue: Pickle has always been a great place to go with a gang. And who doesn't love a good curry?
We're here on a mission to encourage a baby (not mine, heaven forfend) who's a little reluctant to emerge into the big bad world. A spicy meal might just do the trick.
The interior has had a makeover since I was here last: the chairs are more comfortable, the colours brighter, but the atmosphere is just the same - full to capacity on a Tuesday evening, the room buzzing happily.
There are many new dishes on the menu, too, and inevitably we over-order; there's a substantial lunch for two from the leftovers the next day.
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We start with the chaat ki rehdi, a compartmentalised bento box for two to share, filled with a pick-and-mix of vegetarian street-food dishes from Sunil Ghai's home town of Gwalior. Kale leaves dusted with chilli, coriander and fennel powder are dipped in gram-flour batter and deep fried before being topped with coconut and green chilli yoghurt, while semolina 'bubbles' (pani poori) are filled with potatoes and pomegranate and served with a dressing of mint and coriander-infused spiced water.
Lotus seeds, peanuts, almonds and cashews are dry-roasted with raw mango powder, yellow chilli powder, burnt cumin and black salt, then garnished with fresh coriander, white onions and lime juice, while aloo tikki chaat - little potato cakes served with chickpeas, sweet yoghurt and date and tamarind chutney - is Ghai's favourite dish. Everything is delicious, considered, distinctive.
Fauzi ('soldier') chicken wings is a new dish inspired by a visit to the army mess at Dehradun in the Himalayan foothills, where Ghai's brother-in-law is a commandant in the Indian Army. The wings are served with a roasted tomato, sesame and fresh turmeric chutney that's piquant and deeply savoury.
We order Khatti fish curry, made with stone bass simmered in onion, green chilli and tomato, infused with preserved lemon, fresh coriander and house-made lime pickle; and farmer's butter chicken, infused with fenugreek, ginger, green chilli and cardamom in a tomato sauce with garlic, coriander and onion, one of Pickle's signature dishes.
Lamb and bone marrow curry isn't just flavoured with marrow but comes with a piece of bone full of luscious marrow to be sucked out.
And then there's dal bukhara, the slow-cooked lentil dahl from the Punjab that is the ultimate comfort food. Black lentils are cooked slowly for up to 30 hours before being finished with tomatoes, ginger, Kashmiri chilli butter and cream. We have the tarka dal, too - yellow lentils with dried red chilli, cumin, garlic and fried onions, not as rich but very good all the same. We also have bhindi masala - okra tossed with raw mango powder, cumin, onion, turmeric and fresh ginger.
We order wholemeal layered paratha, coriander, garlic and onion naan, and peshwari naan with almond, coconut and raisins. With aged basmati and raita the food bill for four comes to €157.75. We drink Cobra beers and a soft red modern rioja, Palacios Remondo Propiedad (€60).
We've eaten so much that dessert is de trop, but Ghai wants us to try Memsahab's Mess, an eggless ice cream flavoured with saffron and pistachios served with coconut flakes, salted nut brittle and fresh berries, and the Gulab Jamun, a traditional dessert of milk and flour dumplings deep-fried in ghee and soaked in saffron and rose-flavoured sugar syrup. Somehow, we finish both; they are a revelation, and only modestly sweet.
PS The baby turned up five days later.
ON A BUDGET
The lunchtime tiffin boxes start at €14.50.
ON A BLOW OUT
A celebratory feast - Pickle's version of a tasting menu - with wine pairings will set you back €85 per person. The slow-braised shoulder of lamb for two to three people, which has to be ordered in advance, costs €90.
THE HIGH POINT
The unexpected delight of dessert.
THE LOW POINT
The baby stayed put for another few days.