Tom O'Connell, who previously had his eponymous restaurants in Bewley's of Ballsbridge and the D4 Berkeley, has recently opened his latest venture in the former Madigan's pub, on the corner of Belmont Avenue and Morehampton Road. Madigan's was for many, many years a great haunt of RTE TV presenters, producers and hangers-on. The stories of off-duty crack, imbibing and high jinks were legendary.
There are two doors, and I am still not sure which one you are supposed to enter by, but I slipped in through double doors without encountering a meeter/ greeter and found my friend Sheila ensconced close by with a Kir (€5.90) in hand, a pleasure in which I joined her. The place is quite big, with a brasserie feel and bentwood chairs; it's all very pleasant.
There were three menu options: a la carte; a 2/3 course table d'hote, the price determined by your choice of main course, so two courses can vary between €22.95-€35, with pudding an optional €4 extra; and an excellent-value early-bird menu (€21), up to 7.30pm.
A la carte starters (€6.50/€12.95) included Glenbeigh oysters, terrine of chicken and foie gras, Bill Casey's smoked salmon from Shanagarry and a robust combination of black pudding, veal sweetbreads, foie gras and wild mushroom sausage.
Mains (€14.95/€26.50) included 8oz and 10oz rib-eye steaks, loin of venison with poached pears, roast cod with scampi, artichoke Provencale and herb butter, pan-seared tuna loin with fennel and Asian greens, and medallions of beef fillet. We were in time for the early bird, and we had it with a couple of supplements which, on putting pen to paper, sound a little complicated.
An excellent salad of honey and soya roast duck (€8.95 on the a la carte) for Sheila was shaped like the pyramids of Egypt, and topped with shredded, deep-fried leeks. The duck was silky and tender and, all in all, it was perfect. Two decent, fresh, crispy spring rolls, tightly compacted, had lobster and Asian greens, and were sitting on sauteed bok choy in an aromatic Vietnamese dressing. Really nice. These are €9.95 on the a la carte menu, and attracted a €4 supplement to the early bird.
Sheila had a superb main course of scallops and belly of pork, which is €25.50 as a stand-alone dish on the a la carte, but was priced as €21.50 on our early-bird selection. The dish included two scallops, perfectly seared, sitting alongside a smear of pumpkin puree, and a rectangular chunk of tender belly of pork, all drizzled with a jus, and all quite delicious.
I had chump of Connemara lamb, pink and tender as a whisper, sliced and laid on pomme puree with spinach. We also had sides of French beans and cubed carrots (€3.25) and, just because we couldn't resist them, chips with aioli for dunking (€2.95).
Delicious roasted exotic fruits, treacly and rich, with mascarpone cream cheese, at a great value €4, were shared and enjoyed. With a bottle of New Zealand citrusy Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (€27.50), and optional service, our bill came to €102.
Lorcan Cribbin, the former long-time head chef in Bang restaurant under the Stokes brothers -- a fine chef with a top-notch reputation -- was at the helm on our visit during the first week.
However, he has now departed O'Connells, so the menu will have altered somewhat since my visit, but they say they will still be concentrating on good food and good value. They have introduced a four-course value menu (€25) for the new year and a daily lunchtime joint carved at your table (€11.95), as well as a Sunday Supper hors d'oeuvre-type selection where you help yourself.
Good food, nice ambiance, and a good all-round neighbourhood spot. They are also doing breakfast on Sunday mornings.
Must try that.
O'Connells in Donnybrook,
135 Morehampton Road,
Tel: (01) 269-6116
Sunday Indo Life Magazine