Life Food & Drink

Saturday 25 January 2020

Tabletalk: Quirky quality

The Ormond Wine Bar is slightly mad and a bit bizarre, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, but they seem to know what they are about in the kitchen

'You can sit anywhere," said the Latin-looking chap in the stripy jumper and Hugh Grant floppy hair, cursorily giving the unset table we had hesitated beside a brush-down with his hand. We were in The Ormond Wine Bar, close to Capel Street Bridge. The front room has sofas, paintings on show, and a general lounge-around feel. At the back is a flash, blue-lit glass staircase curving down around an enormous crystal chandelier to a basement, where they sometimes have salsa music. We continued into a vast area with brick walls, a pub-style mahogany bar, antique dining tables and chairs, and open kitchen. A vintage-chic melange!

We were seated by the wall at a console table, giggling hesitantly as we sat in state, one at each end.

This is a huge space to fill -- it was early in the week, and there were fewer than a dozen people there. The bar was unlit and it felt very cold and barren. The waiter-cum-meeter-greeter, the only person out front, told us that the place belonged to Michael Smith, publisher and editor of Village magazine.

We ordered a bottle of Rioja Artuke Crianza 2006 (€24.50) that he "couldn't find". I settled on a second choice, whereupon he turned up triumphant with the Artuke -- a very nice wine -- declaring "it is the very last one" -- we were indeed privileged!

Starters (€4.50-€8.50) included a trio of oysters, French onion soup, mussels with a creamy curried sauce, and a Toulouse sausage cassoulet. Brendan chose spicy lamb meatballs (€4.50), four marbles with a blob of tzatziki -- a bit spartan. Prawn cocktail (€8.50) was picture perfect in a tall, wine glass, greenery topped, with a good amount of tiger prawns in a mayo that lacked a bit of zing, but overall was good value. We had received a dinner knife and fork each, canteen-style in a paper napkin. Brendan approached the bar where two young female customers were perched talking to Mr Jumper. "Could she have something to eat the prawn cocktail with?" Brendan asked. "There's a knife and fork on the table," said Miss Smart Ass No 1, sticking her nose in. "You can't eat prawn cocktail with a knife and fork," said Brendan. "What about her five digits," said Miss Smart Ass No 2, flexing her fingers in the air. "That would be very messy," replied Brendan politely. Mr Jumper left them and brought a dessertspoon. "Would you ever go and get a teaspoon," I said -- no more messing!

Eschewing mains of cod with crispy potatoes, lentils and caper dressing, and a rib-eye beef, I had duck breast (€18.50), billed with sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Brendan had "pork fillet belly" (€16.50) and a side order of baby potatoes (€3.50), which were sauteed Spanish-style. The portions weren't big but the food was excellent. Somebody knows what they are about in the kitchen, anyway. The pork came with a perfect little black-pudding roulade, a memorable rosemary mousseline, and apple puree. My duck was three little slices of delicious pink breast with diced sweet potato -- no butternut squash. I wasn't even going to go there. I quickly ordered more potatoes.

It all seemed slightly mad, apart from the food, but with a glass of wine we began to laugh at the eccentricities. We shared an excellent tarte Tatin (€5.50) topped with ice cream. "I didn't have foie gras," I said to our friend, on receiving the bill. "I couldn't find prawn cocktail on the cash register, so I just hit a button," he said. Yes, the foie gras was €2 cheaper.

"Where were you before here?" I asked him. "Nowhere. I'm a builder -- dry linings," he laughed, pointing at the ceiling. "There's no work in building any more."

Our bill with optional service was €92.80. The food is good, the service bizarrely dotty but not uncharming, and we did emerge laughing, which is not a bad thing these days.


The Ormond Wine Bar,

6 Ormond Quay Upper,

Dublin 1.

Tel: (01) 874-9778

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