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The Sussex: A cut above

I was on the receiving end of an irate letter a while back from a lady who told me that she had visited Olivier's @ O'Briens, a restaurant over O'Brien's pub on Upper Leeson Street, and she had a disappointing experience.

Apparently it was my fault, as she had convinced her French husband and friends to pass on another restaurant in favour of Olivier's because of 'my' review. However, I had not, in fact, ever reviewed Olivier's @ O'Briens. It had been enthused about by another critic.

In the event, Olivier's is gone and has been replaced by The Sussex, which does sound rather grandly British for an Irish restaurant over a very popular Irish pub but, in fairness, it is on Sussex Terrace. The Sussex is owned by Trevor Browne and Ger Foote, who also have the very popular and cultish Canal Bank Cafe right across the road, as well as Tribeca in Ranelagh. These guys know what they are about.

Indeed, when they originally had Dish in Temple Bar, they had another critic expounding in particularly verbose, flowery terms over their chicken wings or some such. No doubt he will lose his mind altogether when he comes to dine at The Sussex.

However, let me say that we rather liked The Sussex. It offers decent gastropub grub in a buzzy atmosphere at prices that won't frighten the horses. It has a real old-pub feel, sporting fashionable French-grey colours. It is an L-shaped area, two rooms linked by a long, old-world bar with tables opposite, rather like a train's dining carriage. There are some lovely features: bevelled mirrors in sections around the walls, a blazing gas fire with a tantalus on the mantelpiece, and a framed Oscar Wilde quotation: "Always forgive your enemies, it annoys them so much." This is the better room to be in.

The menu is broken into sections of steaks, fish, pies and roasts, Irish cheeses, and desserts. Starters (€5.95-€9.95) included seafood chowder, Dingle Bay prawns, smokies, and smoked salmon. I was attracted by sauteed wild and field mushrooms (€8.95) with Crozier blue cheese -- a mushroom-and-cheese melt -- on rustic toasted bread with a fluff of dressed rocket. It tasted very good, and reignited my taste for mushrooms, but what would really add depth of flavour, to my mind, would be a belt of Marsala into the mix. Brendan, too, was well pleased with his duck parfait (€9.95) with fig chutney, toast and rocket, topped with pink peppercorns.

Mains (€16.95-€26.95) included rib-eye and fillet steaks; fish and chips; fish pie; roast free-range chicken; belly of pork; and venison pie. Brendan's fillet steak (€26.95) had sauteed onions on a flatcap mushroom, with salad and herbed tomato. John Dory (€17.95), for me, proved a really nice, well-cooked, chunky fillet of fish sitting atop herbed mash, surrounded by sections of roast beetroot, and a smear of carrot puree -- all really nice, and good value.

The only elements that fell down were the sides, including the "skinny wedge" chips which came with Sir's steak --they were grey and tired-tasting. Green vegetables (€3.95) -- beans, broccoli and mangetout -- were a good-sized portion, but it seemed as if some of them had been hanging around, slightly overdone and singed, with a few fresh broccoli florets on top.

I ordered a fig sticky toffee dessert, while Brendan had a coffee (€2.45) but the place was really filling up by then with a number of groups, and they were under pressure. The dessert never arrived, so we gave up on it after about 20 minutes. We had a fruity bottle of Portuguese Dom Rafael Mouchao 2008 (€28) -- which appeared on our bill as another wine at €35. With this error corrected, and the green veg removed, our bill with optional service, which was very pleasant, came to €109.25. All in all, a good spot with decent food and plenty of buzz.


The Sussex,

8/9 Sussex Terrace,

Upper Leeson Street,

Dublin 4.

Tel: (01) 676-2851