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Cold comfort in D4's Rigby's

If Rigby's isn't the strangest restaurant in Dublin, I don't know what is. A breakfast bar, deli and diner by day, it becomes a restaurant after 6pm by dint of the chef, Rigby by name, devising a three-course menu and cooking it, out front, in view of the diners from ingredients he has selected that day.

There isn't much in the way of choice: on the night we dined, there were two starters, two mains and two desserts (one of which being cheese) coupled with a 'like it or lump it' attitude that quite got up my nose. As in "There are two starters; one is meat, the other fish". Prising further information out of the waiter was like looking for a two-cent coin dropped down a mine shaft. We stopped trying and ordered anyway -- one of each.

It wouldn't be the most comfortable of places. Twenty covers in a corridor of a room. Small tables and penitential chairs. Ventilation is abject, a problem solved, in theory, by leaving doors open, back and front, for the wind to hurtle through like a Kenyan marathon runner. Our request to close one, and preferably both, was noted, then ignored. It started to rain lightly yet the front door remained open.



Corkage

The restaurant is not licensed. You can bring your own wine and there's no corkage charge. When dining in a BYOB gaff you can adopt one of two strategies. The first is to pay a visit to Lidl or Aldi and see if their current amazing bargain, a Chilean Merlot or some, such comes up to snuff. The other is to drink rather better than you would normally. If you usually spend €20 on a bottle of flaccid house wine you can get really ballsy stuff over the retail counter for this sort of money. Rigby's is assisted by its proximity to Louis Albrouze's excellent wine shop.

Their delicious Chablis, from 12th-generation growers Droin (€19.95), set off the fish starter a treat. Ah yes, the fish starter. A terrine, with a good variation of fish in the mix, sensitively herbed up. The only spoiler was the brown bread in which it was encased, which had become soggy and unpleasant. Maybe, like a medieval pie crust, it was meant to be discarded. I didn't enquire. Anyhow, the waiter probably wouldn't have told me. Sibella enjoyed a beautifully presented plate of Parma ham with figs, goat cheese and a crisp salad with a piquant dressing.



Champ

On to the mains. Yes, you've guessed, "Fish or meat". I tend to get snotty about sea bass, there's so much of it around, but Sibella's ample portion, balanced on a bed of quite the best champ I've had in ages and accompanied by a cream-based sauce, really hit the spot. Bull's eye, dead centre.

My lamb casserole, on the other hand, accompanied by a scattering of carrots and courgettes and no lovely spuds, missed 'the spot' by the width of Jocky Wilson's backside. The lamb had enough sinews to fashion a set of harp strings. Consuming the sauce was akin to swimming in the Dead Sea with your mouth open. I have a low tolerance of salt. Nevertheless, even Sibella agreed the seasoning was the far side of excessive.

Next course: dessert or cheese. Sibs cross-examined the waiter for clues. "A mousse" was proffered and there was some mention of chocolate. This led to confusion because Sibs does not like chocolate mousse, although she does like chocolate.

A mousse, pumpkin, a tad grainy, came unadorned by chocolate, which was ladled on subsequently by request. I took good old uncomplicated cheese, an assortment of five in good condition. I knew it was a mistake to enquire as to identity but did so anyway. "The chef won't tell me," was the riposte.

I don't want to come down too hard on Rigby's but the defects are DayGlo obvious. More care with the cooking, better ventilation or, at any rate, less draught, and an end to the cloak-and-dagger stuff would turn this into a very savvy little dining spot, full of personality.

Judged by our experience, Rigby's, at present, falls short of the best of the 'value' offerings around town -- check out Alexis, Seagrass, Browns of Sandymount, One Pico, Thorntons (lunch), Coppinger Row and any number of early birds.


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