| 15.7°C Dublin

Food from on high

The comfort of a Dublin institution is the perfect backdrop for sampling Nepal's cuisine

Montys of Kathmandu has become something of a Dublin institution since it was opened by Shiva Gautam and his wife Lina in the late 1990s. It seemed to take just months before it felt as if it had always been there.

Nepal is nestled in the Himalayas, with India to the south and Tibet and China to the north. It has a population of 25 million and a cuisine that reflects its neighbours but also has its own proud heritage.

At first glance the food seems based on Indian traditions, but look closer and you will find Chinese and other influences. Myself and the Engineer visited on a quiet Sunday evening and were made to feel like long-lost cousins.

The decor has lots of dark wood and rich colours but still feels contemporary, with new shiny brass plates and water jugs to add to the atmosphere.


Following poppadoms and dips, our starter plate for two included cubes of chicken and minced lamb in distinct aromatic sauces, along with tareko sabji, a fried vegetable fritter flavoured with nuts and raisins, and delicious battered and fried jhinga macha prawns. These starters, just like all the food that followed, were light and fresh with no lingering oily flavours so common in the food of India.

We also had to order the Montys' classic poleko squid -- whole baby squid marinated and barbecued in a charcoal tandoor for 30-40 seconds and served sizzling with onions and coriander.

The brief cooking time is enough to barely cook the flesh while keeping it sweet, delicate and melt-in-the-mouth tender.


Barbecued pork was chunks of lean meat with onions, ginger and chillies, with a smoky flavour from the charcoal and a nice richness from a touch of soy sauce.

Rice was airy and light, the dhal a little more liquid than you would find in India but with that pleasing mouth-coating, comforting taste that perfectly balanced the sharper flavours in the meal. Sweet Peshwari naan cooked with nuts and raisins, and a garlic coriander naan had that just-cooked taste and that hint of charcoal from the tandoor.

Another Montys' classic we couldn't pass up was the gajar ko haluwa dessert -- grated carrot cooked with milk and cinnamon -- sweet and delicately textured and served with vanilla ice cream.

Montys is not a showy restaurant but one that has been quietly going about its business serving elegant, unique food for more than a decade with small refinements added only when required. The new menu retains all the classics and has just a handful of new dishes and a renewed focus on good-value lunches.

Dublin has had many new restaurants open in the past few months and while the new is always exciting because it is new, the old, the classic, the comfortable is where we return again and again.

If you haven't been to Montys in Temple Bar recently, or their branch in Rathgar, can I suggest it is time to revisit an old acquaintance?