LARGE cities, such as London and New York, are really a collection of urban villages thrown together, with residents only occasionally venturing out of their home territory.
No matter where one lives in Dublin, however, we all end up in the same compact city centre and regularly bump into people we know.
The exception is the IFSC, which seems cut off despite being right at Dublin's heart -- maybe people are afraid of those evil bankers that seem to keep causing trouble.
This week I was taking to lunch two of the most important (and attractive) women in my life, my editors. I suggested safe places but they are brave girls and were willing to risk venturing into this urban jungle.
The Dublin Wine Rooms in the heart of the IFSC was originally Eno Wine Bar and La Cuvee restaurant, but changed its name with the arrival of James and Anton (chef and maitre d' respectively), formerly of Le Bon Crubeen on Talbot Street.
Arriving just after 2pm, there were still a few suited stragglers sitting outside but the restaurant was quiet -- perfect for a late lunch. All the movement was away from the square back towards the offices -- I tried to pick out the bankers but their cloven hooves were well disguised in their expensive shoes.
The Wine Rooms has a deli-counter for sandwiches, a wine bar serving snacks and a full restaurant.
The wine bar has a system where you can simply wander along the walls and serve yourself using a small pre-pay card. You pop the card in a slot and press one of three buttons beside the wine you like to receive a tasting measure, a half-glass or a full-glass.
The wine cellar has a cool wooden interior with attractive lighting mixed with retro 1960's Tretchikoff "Green Lady" prints. Bottles line the cellar walls and there are lots of mis-matched tables and chairs which give the space a relaxed feel.
We chose to eat in the restaurant upstairs which is brighter but also a little more formal.
Crab and smoked salmon roulade was our starter to share -- creamy and mildly pungent horseradish- flavoured crabmeat wrapped in a decadent slice of smoked salmon.
My 8oz sirloin steak arrived rare (as ordered) with a tangy green peppercorn sauce, crispy frites and a decent salad -- at €15.50 one of the best value steak-frites in Dublin.
Spicy duck leg had a crispy skin and yielding flesh that implied a confit-style slow roast.
Grilled cod was cooked just enough to flake, yet remain moist and juicy, showcasing its freshness. A dozen fresh clams and some pancetta counterpointed the fish nicely, as did the bowl of delicious waxy Ratte potatoes.
Dessert choices were all €6.50 and included classics such as sticky date pudding and crème brulée. We shared a rich and very dense flourless chocolate cake which had a good hit of high-cocoa chocolate.
Domaine de Robert Fleurie at €25 a bottle was juicy and fruity and coped well with the meat and fish and the glass of Australian Tokay had a dried fruit intensity that stood up well to the dessert.