I used to live around the corner from this place. In fact, I lived around the corner from this place twice, first in a stinking stygian basement bedsit next to the Garda club and latterly in a flat just down the street that was rife with rodents. The flat, not the street. Those were swell times, halcyon days of negligible commitment and diminished responsibility. As many of us understand however, with such diminished responsibility comes the inevitability of regular and debilitating hangovers. These would be treated at a greasy spoon on the corner in the building which is now home to Bastible. This is progress. That restaurant has garnered high praise since it opened two years ago and has afforded Barry Fitzgerald and partner Claremarie Thomas the luxury of opening a sister restaurant just a stone’s throw away. Good for them. Good for us too because already this place has the makings of a neighbourhood gem.
The diminutive space is divided in two, with high tables out front – never my preference but they make sense to service walk-ins. The back room is a little more austere (probably not quite finished), decorated with little more than a lick of white paint and featuring conventional seating. It could use a couple of aspidistras and something to hang on the walls. It is, crucially for a place like this, very pleasantly lit.
The menu is concise without seeming brief to the point of rudeness, arranged into ‘Plates’, ‘Charcoal Grill’ and ‘Sides’. So far, so modish. We are three and order with wanton abandon. From that first section we get some textbook ham croquettes, shattering without and deeply unctuous within. We get two orders. The standout of the ‘plates’ is a dish of roasted leeks with chopped egg and shards of beautifully crisped chicken skin. It’s a knockout. A special of girolles on toast with a just-cooked egg yolk and smoked lardo is a beautiful assemblage. We are feeling pretty good as we move to the mains, greatly assisted by an interesting wine list that we range freely across.
A stout cylinder of Middlewhite pig cheek sausage is plated with puy lentils and topped with a tangle of cabbage and oh my – the fucking cheek of it! Loose textured and midway between a terrine and a white pudding. This is pure porcine porno and should become a signature. I would have preferred for the lamb chops to have displayed a little more evidence of that charcoal grill, a deeper kiss of smoke, but the accompanying ‘burnt onions’ and gentleman’s relish make it a fine dish, nevertheless. When I learn that the ‘Turbot Shoulder with smoked hollandaise’ has been eighty-sixed I replace it with the Shorthorn picanha steak with chimichurri. The rump-cap or coulotte is a dense, flavourful cut but again – more char and smoke, please. From the sides, hash brown ‘chips’ are a cute idea, ditto the pickled onion mayo that we dredge them through. Bravo. Pairing (organic) wilted greens with kimchi is also my idea of a good time. Grilled sweetcorn also appears, right on trend. I’m replete at this point and forego dessert but I sample a Damson sorbet that is exactly as it should be.
This is unfussy cooking, considered, seasonal, ingredient-driven and marked by confident flavour combinations. It is devoid of the kind of insecurity that can lead less assured kitchens to over-egg the pudding. They have nailed their tone of voice. At no point are any of the dishes trying too hard. Kudos to chef Grainne O’Keefe in her first head chef gig. Service is warm and casually attentive, led by the steadying presence of Mícheál Murray, a man who seems to have been feeding me since I had the means to eat in restaurants, possibly before. First in The Mermaid, then in L’Gueuleton and most recently in Etto. It’s always something of a relief to see him in a dining room and I very much look forward to seeing him in this one again.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photo: Killian Broderick
6 Clanbrassil Street Upper
01 453 9786