Easy Confidence – Canteen at The Marlin Hotel


Posted 3 weeks ago in Restaurant Reviews

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This was supposed be about food trucks, about how most of them pedal garbage, but really about two (relatively) new ones that you must, should, other imperatives, whatever. What the piece, however, was really going to be about though was the semiotic recontextualisation of the food truck, its crushing ubiquity in ads for cider, Sligo or friendly credit rates and so on. When we see a business plan for a plant-based jumbo breakfast rollmobile – we back it! Relatability! Journeys! I could have touched upon notions of appropriation even, but that’s all fucked into a cocked hat now because of the frankly erratic hours that some of these food-truck dilettantes keep. I may never write that piece now, just to spite nobody in particular, but I’ve covered most of the salient points right here.

As a restaurant, Canteen has had something of an itinerant upbringing and, no, I’m not setting up a punchline, the feast has been moveable. Its first incarnation was in the space now occupied by Liath in the Blackrock market before a somewhat puzzling move to sunny Celbridge. Now, chef James Sheridan has brought his considerable talents back to the capital and we should be glad. He opened almost a year ago (along with the hotel) in the teeth of the pandemic to positive reviews before promptly closing again, along with every other place.

The Marlin feels like it’s slumming it a little on this somewhat unlovely block and I don’t think that I’ve ever set foot on Bow Lane before in my life. As I approach there are folks busily dispensing benzos from the mouth of a parking garage across the street, but I’m gratified to note that they are all masked and appearing to distance. The developers probably described the location of the Hotel as ‘a stone’s throw from Stephen’s Green.’ You would need an arm like a rifle.

The hotel itself features expanses of concrete, exposed ducting and neon. So much neon. Have no doubt, this is an edgy, cool, urban retreat. A low-key bolthole for your mini-break. An oasis of chill in the middle of the metropolis. This is a place for people with discreet tattoos to do ‘hotel positions’ on sheets with undaunting thread counts. A neon installation above the gents shouts, ‘GUYS GUYS GUYS.’ One ‘GUYS’ might usefully denote a bathroom, three is an invitation to come cottaging. I decline and continue through the hotel where my special lady is waiting for me on the pleasant rear terrace with some family members who have gathered for a reunion of sorts. We begin with a round of good, strong cocktails. I haven’t had a martini for some time, so I relish the numbing cold of my own private reunion in the July evening heat.

There’s a young man sitting with a girl a few tables away and it gradually dawns upon me that he is wearing some kind of GAA jersey, seemingly without irony. It is a jarring thing to see. My eyes flick back and forth between the menu and the jersey. They’re not eating from this menu, or eating at all, although bouches are visibly being amused. There seems to be a disconnect between the crowd (very young, basic) patronising the place for hard seltzers and the ambition of the restaurant, although that could be a Covid effect. Indoor dining/boozing was still a couple of weeks out at this point and the kids were rolling up to drink anywhere with outdoor tables.

There was a place I recall in London’s Spitalfields market called Canteen that used to do top-drawer devilled kidneys on toast, a pared back all-day place that bore a tenuous resemblance to an actual canteen if you squinted with your brain but that’s not possible here. Nobody’s mistaking the food at this place for canteen fare. Nobody’s attempting to reinvent fine dining here either and that’s just fine, there’s an easy confidence about every dish. Flavour combinations are never counterintuitive and the technique is always in the service of bringing the plates together. It’s okay to have a pacojet and not shout about it.

From an admirably concise menu (which has already changed, so I’ll forgo my usual forensic detail) some standouts included our snacks – duck liver parfait gougéres and a red onion tartlet with an amazingly thin case. A starter of globe artichoke, hazelnut and summer truffle brought those flavours together beautifully. Fish cookery is a highlight too, a tranche of turbot married the sweetness of San Marzano tomatoes with the gentle salinity of a langoustine glaze. Superb. The pomme puree that accompanied slices of saignant Hereford beef almost brought a tear to my eye. There’s some real talent in the pastry section of the kitchen too, both dessert options were real showstoppers.

At €69 the prix fixe (there is no carte as yet) represents real value for a succession of dishes that elevated expensive ingredients with unshowy finesse. In the confusion that preceded the faff of bill-splitting I somehow contrived to accidentally order a €32 pour of cognac, which I fully intend to try to get passed in my expenses. It was central to the experience. Whatever of the hotel housing it, this is a serious restaurant with a talented brigade, it deserves to develop its own clientele and not merely cater to the dirty weekenders and mini-breakers. Canteen is very much a destination in its own right. Next time – I have serious beef with a food truck. Maybe.

Words: Conor Stevens

Canteen @ The Marlin Hotel

11 Bow Lane East,

Dublin 2.

marlinhotel.ie/canteen.html

Pre-Theatre August menu

House Sourdough & Glenilen Butter.

+++

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom, Confit Egg Yolk Tart.

or

Venison Raviolo, Grelot Onions, Morel Sauce.  

or

Suckling Pork Belly, BBQ Squid, Kohlrabi. 

+++
Monkfish, Sweetcorn, Hen Of The Wood Mushroom, Chive. 

 or

Irish Hereford Beef Short Rib, Carrot, Apricot, Tagine Spice.

or

Confit Duck Leg, Celeriac,Trompette, Glazed Pear.  

Pomme Puree   € 5

+++

Chocolate Cremeux, Salt Caramel, Pecan Ice Cream.

or

Lemon Tart, Crème Fraiche.

or

Young Buck, Apple & Grape Chutney, Walnut & Raisin.

 Tea, Coffee, Petit Fours €5                                                         

2 course €38 | 3 course €44

******

Set Dinner Menu

Bread and Snacks.

+++

Suckling Pork Belly, BBQ Squid, Kohlrabi.

or 

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom, Confit Egg Yolk Tart.

 +++

Monkfish, Lobster Tortellini, Sweetcorn, Saffron. 

or

Roasted Brill, Fennel,Hen Of The Wood, Red Wine.

Feighcullen Duck, Celeriac, Trompette, Glazed Pear.

or

Slaney Valley Lamb Rump, Carrot, Apricot, Tagine Spice.

 Pomme Puree.

+++ 

Chocolate Cremeux, Feuilletine, Blackberries.

 or 

Almond Financier, Apple, Malt Ice Cream.

 Tea, Coffee, Petit Fours €5 

€69 per person

 

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