There are some restaurants whose addresses alone induce shivers of anticipation. Their location means something, connotes something of the experience. Perhaps the very presence of said restaurant makes a name of the place, like Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park (which might otherwise have been remembered as the neighborhood (sic) of the first Shake Shack). I’m thinking of the inimitable Brasserie Lipp at one-fifty-one Boulevard Saint Germain or even Crif Dogs at one-thirteen St Marks Place. I can feel these places in my loins and in my guts.
The same is not true of Admiral Restaurant (the definite article would seem not to apply), which you will find at 1, Q-Park, ground floor, at the nexus of Marlborough and Cathal Brugha streets. This is perhaps as insalubrious an address as the city can offer, a demilitarised zone rife with benzoed-out goofballs and lollygaggers on the nod. All credit then to the owners for bringing a little light to this benighted quarter and for providing Dublin with an introduction to an array of Eastern European dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. The fact that you may not want to speaks to a general misunderstanding of these interrelated cuisines. People will drop their pants for the next Poké or Poutine but ask them to join you for a beer and a hearty bowl of Plov and you’ll likely end up dining solo. More of Plov later.
When we arrive on a distinctly autumnal Wednesday night the joint is sparsely populated. It would take a Mongol horde to make the place look busy, there must be over a hundred covers. We are left in little doubt of the maritime/naval theme – the place is festooned with ship’s sails, bedecked with thick hawsers and punctuated with portholes that offer no view of port or starboard. A couple of flatscreen TVs appear to be tuned to MTV Russia which I’m told is enormously popular within Slavic seafaring communities. From a drinks menu as broad as the Siberian tundra we order a couple of Lithuanian Svtury Extra beers which immediately hit the spot. There really is something for everyone here, from cocktails and milkshakes to hot white wine (!) and beyond. The menu itself takes the form of a glossy full-colour catalogue, complete with handy photos of every dish. It is said that you begin to eat with your eyes.
We continue the process by eating with our mouths a basket of ‘Baltic Beer Snacks’, one of many menu items recommended by a Polish friend of mine. These take the form of fried croutons of rye bread in a garlicky dressing topped with melted cheese of unknown origin. I would recommend having all of your back teeth before ordering these. Our Caucasian cousins have few peers when it comes to pickling and the mixed plate here bears that generalisation out. Excellent spears of gherkin (fermented, not vinegared) sit next to cumin-spiced shredded carrot, textbook sauerkraut and some superb, barely marinated cherry tomatoes. I could eat these ‘till the yaks come home. That same friend also swears by the Dumplings with cottage cheese as ‘a cure for vodka’. I can’t vouch for their curative effect but they are extremely moreish and extremely filling. We lash them with the accompanying sour cream and dill to offset the innate blandness and I realise that I may be constitutionally incapable of ingesting this level of ballast.
I want to try some Georgian wine now but the only reds available by the glass are described as semi-sweet. I order one just to confirm that I do not care for sweet wine. Two more beers please. Plov as most of you know, is of course the national dish of Uzbekistan, where chefs (oshpaz) have been known to serve up to 1,ooo people from a cauldron (kazan) big enough to boil a political opponent. It is a simple Pilaf (look again at the name) of long grain rice with onions, carrot and (I’m guessing) gnarly chunks of either mutton or hogget. I enjoy the way it coats the lips with a pleasing slick of ovine fat. We complete our trawl of Pan-Slavic curiosities with a dish of pan-fried pork and toffyish onions served with set corn-meal (more polenta than grits) and more of those tomatoes. Service from our Moldovan server was polite and attentive and the bill (enough to feed three) came to €90. I’ll return to try Latvia’s national dish of ‘Grey Peas and Bacon’. It’s nice to have the option.
Words: Conor Stevens
Photos: Killian Broderick
Admiral Restaurant 1, Q-Park, Ground Floor,
Marlborough St, Dublin 1