Dunville Avenue is tucked away in Ranelagh’s back streets, running across the Luas lines near the Beechwood stop. On the same stretch as Morton’s sits a café and bistro called Peperina. Its owner Diego Cabrera moved to Dublin from Argentina in 1994. He worked in restaurants in Dublin, including Elephant & Castle and Eden, before opening Peperina (named after a plant that grows in the mountains near where he grew up in Argentina) in 2012.
‘I always wanted to open a restaurant because I love cooking and I love food,’ Cabrera tells me. ‘My initial idea was to open an Argentinian restaurant in Dublin. But when I found the premises in Ranelagh, I didn’t think that an Argentinian restaurant suited the space. What the area needed was a local, neighbourhood restaurant that people could come into every day of the week and never get tired of.’
The night we visit is a wet, windy and wintery one. We’re blown in the door and it feels like we’re taking refuge from the storm. The décor is shabby chic; it’s cozy and relaxed. Even as the rain streams from the sides of its conservatory doors, Peperina’s little garden terrace at the back of the restaurant still looks inviting. The staff are friendly and casual, and pretty soon we are nursing glasses of Alandra, a Portuguese red, and a pink Lemonade, feeling very much at home. The menu is familiar, with old favourites like fish and chips, hamburger and grilled chicken supreme.
We soon hit a bump in the road. Our starters are disappointingly unremarkable. Two scallops sitting atop two circles of Clonakilty black pudding (€7.50) are lacklustre, making for a bland non-event of a dish. My calamari (€7.50) is tough, with a breadcrumb coating that’s too heavy for my tastes. It’s a letdown after such a promising welcome.
We were put back on course with our mains, however; a bacon wrapped cod sits atop a decadently buttery risotto (€15) while an Indian beef curry (€18), on special for the evening, is a bowl of delicately fragrant and tender beef served alongside herbed rice and crispy sweet potato fries. It’s tasty and comforting, unfussy and fulfilling.
The desserts are our evening’s highlight. They’re a perfect example of how a restaurant can serve your favourite comfort food and maybe even make them better than your Mum did. The bread and butter pudding (€5.20) is a huge slice of sticky, sweet bread smothered in custard while the apple crumble (€5.20) is a little ramekin of crunchy-topped winter loveliness. The apples have maintained an impeccable texture and I believe I detect a subtle hint of almond in their syrupy sauce.
The set menu is only missing a few dishes from the evening’s full menu and is priced at €20 for two courses and €25 for three. We’ve ordered specials so our bill for three courses each, a glass of wine, lemonade and a bottle of sparkling water comes to €72.95. It feels a little steep for such a cozy little bistro. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the affluent neighbourhood Peperina lives in?
There are a few little Argentinian flavours on the menu; the steak, for example, comes with chimichurri on the side. ‘I wasn’t disappointed to let go of the Argentinian restaurant idea as I was really excited about opening Peperina,’ says Cabrera. ‘But I haven’t forgotten my idea for an Argentinian restaurant in Dublin.’ Watch this space.
25 Dunville Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
t: 01 5340018
Words: Aoife McElwain / Photos: Killian Broderick