Restaurant Review: The Washerwoman

Posted August 16, 2015 in Restaurant Reviews

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

It’s mid-summer and the rain is throwing itself against Glasnevin Hill. We’re tucked away inside the cosy, homely interior of the space that restaurateur Elaine Murphy and her team found in early 2014 and reopened as The Washerwoman in April of this year. Once again, she has brought her trademarks of celebrating Irish produce in a relaxed and accessible setting, the cornerstones of her other businesses, The Woollen Mills and The Winding Stair.

On the wall at The Washerwoman is a floor to ceiling map of Ireland, with tags pinned into where their suppliers are based. ‘It’s actually quite amazing when you put all the little tags all over the map of Ireland,’ Murphy tells me, after my visit. ‘It really makes you gasp with pride at the extent of our indigenous food industry. When it’s right up there on a wall in front of your eyes, you see how multifarious and diverse those producers are.’

There are two specials on the board, one for starters and one for mains. I go for the starter special (€9), which is a sort of black pudding schnitzel; it’s been flattened, battered and fried. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing look but, combined with a kohlrabi slaw that has a spicy kick, and a delicately dressed green salad with shredded beets. It works. It’s over-shadowed, however, by the spicy Clogherhead crab-cakes (€12). They’re bursting with sweet crabmeat, and are lightly coated and gently fried. The accompanying crayfish salad is generously dotted with the sweet and juicy crustacean. A saffron tartare works as the bridge between the crab and the crayfish, and the whole dish is a delight.

We marvel at nature’s architecture while pulling the soft, sweet flesh from the bones of a baked Howth ray wing (€21). The dish is topped with two tubular pieces of roasted salsify, a root vegetable that I find overrated. To me, their woody texture and earthy flavour just don’t bring much to the party. More of that delicious crab makes its way into this dish through the smashed spuds that sit under the ray wing. The plate is given a splash of colour thanks to a vividly yellow and fragrantly sweet curry butter.

When I see Dexter beef on the menu, I’m morally obliged to order the steak. The Dexter breed is special; it’s a short little cow from the south west of Ireland, that made its first appearance in the 1800s. It nearly disappeared from farms all together in the 1940s due to the import of larger breeds. It reemerged in the 1970s and, in the last decade, the breed has had something of a renaissance. Largely thanks to chefs putting Dexter beef on their menus, its population has increased. It’s a sort of strange paradox where meat-eaters are actually preventing a breed of animal from disappearing forever by wanting to eat them.




The 28 day dry-aged heritage Dexter 10oz rib-eye bred by Eavaun Carmody at Killenure Castle in Co Tipperary (€30 with a choice of two sides and a sauce) is pretty close to steak transcendence at the hands of the Washerwoman’s kitchen team. The meat has been heftily caramelized on the outside while the interior remains pink, soft and juicy. It’s damn near perfect. Hell, it is perfect. The accompanying béarnaise sauce has a glorious pop of tarragon and the skinny chips are flawless. I adore onion rings (such a guilty pleasure) and The Washerwoman’s delicately battered, crisply fried rings make me very happy.

Dessert is the least memorable part of the evening; it’s a good, moist brownie cake (€7) flecked with chunks of white chocolate and tart pieces of raspberry, but the peanut butter ice-cream doesn’t quite deliver the nutty hit I was hoping for.

The Washerwoman’s menu is large. A classic section offers chicken wings done three ways, alongside nachos and burgers. There are around six starters and six mains that wouldn’t be out of place at The Winding Stair, and then there’s a steakhouse section. Usually large, all-encompassing menus set off alarm bells for me, but Murphy knows what she’s doing. She’s catering for the masses here but what I think makes her different is that she respects the palates of the masses. The Washerwoman is family-friendly; there’s even a dedicated kids menu as well that includes a Nutella sandwich on a house-baked ciabatta (€4 – um, can I order that next time?) and a ‘baby bowl’ of mashed spuds and gravy (€3). Murphy always employs expert staff, and the service is perfectly pitched; friendly, fast and enthusiastic.

Dessert is the only part of the meal that I’m a bit let down by; it’s a good, moist brownie cake (€7) flecked with chunks of white chocolate and tart pieces of raspberry, but the promised peanut butter ice-cream seems to have forgotten its nuts. It appears a sneaky scoop of vanilla ice-cream made its way onto this plate by mistake.

The building that houses The Washerwoman has been a dairy, a blacksmith’s forge and a family home and when we walked in on that rainy Thursday evening, I felt at home immediately. Our bill, which also included a Luscombe elderflower lemonade (€4.50), a glass of red (€9) and a bottle of sparkling water (€4.50) comes to €97.00.


The Washerwoman of Glasnevin

60 Glasnevin Hill, Dublin 9

t: 01-8379441

Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch and Sunday roasts

Words: Aoife McElwain

Image: The Washerwoman (courtesy of Alex Machet)


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