If you’re anything like me you have a bucket list of restaurants you want to go to, but end up always going to the same ones because you know what you’re getting. Well last week, I ticked off one of my listees – Etto on Merrion Row. Etto has won countless awards – Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand, Restaurant of the Year, and Best Casual Dining Experience in Ireland to name but a few. In addition, it is frequently the winner of food critics choice if they had to pay for dinner themselves, so I reckoned it must be pretty good. Indeed on the day we were there, cooking goddess, Nigella Lawson had visited and given her stamp of approval.
The restaurant itself is pretty small and decorated simply with the front part of the room filled with plain tables and chairs, while to the rear a bar and counter had additional stool seating. Due to the limited seating, it gets booked out pretty quickly and we had to wait a week before we could get a table at our desired time of 6.15 to avail of the pre-theatre menu of 3 courses for €29. Upon our arrival, our friendly waiter handed us a today dated menu – a positive sign that their menu was seasonal and based on what was fresh at that time, although I spotted a few of their regulars which I’d seen on their website sample menu.
For starters, we ordered the Dexter beef tartare, artichoke and blue radish and mussels, spring onions, nduja and sweetcorn. Himself found the beef tartare, which was served with Levain sourdough was the most unusual looking tartare he’d ever seen, but nonetheless, on a taste level hit top scores. My mussels were beautiful spicy, and a welcome deviation from the usual mariniere style that I always make at home.
Our main courses were also delight with himself having the grilled hake and I having the sucking pig. At this juncture, I will say that you absolutely need to order some additional side dishes or you will be hungry. We ordered the hashed potatoes with Lyonnaise onions, and the chargrilled sprout tops which were sprinkled with toasted almonds and mustard dressing. Each dish came in €4.50, so the idea of a three course dinner for €29 is a bit of a misnomer. The hake was beautifully cooked and served with white beans, cockles and celeriac puree in a cider infused broth. My pork belly (please, no jokes) had a beautifully crisp crackling and was soooo tasty, and came with apple, baby turnip, and morcilla (black pudding). The sides of potatoes and sprouts were top rate. Hey, I’m no sprouts fan but served this way, I’m a convert.
For dessert, I had the prunes poached in red wine and accompanied by vanilla mascarpone. This seems to be a staple of their menu and for good reason. It was absolutely delicious. Himself had the bitter chocolate pot which was served with amareno cherries and a hazelnut biscuit. The dense mousse, served in an espresso cup, was beautifully rich but I could have easily eaten a portion twice the size, although he was happy with the quantity. We weren’t drinking on this particular occassion, but they have a great wine selection and even have Prosecco on tap. I’d highly recommend Etto, and for the quality of the cooking and ingredients, the pre-theatre menu is great value. Just make sure to order sides!
Photo credits: Top photo – Finnegan Menton. Potatoes & Prunes Photos – @nigellalawson Instagram