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FOOD HOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Critics’ choice – Etto, Merrion Row

Etto Merrion Row Review

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!

Etto Dublin Review

Photo credits: Top photo – Finnegan Menton. Potatoes & Prunes Photos – @nigellalawson Instagram

FOOD HOME RECIPES

Cocktail of the Month: Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini

I do love a good cocktail it’s fair to say. Over the years, I’ve moved away from creamy Pina Coladas to less calorific and more “grown up” cocktails. My favourite at the moment has to be the espresso martini. There are multiple recipes for this cold coffee-flavoured cocktail but the basic format combines vodka with espresso coffee, coffee liqueur (usually Kahlúa – other coffee liqueurs also available) and syrup. As with most things, there are many claims as to who invented the recipe, but it is widely believed that it was created by a lad called Dick Bradsell in London in the late 80s. Now, if liquid quantity is your purchasing criteria for cocktails (it used to be mine), this isn’t for you. You’d better sip this baby slowly, or it’ll be gone in a flash.

If you’re having a soiree at home, there are multiple recipes online to help you create this sophisticated cocktail for your guests, but here’s a variation I came across using Black Twist liqueur which is made in Waterford using Arabica coffee and West Cork whiskey:

40ml Cold Brew (or cooled filter coffee)
40ml Black Twist
30ml Irish Whiskey
15ml 1:1 Sugar Syrup
Vanilla Cream
Cinnamon

Stir all the liquid ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glasses. Top with lightly whipped vanilla cream, top with a dust of cinnamon, and prepare to impress!

GOING OUT? 2 for the price of 1 (i.e. €12) Sunday – Friday Pygmalion, Coppinger Row, Dublin 2

Photo credit: Liquor.com

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Where to Get Your Portuguese Tart Fix in Dublin

PasteisDeNata

If, like me, you’ve been to Portugal, you will have no doubt come back with more than a tan. Yes, we’re talking about a craving for custardy gorgeousness – Pastéis de Nata. What’s that you say? Pastéis de Nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon and available on every street corner in Lisbon and every other Portugese town. They’re also made in Brazil and other countries with significant Portuguese immigrant populations.  Given the large Brazilian population in Dublin, it’s no wonder they’re popping up everywhere. If you’re feeling all domestic goddessy, you can whip some up yourself courtesy of this Paul Hollywood Portugues Tart recipe. Alternatively, if you lack the baking motivation, but still got the craving, here’s were you can get your fix:

BUTLERS CAFES
Excluding the airport, there are 15 cafes around town, so you’re never far from one. At €2.20, they’re more expensive than what you’ll pay in Portugal, but they’re a good compromise, although they’re a tad too sweet, the custard is a bit too tense, and the pastry isn’t flaky enough, but A for effort.

DUNNES STORES
Yup, such is the popularity of these beauties, even Dunnes has got in on the act. The cheapest in town at 1 euro each or 4 for €3. They’re not as good as the Butler’s ones, (or could it just be a false perception that the Butler’s ones should be better?), and still suffer the same issue of being too sweet, too dense, and not flaky enough, but warmed up slightly, you’ll wolf down a few of these babies nonetheless.

BIJOU DELI
Situated in Rathgar Village, Bijou Deli offers up a whole heap of great pastries, and also some lovely Pastéis de Nata. Costing €2, these rank #2 in terms of the flakiness of the pastry and give a nice crunch but again fail somewhat on the custard being too dense and much too sweet. A very worthy effort, though.

THE BAKERY BY THE CUPCAKE BLOKE
Newly opened in Rialto village, you’ll know the Cupcake Bloke from his weekly stand on Coppinger Row. It is not by accident that I’ve left this one ’till last, it being the best on show. I had tried a couple of times to get my mitts on these, but sadly they were always sold out whenever I got there. But a quick phone call and I secured the last six (best to play it safe) All the elements are there – flaky pastry, creamy custard, and not too sweet, and perhaps even a slightly lemony hint.

UPDATE: AVOCA, SUFFOLK STREET
The new winner! After many of you contacted me to suggest I try out one of these babies, I finally got my hands on one, and they didn’t disappoint. Definitely the winner in terms of the crunchiness and flakiness of the pastry. The custard is good and with the added bonus of a strawberry and blueberry on top. Buy one in the restaurant upstairs and they’ll serve it with a side portion of cream (not authentic, but they love a bit of cream in Avcoa!). A tiny bit smaller than the others tested (I think), and priced fairly at €1.95.

If you know of anywhere else in Dublin, just let me know. I see it as one of my life’s purposes to taste each and every one 🙂 De nada, as they say.

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Best Dining Offers in Dublin This Month

Brasserie 66, Dublin

It’s getting more and more difficult to find exciting new offers in the city. Sure, there are loads on Living Social and co. but they tend to be the usual suspects which begs the question from a business perspective, is it really a good marketing tool? Is it actually bringing new customers? Surely, unless guests pay the full whack, a profit can’t be made? Anyhoo, all those musings aside, here are a couple I think you’ll like:

BANG Restaurant
If you’re looking for a restaurant with awards, this one doesn’t do too badly – Recommended by The Michelin Guide, 2 AA Rosettes, Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator, as well as Overall Winner in Irish Restaurant Awards 2018. Situated on Merrion Row, it’s grand and central. The exterior is currently being renovated, but the magic is still going on inside. Groupon are offering a three-course meal for two with a bottle of wine for €69.95. Excellent value I think you’ll agree. The menu varies but potential options include| lamb croquette with black garlic emulsion, fennel and raisin, roast hake with roasted fennel, mussels, tomato and samphire, chocolate mousse with caramel ice-cream and passion fruit (Disclaimer, they’re the three courses I’ve picked :-))
Offer: https://www.groupon.ie/deals/bang-restaurant-14
Restaurant Website: https://www.bangrestaurant.com/

BRASSERIE 66 (seen above)
This place is hugely popular and is always good for a special offer. Food is delicious, service is attentive and there’s absolutely no fear of you leaving with your dessert pocket still open. Now for the offer – 3 course dinner for two with 2 glasses of Prosecco and 2 cocktails for €55. Yup, 55 yoyos! How great is that?! If you’ve availed of an offer from Brasserie66 you’ll know the options well – Caesar Salad, Duck Confit, Liver Parfait for starters, rotisserie Chicken, burger, hake for starters, Tiramisiu, Apple Crumble, Ice-cream Sundae for dessert. Not a whole lot of imagination and innovation, but the food is really good, and to put it impolitely, you’ll be stuffed afterwards. Job done!
Offer: http://thetaste.ie/wp/product/brasserie-sixty6-restaurant-offer-thetaste-august18
Restaurant Website: https://www.brasseriesixty6.com/

 

FOOD HOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Best Vietnamese Coffee in Dublin

Vietnamese Coffee

This year, I was absolutely blessed to spend a couple of weeks in Southern and Central Vietnam. We had toyed with the idea of going to Bali, but a friend of mine advised me I’d probably be disappointed and end up like a mad woman when I saw the amount of plastic litter there (Litter is my absolute bugbear y’see). So as we like to combine cultural enrichment with stuffing our faces, Vietnam it was to be.

Like pretty much all holidays I go on, I vowed to adopt various aspects of what I had seen and eaten and integrate it into my newly-enriched view of life on return to normal life. After about a week of putting ginger and lemongrass in absolutely everything, the novelty wore off. However, my newly-found love of Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cà phê sữa đá if you want to be all multilingual) did not wane.  If you have a drip filter at home, you can make it as you would a normal filter coffee then pour the hot coffee into a glass full of ice cubes containing 2-3 tablespoons of condensed milk. And there you have it!

Alternatively, if you want to hit the streets, there are a number of places in this fair city where you can indulge. Vice coffee, The Good Food Store, Jolins, Bun Cha all have decent offerings, but for me, the clear winner is TwoFiftySquare in Rathmines. They roast their own coffee in the back of the cafe and have won the Irish Times Award for best coffee, so you know you’re getting good stuff here. Try them out, both Vietnamese Coffee and Two Fifty Square. You won’t be disappointed by either.

Best Vietnamese Coffee in Dublin

Top photo credit: The Journal by Intrepid Travel.

FOOD HOME RECIPES

Rum Truffles to Love

Rum Truffles Recipe

So for Valentine’s Day, you may have booked a table in a fancy restaurant, or you’re keeping it cosy with dinner at home. How about a little finishing touch with some homemade rum truffles? These babies are soooo easy to make, like ridiculously no-brainer easy. But they taste so good and are seriously decadent. Once you’ve made these once, you’ll be whipping them up for Mother’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Aunty Margaret’s Birthday… So with that in mind, shall we begin?

INGREDIENTS: (for 30 truffles)
125g Coconut Fat
100g Icing Sugar
30g Flour
30g Cocoa Powder
30g Ground Walnuts
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2-3 Tablespoon Rum (or Whiskey) depending on your taste
Chocolate Sprinkles/Desiccated Coconut/Chopped Walnuts to roll truffles in

Mix all ingredients together, apart from sprinkles, to create a smooth mixture (I told ya it was easy). Leave to cool for an hour in the fridge. Form into small balls and roll in the chocolate sprinkles or chopped nuts depending on your preference. Present in truffle cases and go as fancy as you like on the presentation. Enjoy!