Every neighborhood deserves the kind of restaurant that evokes the “where everybody knows your name” warmth reminiscent of Cheers, while serving the kind of comfort food that will have you slyly skipping cooking on a random Wednesday evening.
I can safely say that for as long as I have lived in this lovely postcode, restaurants in Sandymount have always lost out to places like The Old Spot when it comes to a reliable local D4 favourite.
That said, when I found myself licking my lips making a dinner reservation coming up to the 3pm slump on a dull summer’s afternoon, having scoped out their beautifully curated insta-feed and mentally planning our evening a la Italiana, I thought that could be about to change,
While Dunne and Crescenzi is no newcomer to the Dublin dining scene, the Sandymount branch has recently undergone a rebrand, emerging as Crudo – although the evolution is mainly confined to the menu rather than the decor, which retains the shabby chic vibe of somewhere more concerned with flavoursome food than fancy decor.
Settling in to a dimly lit and cosy corner flanked by a comforting shelf laden down with beautiful bottles of Italian red, we immediately feel at ease. We’re not the only ones, as the mood music is laughter and the merry clinking of glasses.
Crudo’s menu suggests it is a small plate Italian aiming to deliver more than the run of the mill classics. It is buzzing at 9pm on a midweek evening and I think to myself, if it’s anything like Ranelagh’s Host, I’ll love it and be glad of it as a new neighbour.
Getting into the spirit of things, we graze on some juicy olives and summon one of the aforementioned Italian reds. I’ve never met a Valpolicella, Classico Lucchine, I didn’t get on with and this was no different, tremendously reasonable at €32 and likely to act as a light but lovely companion to a range of dishes.
My first real taste of Crudo’s charm comes in the form of perfectly puffed Monkfish Fritti, pillowy within and perched on a bed of spicy apricot and cumin ketchup I’d buy by the bottle if I could. “It’s like fancy fish and chips, right?” quips our host and I’m with him all the way. This by a pier would be heaven but here, just off sandymount green, it’s pretty damn perfect.
Although quite preoccupied with my own stellar starter, pistachio and hibiscus dusted bulging Burrata, with grill-kissed sourdough and sweet fennel and coriander onion jam had me eyeing across the table with envy and testing my dining companion’s generosity.
For Primi, a mound of silky papardelle arrives enrobed in moreish Lamb Ragu (€16.50) with lashings of Pecorino. I’m less enthused about the pickled pepper spike than my dining companion, but the agro dulce balance works to cut through rich, satisfyingly savory lamb. This, I’m told before the plate is cleaned, is the reason we’ll be making a return visit.
I’m more convinced of our need to rush back by a blushing and beautiful on-the-bone Pork Chop(€26) – succulent and tender, soaked in citrusy and bold preserved lemon gremolata.
A little pot of earthy smashed new spuds spiked with spicy nduja arrives alongside, completing a perfect example of rustic Italiana and bringing me right back to the trattorias in the hills of Emilia Romagna.
The “veg” section of the menu show more thought than the vegetarian main course option in most establishments, so narrowing down our choices proves tough.
Heritage Carrots slick with punchy wild garlic pesto and dotted with toasted pine nuts, proved more than just a side show and a refreshingly different Burnt Avocado Salad with shaved fennel and summery tomatoes added a welcome lightness to our feast.
“When you come to my house, I want it to be the best meal of your life”, our wonderfully Italian host says as we tell him just how much we enjoyed our mains. He has spent much of the evening chatting with locals and adding a homely feel to proceedings and it adds to our mutual feeling that this can’t be a once-off trip.
For dolce, a gooey and almost brownie-like Chocolate Olive Oil Cake played beautifully with mascarpone and quite a bit of necessarily tart coulis – a sweet end to a sweet meal which made us feel like we were truly living la dolce vita, only a short walk from home.
Polishing off our vino and lingering as long as the last locals to leave, we reluctantly headed off into the night to walk off our indulgent evening, which was worth every bite.
Crudo has earned itself a new pair of loyal locals, and I’ll be flat out pacing up and down Sandymount Strand to justify popping back in for another festa of Italian fare at its finest. Whether it is a date night, a family affair or a catch up with the girls, Crudo is a crucial addition to your Dublin dining bucket list.
Our bill, for two starters, two mains, two sides, a shared dessert and a bottle of red came to €119.50 excluding service.
11 Seafort Avenue,