It seems the Dublin 8 revival is burning bright, with some of Dublin’s brightest and best young chefs setting up shop, competition has never been more fierce. Or so you would think.
Except in this neighbourhood residents are spoiled for choice, many would say long overdue – with Bastible, Craft, Richmond, The Clanbrassil House, to name but a few, all knocking out top class cooking at great prices and all hard to secure a table at. Plenty to go around it would seem.
There is one Dublin 8 spot that keeps us coming back again and again, one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, overlooking the reeds and the swans along Grand Canal – Locks Restaurant we reviewed back in 2015 shortly after it opened and were blown away with the calibre of cooking.
We revisited this weekend and although they have had a subtle rebrand on the exterior we were pleased to see not much had changed in those three years and the dining room was still as warm and welcoming as ever.
Conor O’Dowd (ex Chapter One) was still working away at the pass when we arrived but co owner and chef Paul McNamara was enjoying a well deserved night off, being the busy man that he is, as he also runs the kitchen in Etto and is about to embark on a new adventure on Aungier St called Uno Mas. Watch this space for more detail on exciting 2018 openings.
As it was New Year’s Eve Eve, a festive set menu of three courses for €48 was on offer. We began with a few small nibbles, some smoked almonds, Nocellara olives, homemade sourdough and a unique and delectable smoked trout and Dillisk butter.
O’Dowd would say he is not a fan of foam and gels instead concentrating on “just cooking as well as he can” but his understated approach is winning lots of fans and his humble description of their food is more than refreshing.
Our first starter of Crispy Pigs Head, Bramley Apple, Treviso, Homemade Black Pudding could certainly not be described as understated, to us this is one of Locks signature plates. The pigs head may not sound very appetising but this crisp on the outside, yet tender on the inside delicious morsel is worth the visit alone.
A Chestnut & Truffle Croquette appears like a little sphere of golden delight, as a very seasonal squash velouté is ceremonially poured around it – winter comfort on a plate and an inventive play on integrating chestnut into the menu.
Cod, Leek, Cauliflower, and the Brittany delicacy Coco di Paimpol, formed an impressive tower within a deliciously smokey mussel & haddock chowder, again showcasing the competent and assured hands in the kitchen.
It seems you can’t have a festive menu without a bit of Pheasant making an appearance, roasted breast as pink and succulent as you can imagine, served with roasted parsnip shards, a sprinkling of sprout leaves and a very indulgent suet dumpling that we are now determined to get the recipe for. This was one gamey bird that was worth tucking into.
If you are sugar fiends like us then you will adore Locks because when they do dessert they do it very well. Cranberry Fool rarely seen on Irish menus, why ? We need to give the cranberry more love and when presented like this you will understand why.
Cranberries to most of us represent two things – Christmas dinner trimmings or a far less pleasant UTI – but when actually when used right they can be a lot more diverse and downright delicious. Add pomegranate, honeycomb chunks, cherry blossom meringue and cream and you have a cranberry treat worthy of being devoured.
Our second dessert doesn’t need the love bomb the cranberry got, it’s an old school classic, a warm hug, pure comfort – a good pudding should never be underestimated. O’Dowd chose a Medjool Date Pudding with black treacle seductively dripping all around and a sharp clementine ice cream as the perfect partner. They say a good dessert should be sinful and this certain ticked all the boxes of being sinfully good.
Locks still has the same warm, fuzzy place in our heart it did when we first dined here almost three years ago and it’s encouraging to see young talent like O’Dowd, McNamara and their team doing so well and doing it so right. If you haven’t been you are missing out on one of the best dining experiences this city has to offer.
Dinner for two with a bottle of Quinta do Cidrô Portuguese Chardonnay (€45) and a wonderful glass of Barbera D’Alba came to €151.00
1 Windsor Terrace
T: +353 (1) 416 3655
REVIEW BY JULES MAHON