Peploe’s first opened its doors in November 2003 and instantly became a staple on the Dublin dining scene. The idea was to provide Dublin with an informal bistro, serving up classic dishes with great wine and exceptional service.
Nestled across from Dublin’s iconic St.Stephen’s Green, I have passed Peploe’s numerous times, always assuming it was a place reserved for uber-stylish clientele or a more sophisticated older crowd. As a member of TheTaste Team, I, of course, dine out very often, and trying new restaurants is one of my favourite hobbies. It was because of this myself and my fellow Team Taste member Roisín visited Peploe’s one very cold and windy Wednesday evening.
On arrival for our reservation at 6.00pm, the dining room was already nearly half full. After we are greeted and our coats are checked in we are shown to our booth, ideal for two as it feels intimate, but still part of the lively dining space. General Manager Frederic Pelanne is on hand to meet and greet diners, giving us a taste of the service that Peploe’s is famous for.
The kitchen has recently seen the return of former Head Chef Graeme Dodrill, who was recruited back to the restaurant from Dubai, a lucky happenstance for us Irish diners.
I was torn between the special of Rabbit Croquettes and the terrine of foie gras, so without shame, I ordered both! The first starter of the evening was Confit of Rabbit Croquettes served with caramelised onion purée, pickled walnuts and PX sherry vinegar (€13.50). Two small but perfectly sized rabbit croquettes sat on top of a silky smooth onion purée lightly sprinkled with parmesan cheese. The wine of choice for this dish was a glass of Crozes-Hermitage, Aléofane-N. Chave, Rhône Valley (€14.00).
Fritto Misto (€13.50), a sumptuous seafood mix of squid and prawns and a perfectly cooked scallop thrown in as an extra surprise was the choice for Roisín. Served with a simple garnish of garlic aioli – the perfect accompaniment, as fish this good doesn’t need fanciful garnishes. To pair with the fritto misto, our knowledgeable waiter recommended a glass of Sancerre, Domaine Cherrier 2016 from the Loire Valley (€11.00).
For Roisín, the Chargrilled Octopus (€15.50) was next fish delight to land on our table. The tender octopus was a spectacularly light dish, with a hum of flame flavouring the chargrilled tentacles. Served with a vibrant red pepper purée and crispy capers adding bursts of flavour with each bite. The chargrilled flavour of the octopus worked well with its meaty texture, and some finely chopped tomatoes added a sharp acidity to the dish.
For me, the Terrine of Poached Foie Gras and Sauternes (€18.50) sounded completely indulgent and exactly what the doctor ordered. Served with a deliciously sweet yellow peach purée that cut through the fattiness of the silky smooth foie gras and a thick slice pain d’epices to slather the foie gras on.
My main of choice was the Saddle of Suckling Pig (€28.50) served with crispy trotter, bacon, summer cabbage, ver jus and lentil sauce. While my dining companion is a fish fanatic, I am a carnivore through and through. I had already browsed the menu online and immediately was drawn to the suckling pig. A pretty dish was presented before me, succulent slices of pork sitting on top of finely shredded cabbage and a creamy lentil sauce. The meat was deliciously tender with the crispiest skin, making the perfect combination of textures.
Across the table sat Hand Made Crab Ravioli (€27.50) served with smoked ricotta sauce, scallops and prawns. A simple dish in theory but upon first bite, you can almost taste the effort that has gone into the dish. This fish dish is a simple plate of food that allows the ingredients to shine through. Freshly made hand-rolled pasta encasing sweet crabmeat paired with a luscious ricotta sauce made this dish completely comforting.
The sweet ending to our meal came in the form of Hot Chocolate Fondant with salted caramel sauce and tonka bean ice-cream (€9.50). We all know what makes a chocolate fondant great is the molten centre of chocolate, and all too often we cut into a fondant that is all sponge. There’s always a moment of uncertainty when I cut into a fondant, eagerly awaiting a chocolate treat. With Graeme at the helm, diners need not worry. Inside the richly coloured fondant was a gooey lush chocolate centre that felt almost sinful to eat. Mixing the warm fondant with tonka bean ice-cream is a simple pleasure that is unbeatable. My only complaint is I wanted more of that salty-sweet caramel sauce (salted caramel is my kryptonite).
Across the table sat a Soufflé with passionfruit sauce and strawberry sorbet (€9.50). A new addition to the Peploe’s menu I can already see this dessert being an instant hit. Light as air, the soufflé felt completely indulgent without being heavy. The zingy passionfruit sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the soufflé and the strawberry sorbet was a refreshing palate cleanser to finish the meal.
While Peploe’s still retains its classic bistro style and clientele, it seems a new wave of customers are gracing its doors. Young trendy professionals line the tables, from business suited and booted ladies to a group of young men enjoying a few bottles of fine wine.
Perhaps my preconceptions of this stalwart were incorrect, it’s not a gentleman’s club venue where youngsters like me are a rare sight. The recently refurbished restaurant has a slick new bar, perfect for enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail or just swinging by for a cocktail before you head off on a night out.
What I like the most about Peploe’s are two things. Firstly the atmosphere – it’s old school glamour, where the experience of dining out was as important as the food itself. Secondly is the cooking of course. Each plate of food tells the story of an extremely competent chef who knows what each ingredient needs.
Dodrill isn’t a chef to throw ingredients on a plate to create excitement, the excitement is there already. Each dish is carefully thought out and it shows. I can wholeheartedly say we are lucky that Mr.Dodrill was tempted back to Dublin and we once again have the opportunity to sample this confident chef’s cooking.
16 St.Stephen’s Green
T: +353 1 6763144
REVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH