On a rare lazy Sunday with nowhere to be and nothing pressing to get done, the afternoon rolled around and I was making no progress towards seizing the day. On days like this, cooking is off the menu and managing to pull myself together and make it to brunch before the usual 3pm cut off is a struggle – especially the day after the night before.
Dragging myself out of bed before the clock struck PM was an unlikely prospect, so discovering that The Cellar at The Merrion offers Sunday Brunch until 5pm I was sold – not that it takes much convincing to head to one of Ireland’s most luxurious five star hotels in the first place.
The Cellar feels more like a standalone restaurant, with its own dedicated entrance you ascend the steps overlooking Leinster House to a cosy and cavernous stone-walled bar with various inviting alcoves and nooks. The comforting clatter of cocktail shakers lures us in and we are shown to our table, already plotting our tipples as brunch without cocktails is just a spectacularly late breakfast.
As we peruse the menu, I settle on an El Diablo(€14.00), a towering red concoction of spicy ginger syrup, lime and one of my favourite tequilas, the seductively smooth Don Julio Anejo. Topped with pomegranate sees, this devilishly good cocktail certainly left me feeling wide awake after!
I shudder at the mention of a Daiquiri normally, the result of one too many slushie-like sugar bombs masquerading as such in my youth, but my dining companion chose to sip on The Hemingway Daiquiri(€14.50). “Now that’s a Daiquiri”, the rum fiend affirmed and I had to agree. Deliciously tart grapefruit laced with Havana 3 year old dark rum, this was like a 90’s supermodel’s breakfast of half a grapefruit with a delightful kick.
Inspired by the go big or go home style of American brunching, the menu sings of simple indulgences – a Buttermilk Pancake Stack here, Brioche French Toast there, and surprisingly in the current climate, not an avocado toast in sight. Chef Ed Cooney’s menu instead veers on the retro side of classic, comforting crowd-pleasing dishes guaranteed to satisfy when executed well.
As the menu also includes plenty of options to cover cravings of a non-breakfast nature, I spot a table of golfers polishing off a dozen bountiful bowls of Moules Mouclade and a group of ladies who brunch finishing up a stunning Seafood Tower after a Prosecco toast. There is something for everyone, no intrusive soundtrack blaring and the laid back atmosphere encourages leisurely lingering – quite rare in the case of the generally chicken wing dominated hybrid meal.
My inability to decide between sweet and savoury led me to The Classic(€16) – a little reminder of lazy New York breakfasts with silver dollar pancakes (that’s sweet mini ones to you and me) topped with the crispiest ever bacon and richly creamy scrambled eggs. The only way this dish could have been more comforting would have been if it was delivered to me in bed upstairs.
Across the table, a more adventurous choice of Huevos Rancheros (€16) was giving me a bit of dish envy, dotted with avocado, punchy Pico de Gallo and chunky refried kidney beans. Perfectly oozing fried eggs and most impressively, homemade corn tortillas, fresh out of the frying pan made this a winner. I am wary of Mexican style dishes outside of dedicated Mexican eateries, but this dish proved me wrong and paired a little too nicely with my Don Julio Anejo tipple as I pillaged much of it.
I will admit, the only thing that held me back from the full pancake stack for my main course was the knowledge that Paul Kelly’s dessert menu was waiting to tempt me to indulgence. What came next is reason enough to visit The Cellar for brunch – hands down the best choux pastry I have tasted outside of my beloved Fauchon in Paris in the form of Choux Buns(€8).
Topped with irresistible craquelin, buttery and light as a feather, three ridiculously delicious balls of pleasure were stuffed with local Featherbed vanilla ice cream and served with a jug of butterscotch sauce you would be forgiven for guzzling straight. We should have ordered one each we decided, as we carefully divided the last one equally like children greedily counting out sweets.
Having polished our dessert, we realised we had whittled two hours away over a relaxing and informal brunch without a hint of stuffiness, which still maintained the five star plus standard The Merrion prides itself on with expert, unobtrusive service.
Taking fantastic ingredients and doing very little to them sounds like common sense but in reality, particularly at brunch level, it is regrettably far from common but The Cellar has done just that. A Sunday spent brunching here is a Sunday well spent indeed – I’ll be back for that Seafood Tower.
Our bill, including two cocktails, two mains and a shared dessert came to €68.50.
The Cellar Bar
The Merrion Hotel
Upper Merrion Street
T: 353 1 603 0600
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.