Saturday night bookings in Dublin are slim pickings at the moment and anyone who has tried their hand at securing one at Dublin 8 ’s most popular haunt, Bastible, will know that you will need to be booking well in advance, such is the demand.
Part of the charm of Bastible is the size, it’s an intimate yet cosy venue churning out excellent plates of food and with Michelin approval in the form of a Bib Gourmand and a steady stream of punters is a regular feature any night of the week.
So what do you do when you have a 25 seater restaurant which you cannot extend and you find yourself turning away business? Well Chef Barry FitzGerald and his partner Claremarie Thomas decided to take another D8 leap of faith and snap up a second location right around the corner on Clanbrassil St, conveniently located just a few doors down from one of our favourite gin bars in Dublin – 57 The Headline.
Once a hardware store, the team have smartly covered the space into new eatery the Clanbrassil House, building on the success of their first venture they have enlisted talented chef Grainne O’Keefe, who previously worked under Stephen Gibson in Pichet and Fitzgerald in Bastible, to head up the kitchen.
O’Keefe has steadily built up quite a profile in the Dublin dining scene and was busy plating up at the pass when we arrived for their first Saturday opening, we spotted Fitzgerald lending a hand also but this is very much O’Keefe’s gig, as Barry later explained.
Unsurprisingly we couldn’t secure a booking but we were informed that as a walk-in we would have a good chance of a table and luckily after a short wait one freed up. The front of the restaurant is galley style with a relaxed vibe, high tables, lots of exposed brick and designed for walk-ins only – perfect if you fancy some small plates and a bottle of wine.
We grabbed a table to the rear, which is now available for bookings and although a small enough area, tables are well spaced with a great view of the kitchen, much like its sister Bastible.
The menu will change seasonally and is broken up into small plates and five main dishes, with lots of strong Irish producers featured throughout almost every plate.
Our evening began with a selection of small plates, first up was two perfectly crumbed Ham Croquettes (€6), followed by Grilled Sourdough, smoked trout and pickled Cabbage (€5).
We also opted for one of the small plate specials on the night which also featured sourdough, no complaints there as it turned out to be one of our favourite dishes, what is not to love about toasted sourdough smothered in Smoked Lardo and topped with lashings of Girolle Mushrooms? (€9)
We couldn’t resist one other dish before moving on to our mains – Roasted Leeks (€9.50), chopped egg, (not something you see on many menus) and chicken skin, which is something we are seeing popping up in many venues. Not only was this a very “Instagrammable” dish, but the flavour explosion that followed our first bite was outstanding.
The seeming simplicity of each dish will be a big part of the attraction here, the menu has been well curated and flavour combinations that marry this well certainly cannot be coincidental.
Mains however, are where things got really interesting. Middlewhite Pig (€18), often described as the “beautifully ugly” breed, definitely taste better than they look. Our cheek sausage was a creative take on what is often an under-used cut, with a fine lentil broth and a quenelle of mustard, O’Keffe managed to make a rather retro sounding dish quite contemporary.
On the other envious side of the table a BBQ Cod (€22) topped with almonds, a side of spiced cauliflower and a dollop of smoked hollandaise put up a good fight but the flavour couldn’t compete with the taste explosion that was the cheek sausage.
Having experienced a nice flow of excellent plates expectation was high for dessert, like many of the previous dishes there are a few old classics but O’Keefe managed to put her own stamp on each one. Desserts reminded us very much of what you would find in Etto, understated yet expertly executed. An Apple and Blackberry Eton Mess (€7) was about as messy as you can get and utterly delicious, any dessert that leaves you scraping out the bowl gets our thumbs up anyway.
For those who prefer a less decadent option the Damson Sorbet we sampled is a super option, refreshing, light and the right kind of sweet note to finish on.
The wine list is short, very short – too short in our opinion. Although the few bottles on offer are interesting, well priced and well curated, personally we would like to see more options being added down the line, however a rotating list seems to be a more likely route – we live in hope.
No doubt Clanbrassil House will have them beating down the door and with good reason, it is encouraging to see a strong young female chef taking charge of the kitchen and exciting to envisage another Bib for Dublin 8 in the not too distant future. Welcome to the neighbourhood, this is one little sister to watch.
Dinner for two with a bottle of Etna Rosso wine & sparkling water came to €126.50.
6 Clanbrassil Street upper,
T: 01 453 9786
REVIEW BY JULES MAHON