The world of Twitter can be such an informative place, especially in the Dublin restaurant scene. With the big up turn in the number of people dining out more regularly it’s no surprise to see so many well known chefs and front of house staff setting out on their own adventure. No more evident is this than in the newly opened Locks on Windsor Terrace, a place with fond memories for many, except maybe Tom Doorley!
Last week the doors reopened with not just a lick of fresh paint but fresh faces. Everyone loves a good story and Locks tale is a real family affair. Three well known faces with a wealth of high end restaurant experience are at the core; Keelan Higgs previously of the esteemed GreenHouse and Chapter One, Connor O’Dowd also ex Chapter One and more recently Dax and Paul McNamara of Etto. Higgs has always had a special place in his heart for the place and when the opportunity came up they jumped at the chance. It is the mix of all backgrounds that has culminated in a menu and a venue very different to most in the city at present. Irish cuisine with a distinct modern feel, but served with an honest charm and homely feel, the team here want everyone to feel welcome whether you’re popping in for a three course meal or a glass of wine and some sweet potato crisps.
We stopped by for lunch and sat by the window overlooking the canal, in which is arguably one of the most beautiful dining rooms around. The lads were on a tight budget and have focused on their energy in getting the finer details right rather than ploughing money into a room that doesn’t need it. So after many late nights with the team, Keelan’s three brothers and even Connor’s Mam and Dad were drafted into to paint and sand, it’s this kind of down to earth attitude that the whole restaurant now centres on.
We were greeted by Arron as the warm and amiable front of house on the day, one of Keelan’s four brothers, judging by the fact they have all ventured into the restaurant game and are handsome lads we couldn’t help but liken them to an Irish version of The Baldwin brothers. The focus here is now to make the restaurant somewhere that is not intimidating and a place you could afford to go to every week. The menu is short but varied and is evolving as the weeks go on and the restaurant expands the opening hours.
Two courses for €22 or three for €28 sounded good value for lunch so we decided on the Sweetcorn Soup, which may sound a bit bland but was expertly presented with a quenelle of crab and basil, tiny chunks of corn placed on either side and then the creamy corn soup was poured slowly around the bowl. We were fortunate to be treated to a couple of the small snacks on the menu courtesy of Connor and Keelan; homemade bread with the most superb smoked sea trout and dill butter, two fresh oysters, which arrived into the restaurant the same time as we did, simply done with shallots and a red wine vinegar. The Beef Beignets will be one of those signature little bites to Locks and are a must try when visiting, and showcase the versatility of the guy’s skills by utilising every cut. Our second main came in the form of a Chargrilled Squash dressed with mustard leaves, sheep’s cheese so ripe it may have just shimmied off the plate, all topped with a perfectly poached egg.
The two mains we chose arrive delicately plated and each component is briefly explained. Skate or better known to most as ray was filleted and seared to perfection with small earthy and agreeable Jerusalem artichokes scattered throughout, arty looking pickled caper berries peeking through and a generous helping of smoked mussels through the beurre blanc sauce which we loved.
Up next was a heartier dish of slow cooked Short Rib of Beef; here the hero was the potato and parmesan gnocchi, once again a triumphant dish with a silky celeriac purée and spring onion. Locks have spent some time on the wine list, which is fresh and exciting, with lots of impressive Portuguese wines heavily featured, we opted for a fine glass of crisp Provo Regia Arinto 2013, lots of tropical fruit and zest, an ideal companion for the mussels in the skate.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to sample the dessert menu which features the likes of peaches & cream and plum cake but the lads gave us a taste of some of their “sweets”, no petit fours mentioned here, just an insanely good burnt banana marshmallows and macaroons, a great reflection of the whole restaurant, unassuming on appearance yet bursting with flavour.
Before we left we had a peek upstairs which also houses an intimate private dining room, ideal for parties or family occasions, with romantic views from the light filled windows. Locks has been through many owners over the years but we believe this is the beginning of a new dawn for both O’Dowd and Higgs and for the area as a whole as this rebirth marks a welcome and much needed addition to the Dublin food scene. We hope this partnership unlocks a very bright future for a long time to come.
Our bill including one glass of wine and two bottles of Sparkling water came to €66.
This is an Original Taste we cannot recommend enough.
1 Windsor Terrace
T: (01) 416 3655