We often get requests from tourists looking for “Irish” restaurants they can visit in Dublin. They’re looking for “Irish” food, although they’re somewhat uncertain as to what it is. Ham and cabbage? Smoked salmon? Irish stew?
Johnnie Fox’s, for some peculiar reason, has managed to convince tourists that it’s worth their cash. The Boxty House in Temple Bar – hands up any Irish person who has eaten here – lures them in by dint of its location.
I’d recommend The Winding Stair, located on Dublin’s Ormond Quay. Downstairs is a gorgeous little bookshop with two coffee tables at the window; upstairs is one of Dublin’s most revered restaurants. Recently, the writers at CheapEats – Jean, Julie, Rebecca and I – started the weekend early by heading here for a long, lazy, late lunch.
A lot of restaurants trump their use of “local and organic ingredients, where possible”. They tout simple food, cooked well. The Winding Stair steps up to the plate. We all opted for their three-course lunch menu, at €23.95 per person.
This place knows what Irish food is, and what it should become. Nothing disappointed. Julie opted for Lemon braised chicory with Crozier Blue cheese and clementine, cranberry and pine-nut salad, which was wonderfully presented and contained a fine balance of flavours. The rest of us went for Mourne Seafood mackerel paté on Dillisk (seaweed) bread with sour-cream and pickles. The hint of oiliness from the mackerel was well-met by the creaminess and peppery tang, while the bread brought it all down to earth. Oh, four of my favourite foods, all on one plate.
The selection of mains initially struck us as quite ordinary: beer battered hake with chips and coleslaw, venison pie and mash, and lamb burger. Actually, they proved that The Winding Stair does do simple food well. The pie was warm, comforting, wholesome, rich; the mash was creamy and dreamy and – this is important – still hot when it reached the table. The lamb was as succulent as it could be, with fresh toasty bread and perfectly cooked chips. The menu changes on a regular basis; I see the lamb burgers are off and have been replaced with turkey burger and nut loaf.
Desserts: wonderful. Pear and ginger cake, chocolate pudding, and bread and butter pudding ended all conversation.
Lovely professional service, nothing to see here. I suspect the price tag of around €50 for three courses at dinner is good value, but it’s out of my budget at the moment. The pre-theatre menu, with options to add a glass of house wine for a few euro extra, may be worth a punt.
Our total lunch bill, for four starters, four mains, four desserts, a bottle of wine, and three coffees came to €132.20 before tip. I know that it’s not the cheapest restaurant around but the lunch, at least, is excellent value. Having had only a banana and coffee for breakfast, none of us needed to eat again that day; we were not only stuffed but deeply satisfied. Big, fancy lunches tend to do this – if they’re worth their salt. And, of course, the long, lazy lunch, with a bottle of wine is the best way to spend an afternoon in Ireland. FACT.