girl eats dublin

Enthusiastically eating my way around Dublin and beyond.

Category: My local spots

Las Tapas de Lola, Wexford Street.

I’ve had a lazy couple of weeks on the blogging front. Lots of eating out, but a lack of time to write about it has led to a mounting list of half-written posts in draft, and a gnawing sense of guilt every time I pick up a fork instead of a pen or my laptop.

I was finally spurred into action by Jay Rayner’s fantastic “20 Best Restaurants” piece in the Observer Food Monthly last weekend. Hovering in indecision/sloth as I was over which recent dining outings to review – should it be Oliveto in Dun Laoghaire; brunch at the Vintage Cocktail Club; or a very special meal at the Butcher’s Block table at Maze by Gordon Ramsay (it’s in London, so not strictly in Girl Eats Dublin’s remit, but I knew you’d forgive me), reading Jay’s brilliant feature helped me decide and just get it done already.

While I can only aspire to someday pen such a gem as “A well written menu should be a come on, a shameless flash of thigh,” I did take inspiration from Mr. Rayner’s “simple test” for inclusion in his Top 20, which was “did writing about the restaurant make me hungry?” So when I thought about the places I’ve tried over the past couple of weeks, there was one set of notes I’d been jotting that were making me consistently peckish and already impatient to return, and those were from my visit last Thursday to new Wexford Street tapas joint, Las Tapas de Lola.

jamon

Jamon, jamon! Image courtesy of Las Tapas de Lola.

When we ate here last Thursday evening, I didn’t realise it was only their second night open, so it’s probably the newest place I’ve reviewed so far. Usually I think it’s the decent thing to hold off reviewing new restaurants until they’ve had a chance to find their feet food and service-wise.

But our experience at Las Tapas de Lola was so good that I reckon they can take it, and I also reckon you need to hear about it.

Having passed by earlier that week and noticed a new restaurant on the site of what had previously been “Morrissey and Daughters” butchers (opposite Solas and right next to Against the Grain, if you know your Wexford St. pubs), the lovely tiled Spanish signage, outdoor seating and the prospect of somewhere new offering (hopefully) decent tapas in Dublin had appealed to me instantly. I’d also seen the above mouth-watering photo of ‘Jamon’ being shared by a friend on Facebook… so Spanish ham was on my mind.

Thankfully, my partner in crime for the evening was also willing to try some tapas, so we stuck our heads into Las Tapas de Lola in the hope of snagging a table. As the roomy, dark green-tiled interior was already full (a good sign!), we took advantage of the first remotely balmy evening this chilly April had seen and sat on the “terrace”, a reclaimed square of Wexford Street footpath which has been attractively fenced off, heated and filled with greenery, cushioned benches and wooden tables.

We didn’t get too ambitious with our choice of tapas – I was curious to see if Las Tapas de Lola could deliver on the basics before trying anything more adventurous, so we chose Albondigas (meatballs), Calamares a la Andaluza (fried squid rings with aioli), Lentejas (Lentils, chorizo, Spanish black pudding and bacon), some bread and olives. The small basket of bread that arrived was enough to tempt a seasoned bread-avoider like myself into “just a taste.” OK, OK, we had two baskets of the stuff. It was fresh, crusty and delicious, perfect for mopping up the remnants of the little taster dish of “Lentejas” we received, compliments of the house.

Images credit: Las Tapas de Lola on Facebook.

Images credit: Las Tapas de Lola on Facebook.

This perfectly whetted our appetite for the tapas, which arrived quickly and with a minimum of fuss, on suitably small plates (Pet Peeve: giant “Irish Tapas” portions, Market Bar take note) served by the friendly Irish and Spanish staff.

My favourite dish was the calamari, thinly sliced squid rings with just the right level of crisp coating and accompanied by an innocent-looking, but garlic-laden, portion of fresh aioli. The meatballs were proper Spanish pork meatballs – totally tasty and a far cry from the mini-beef burgers that regularly pose as “albondigas” on many Irish tapas menus. The tomato sauce that they were cooked in safely saw off the last of our bread basket. Two glasses of a really lovely Spanish white – a Sauvignon/Viura blend (Castilla Leon, Lanzos 2012) could have easily turned into two more, had we not had a gig we were already running late for over the road in Whelan’s.

The drinks menu also includes a selection of aperitivos (Sangria, anyone?), and a full range of Spanish beers, spirits, after-dinner drinks and coffees.

The bill for this pleasant hour or so’s dining came to a very reasonable €34.

It feels like there’s a good team behind Las Tapas de Lola. They’re set up for something great here and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a popular spot in this end of town. I’m looking forward to coming back to try some more of their tapas and drinks selection. Now here’s hoping we get the weather for Tinto de Veranos and Cafe Cortados on the terrace this summer!

Las Tapas de Lola, Wexford Street, Dublin 2.

Check out their Facebook page for lovely photos and updates.

Tel: +353 (1) 42 44 100

Advertisements

Mak at D6, Ranelagh.

One thing Ranelagh isn’t short of is restaurants. From stalwarts like Tribeca, eatery 120 and Mario’s, to newer favourites like the Butcher Grill, Cinnamon and la Bodega, and with Dillinger’s soon to re-open and add to the offering, locals are never short of options for eating out. But one thing that’s been proven with the number of successful new additions there over the past couple of years, is that there’s always appetite for more. Mak at D6 is located on the Triangle in Ranelagh, between Itsa and the Wine Buff, and I’d been very keen to try its “Dim Sum and authentic Chinese cuisine” offering since I first spotted it opening up a few months ago. Since then, I’ve heard good reports from some local friends who can be trusted about such things.

In fact, I’ve become very familiar with the exterior of Mak (I hope it’s OK to call it that, “Mak at D6” is a bit of a mouthful), as I pant past it towards the end of my jog a few times a week. But it was only last weekend that I finally got to familiarise myself with its interior, when Cousin Carol and I hit it up for dinner last Saturday night.

Makd63

It looks a bit canteen-like from outside but once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the low-lit, modern interior, with windows along one side looking out onto the Triangle, and the kitchen opening onto the other side. We’d booked our table online earlier in the week – while checking out their website I’d been curious to see if their online booking would work, as many restaurants’ websites don’t, but I got a prompt response by email to confirm my booking, and we were seated in a nice spot at the window as soon as we arrived.

After too many average takeaways over the years, I don’t really get excited about Chinese food, but I was excited about the prospect of some decent dim sum, specifically the little steamed dumplings that are my absolute favourite. I would have chosen solely from the huge selection on the dim sum menu, which is split into three sections, Steamed, Pan-Grilled, and Crispy, but as Cousin Carol was keen to have a Chinese main course we decided on dim sum to start, to be followed by dishes from the main course menu.

I straight away decided on the Prawn Har Gau, which I was excited to see quickly arrive in its little bamboo box, containing four translucent steamed dumplings filled with delicious, fat prawns and bamboo shoots. Easy to divide between two – although I would happily have eaten all four. I also definitely hoovered up more than my fair share of our second starter, the salt & pepper calamari. These were a small plate of lightly coated, salty, crispy squid rings which were absolutely divine, especially washed down with a glass of the suitably chilled Sauv Blanc our cheery Chinese waiter had recommended. We seriously considered ordering a second portion but restrained ourselves at the thought of our main courses.

For my main course, I’d chosen pan-fried sea bass (with ginger and coriander oil) over the more expensive black cod dish (a whole tenner in the difference!), and didn’t regret my decision when I was served two excellent fillets of sea bass, which I teamed with a yummy side order of broccoli with ginger and chili to help myself resist overdosing on the delicious bowls of steamed rice that also accompanied our main courses.

Carol was served Mak’s version of that Chinese classic, beef black bean style (€17), and declared it a world away from its gloopy takeaway cousins that have given the dish a bad name over the years. Both dishes came as generous, yet elegantly presented portions, which unfortunately I didn’t get any decent photos of due to the dim lighting (OK, OK, I was too busy chowing down to do much snapping).

Having heard a couple of grumbles about slow service here, I can only assume that this was either an early teething problem, or that Mak had also heard the grumbles and addressed them, as I can only say good things about the fast and very attentive service we received from our waiter, who when asked to help us choose between two wines, also recommended the slightly cheaper one rather than default to the more expensive recommendation. I liked this a lot. Every other table seemed to be enjoying a similarly speedy level of service based on the comings-and-goings we could see between the kitchen and the diners.

Having taken our table at 8.30pm, we finished up just after ten, and weren’t in any way rushed to leave even though the place had by then completely filled up with Saturday night revellers. Two starters, two mains and a decent bottle of wine came to under €90.

Mak are open for lunch every day, and from 5.30 every evening to 11pm on weekend nights. Yes, it’s Chinese at Ranelagh prices, but still represents decent value due to to the quality of the food, service and atmosphere. The next time I go back I’ll be eating just from the Dim Sum menu – the main attraction here as far as I’m concerned. Char sui pork bun, I am coming for you!

Mak at D6, The Triangle, Ranelagh. +353 1 406 0006.

Sip & Slurp, Charlemont Street.

Photo credit: Sip & Slurp on Twitter.

Sip & Slurp is a cute new cafe that’s bringing a home-cooked flair with a hint of cool to a bleak enough location, across from the flats on Charlemont Street (it’s around the corner from the Harcourt Street Luas stop, and within 5-10 minutes walk from both Ranelagh and Rathmines).

I popped in to check it out for a takeaway coffee, but ended up getting lured in by the display of 4 blackboards on the wall behind the counter, which offer a selection of fresh soups, sambos, salads and wraps – everything keenly priced at under a fiver.  I decided to eat in and try their Vietnamese chicken salad (€4.90) with a flat white (€2.30) to test out their coffee credentials, all in the name of research of course…

I took a seat at a bench and had a look around while I waited. It’s a high-ceilinged echo-y space which has clearly been fitted out on a budget, but has some nice design touches too – such as the bench seating, soup cauldrons with hand-written labels (the soups are a big focus here), and the cafe logo stencilled on the wall. I’d heard that the cafe has been started up by a few friends in their 20’s, which would explain the super-friendly attentive people behind the counter and checking in with customers on the floor. There was also a seriously tempting display of baked goodies including scones, caramel squares, banana chocolate cupcakes and home-made granola.

You can combine a soup and a sambo for between €6.90 and €7.50, which I spotted being delivered to tables on wooden boards. What is it about wooden boards replacing plates in Dublin restaurants these days? Anyway…again, a really well-priced, hearty lunch option compared to the coffee chains.

No doubt Sip & Slurp is hoping to benefit from the nearby Harcourt Street coffee and lunchtime office trade. A promotion earlier this week on Twitter offered all coffees for just €1 and was cleverly tweeted @ all the nearby offices and businesses (they’re @sipandslurp on Twitter, by the way).

My chicken salad was zingy, with plenty of chicken, coriander, peppers and chili, maybe lacking a definitively Vietnamese flavour which could be sorted with a few cashew nuts or nuoc cham dressing perhaps (I’d choose these extras over the 2 slices of bread which came on the side), but for €4.90 it was fresh, healthy and filling. My flat white was creamy perfection, clearly made with TLC by someone who knows their coffee. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered another to take out as I was leaving, ensuring an over-excited bounce in my step for the rest of the day.

Flat white & Vietnamese chicken salad.

So if you’re working or living in the area, pop in for a coffee or a sambo and give these guys your support. I’ll be strolling down some weekend soon to try the brunch menu, once that’s up and running.

Sip & Slurp, 67 Charlemont St., Dublin 2.

www.sipandslurp.com

Little Jerusalem, Rathmines

I thought it was only right that this should be my first review as it’s probably the restaurant I’ve eaten in most, and recommended most, in the last few months. One of its main attractions is that it’s five minutes from my house, and tucked down the lane beside my local, Slattery’s in Rathmines. The other is that it’s BYO – very popular in Dublin these days, and a very affordable option for a night out with friends. Oh how I love rocking up at Slatt’s, bottle of Ripasso in my handbag, to enjoy a G&T and the knowledge that we’ll soon be filling our bellies with Palestinian delights.

Little J is a tiny spot, but oh-so-cosy. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a corner of the Middle (or is that Far?) East rather than being spitting distance from the dubious delights of the Swan Centre. All down the left side is the counter where the fresh salads, dressings and bread are prepared – I think they serve their wicked strong coffee here during the day also. The rest of the long, narrow space is filled with small tables, chairs, cushions and an abundance of eastern paraphernalia (I love the ‘Palestine’ jewel boxes that the bill sometimes arrives in) for you to squeeze in between and soak up the atmosphere.

First thing to do is get the wine opened and get stuck into ordering some starters – a selection of their starters can be enough of a meal for a group, if you all want to try something different and not be tied to a main course. I’ve tried most of the dips at this stage – the hummus, baba ganoush, and foul mudammas are all super fresh and super tasty (albeit super salty – so get that BYO hydration down your neck) and are heavenly when mopped up with the fresh-baked flatbread that will be delivered to your table in abundance.

If you’re familiar with Lebanese, you’ll know the drill – Palestinian food is broadly similar and all the usual dishes are here, with some star main courses worthy of a mention.

The “M’Sakhan” and “Makloubet” chicken dishes are fantastic, the former being my favourite, slow-cooked chicken on the bone flavoured with sumac, red onion, lemon, garlic and nutmeg, and accompanied by pomegranate, salad and – you guessed it – freshly baked flatbread. For more simple tastes, the grilled chicken, lamb and/or kofta skewers are always so tasty straight from the grill. Most main courses are in the 10-14 euro price range. The only gripe I had on my last visit was when we ordered a couple of side dishes to go with our main courses, and received tiny portions of green salad and tabbouleh for the princely sum of 5.95 each, which is completely at odds with the pricing of the rest of their menu. So don’t order the side dishes!

Now that I’ve said all that, I’ll admit that weirdly enough, it’s not the food itself I’m such a big fan of. Obviously it’s tasty, sociable to eat and something a bit different, but it’s all a bit carb-y for me what with all the bread, pulses, fried things etc. and those who know me will be aware that Mr. Carbohydrate and I are best kept as occasional dining companions. But as an occasional treat, with such a great ambience, the advantage of being able to choose and bring my own wine and the fact that we can emerge in a blissful food-coma for not much more than 20 quid a head, Little Jerusalem wins my custom for all sorts of eating-out occasions.

It’s cheap enough for the most cost-conscious of companions (or the weekend before payday), romantic enough for a date, and loud enough to go with your girlfriends and several bottles of wine on a Friday night for a raucous evening’s gossiping.

So if you haven’t tried it, go soon – it’s worth the trip to Rathmines if you’re not a local. And if you are, and you haven’t been yet – what are you waiting for?

See you in Slatt’s.

Little Jerusalem, Wynnefield Lane, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Photo credits: ratemyarea.com and Slattery’s Dublin website.