girl eats dublin

Enthusiastically eating my way around Dublin and beyond.

Foodgame, South Lotts Road.

foodgame sign 1

There’s a happy triangle of culinary goodness to be found in this little corner of Dublin 4, at the junction of Bath Avenue, Shelbourne Road, and Grand Canal Street.

Not so long ago, your options were limited to a choice of two chippers, or a feed of pints in Slattery’s pub. Then Junior’s arrived on the scene, which seems to be out the door every day and night of the week. Now we have Paulie’s Pizza, the Chop House, and Farmer Brown’s, all feeding the well-heeled locals and the Google Ghetto-dwellers, as well as The Bath Pub giving Slatt’s a run for its money on the pub front (they’ll also serve you a pizza during the week or brunch at the weekend).

But it’s the smallest spot that has stolen my heart, and become my new local, since I moved to the area a few months ago. Foodgame is a tiny cafe on South Lotts Road that’s busy every weekend (and I hear they do a savage lunch during the week), but still feels like a well-kept secret to everyone except the loyal locals who frequent it. It started life a few years ago as part-foodstore, part cafe, but over time has morphed fully into a cafe/restaurant. I got addicted to the coffee first, when all of my weekend jogs or walks gradually started to end up there. Then I came back for the grub… and now I keep going back.

Last Saturday morning, I’d sat down at a table just inside the door, papers in front of me as I waited for my coffee to arrive, when a little girl toddled in with her Dad. She looked around, big smile on her face, and clapped her hands. I knew just how she felt.

Foodgame is somewhere that I’m perfectly happy to go on my own – in fact I kind of prefer to. The communal seating and counter areas in this small space lend themselves to spreading out the papers while you get stuck into your coffee and breakfast.

photo credit - Foodgame

photo credit – Foodgame

I love the simplicity of the menu, which is the same few dishes written on a blackboard and rustled up in the tiny kitchen area. Bacon and eggs, mushrooms on toast, scrambled eggs on toast, omelettes, their homemade granola. Most things come served on their freshly baked brown bread, or toast if you prefer. There aren’t any fancy brunch dishes or “healthy options” on the weekend menu, but I like to think that these beautiful piles of the yellowest eggs and perfectly grilled rashers are clearly made with only the finest of produce, so they can only be good for you. Like my logic? You’re welcome.

Although one exception to this rule may be their totally legendary mushrooms – this pile of buttery garlicky goodness on toast (or as a side with your eggs, if you ask nicely) is worth every single one of the bazillion calories it undoubtedly contains.

I love the staff, who are always friendly, never over-familiar, and intuitively sympathetic to hangovers (not that I ever have one). Annoyingly, none of them look like they eat their own buttery mushrooms – maybe my “good for you” logic is actually true.

I love the small selection of baked things on the counter (my sister & I fought over every last crumb of an orange & polenta cake on a recent visit), the scribbled design of the coffee cups, the clever blackboards outside (usually offering free coffee to whatever poor unfortunate has been in the news that week), and the two tiny tables outside that get the sun in the mornings.

foodgame sign 2

I love it so much, that I’m afraid that by writing about Foodgame I won’t get my favourite seat at the weekend any more (assuming people other than my mother are reading this blog). But I’m risking it, because I reckon they deserve it. You need that coffee, and those mushrooms on toast, in your life.

Foodgame, 10 South Lotts Road, Ringsend, Dublin 4.

Visit their website or their excellent Facebook page for more info and pretty pictures.

Salt Lick, Ranelagh.

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I know, I know, it’s been ages since I last posted, and I fear that my finger has slipped well and truly off the pulse. I know this, because it wasn’t me who found out about hot new pop-up restaurant, Salt Lick, even though it’s been on the go for a while and reviewed by much more active food bloggers than me. It took an invitation from my clearly much more clued-in friend Liza for me to go and try out this Friday & Saturday night-only eatery, which for 2 nights a week has been transforming the interior of Hobart’s cafe in the centre of Ranelagh. I loved the concept of a different theme every month – Liza had previously visited during “Taco month” and in June, it was “Tea and toast,” an intriguing theme which apparently involved “things on toast” washed down by Earl Grey martinis, if you don’t mind. But it was the winning combination of July being Japanese month, and the phrase “BYOC” that finally convinced me to pay Salt Lick a visit.

What’s BYOC, you ask? Well, in the absence of a booze licence, the clever chaps behind Salt Lick have gone one better on the recession-friendly BYO theme made popular by restaurants like Little Jerusalem and Musashi. Not content with showing off their creative cookery skills, they’ve also got a resident mixologist, so BYOC = Bring your own Cocktails. Oh yes. You bring the spirits, they make the cocktails and charge a small fee for the other ingredients. The cocktails also change with the monthly theme, and a quick check of Salt Lick’s Facebook page informed me that vodka was the spirit of choice for their Japanese-themed cocktails. Rocking up to a restaurant on a Friday night with a half-full bottle of vodka rooted out from the back of your drinks cupboard stashed in your handbag, only adds to the fun.

When I arrived at 8pm, on time for once, the place was almost full and already buzzing. Hobart’s has been re-fitted with booths for all but one of the tables, which lends itself well to it moonlighting as a restaurant on weekends, and Salt Lick have added their own branding to the windows and tables. While I waited for Liza and Nicola to arrive, I decided to get the ball rolling with a drink and guiltily dug out my vodka bottle, handed it to the waitress and ordered a Wasabi Martini (€4). It was a risky choice for me, as my opinion on wasabi is best expressed by the definition I once heard from a long-forgotten source of “having your sinuses violated by a Dyno-Rod.” But hey, for €4 I decided I could afford the risk. The other cocktail option was a Lychee & Grapefruit punch, which you can have in a jug for €12, or a half-carafe for €7, and the drinks menu (see photo at the top) helpfully explains just how many cocktails your chosen quantity of BYO vodka will run to. They’ll also mix you up a whiskey-based cocktail or a Moscow Mule, or you can bring wine or beer if the cocktails aren’t your thing.

If anything, the first one tasted a bit too sweet and with too little of wasabi, but on our second round we requested less sugar, and with a bit more bite they were so drinkable, we never got to try the punch at all.

Wasabi Martini. Not a Dyno-Rod in sight.

Wasabi Martini. Not a Dyno-Rod in sight.

The set menu is €25 for two courses, or €30 for three, and ordering offers no decision-making dilemmas, as there are only two options per course – vegetarian and non-veggie, with both being variations on the same.

We ordered one veggie starter option and two standard starters so that we’d get to sample everything. The Vegetarian Starter Plate consisted of garlic & soy grilled aubergine, tempura courgette & pickled mushroom, and the “Izakaya plate” of Tempura chicken, pickled mushrooms & crispy silken tofu, came with with a smoked garlic & wasabi dipping sauce.

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Izakaya Plate: Tempura Chicken, pickled mushrooms, crispy silken tofu (bottom right).

The presentation was superb, although the food was a little hard to see in the dark surroundings (atmosphere, yeah?) and the tempura batter was crisp perfection. It was actually the veggie starter that won over for me – the courgette tempura and grilled aubergine on the vegetarian plate were amazing. There was something about the tempura chicken that was a little too “chicken nugget” for me, but the silken tofu was melt-in-the-mouth and the pickled mushrooms that featured on both starter dishes could single-handedly earn fungus a place on any Michelin-star menu.

Ramen was the order of the day for our main courses, and we all went for the pork ramen, which came with a giant side order each of “Karashi fries.” I have no idea what Karashi is, but I will guess it’s the Japanese for “Crispy, delicious and OMG someone please take them away from me before I eat them all.”

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Pork Ramen with kimchi and Karashi fries.

The huge bowls of ramen contained generous portions of shredded pork shoulder, a perfectly poached egg, nori seaweed, fish cake, and spring onion. Oh, and lots of noodles, although I barely had room for noodles by the time I’d slurped up all of the other ingredients. None of us managed to empty our bowls. Funnily enough, we had no similar problem emptying the wasabi martini glasses…

We ordered one dessert in the interest of sampling, a Lemon Posset with sake, served with homemade Peanut Brittle. It was a huge portion, plenty for all three of us to have a piece of brittle each, which we dipped into the very runny posset. Almost completely liquid in texture, we guessed this was possibly due to the sake causing it not to set fully. But sweet, delicious, and probably totally unnecessary it was in any case.

The place was full all night, with great tunes played throughout and no pressure from the very friendly staff to move along so that they could squeeze in more sittings. Sure, where would you want to be going on a rainy Friday night, when you can drink €4 cocktails and chair-dance to Hall & Oates at your table?

Once we’d finished our drinks and decided on where the next stage of our Friday night would take us, we asked for the bill and got a bit of a shock when it arrived. Yes, it’s technically cheap and cheerful at €30 a head for amazingly creative food and BYO, but a word of warning – if you insist on ordering thirteen wasabi martinis, this *may* bump up your bill ever so slightly.

salt lick bill

Oops.

Although, given those thirteen martinis had been stretched out of one half-litre of vodka, we reckoned we’d done pretty well.

So, get your skates on if you fancy Turning Japanese before the menu changes again – only two weekends left in July.

*Correction: since publishing this post, the guys at Salt Lick have contacted me to say that Japanese month has unfortunately ended its run, but they’ll be open for business with a brand new menu from next weekend. Theme to be revealed this week!*

Salt Lick don’t have a website, but they have a pretty slick Tumblr and a Facebook page, and you can call (085) 102 7273 to book a table. I can’t wait to see what these guys come up with for August.

Salt Lick (in Hobart’s), Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Super Miss Sue, Drury Street.

Super Miss Sue

You could argue, that Super Miss Sue actually isn’t even open yet. With the main event, the “Restaurant and Gin Bar” yet to open its doors, what you’ll experience on visiting currently is their downstairs cafe, complete with fish counter, and walk-in chipper at the back, which they’ve named Cervi (open til 3am Fridays and Saturdays, night owls).

However, given the buzz about SMS since its “soft launch” a few months ago, John Farrell and co. could almost decide not to bother progressing with that undoubtedly expensive upstairs fit out, and just keep turning over those tables and bags of fish & chips downstairs. Having tried and failed once or twice to try the place out since it opened, I was quite surprised when I called up to see if I could book a table for dinner for our most recent Bank Holiday weekend and was greeted with a sunny “Sure, how many people and what time would you like?” Excellent.

You can currently book for five people or more, and smaller groups are walk-in only. Dare I say that if you were four, you could book for five and be sure you were going to get a table. You could always order an extra bottle of wine to assuage your guilty conscience. But you didn’t hear that from me…

The impressive exterior, with its big black metal windows and neon “SMS” signage, has made its mark on a previously dead corner of Drury Street and Stephen’s Street already, offering a brand new opportunity for a bit of people-watching in Dublin city centre. From the slick exterior, I was surprised at the simplicity of the interior when we pushed the door open on that busy Sunday night. “Very New York,” was one of the girls’ comment, and indeed there is a real similarity of look and feel to its sister restaurants, 777, Dillingers and the Butcher Grill, all of which have seemed NYC-inspired.

But, that’s where the similarity ends, as once again, here is a very different and new food offering. Super Miss Sue is all about the seafood. As someone who usually gravitates to the fish choices on any restaurant menu, to be faced with an entirely seafood-based menu is a very exciting thing indeed.

We didn’t have the fresh or grilled seafood platters, but the sight of these being delivered to other tables created some great restaurant theatre and visually drove home Super Miss Sue’s seafood credentials. But in fact, the most genius thing we tasted, wasn’t seafood-based at all.

A snack of four slices of toasted, fresh sourdough with ricotta, honey and jalapeno (these ingredients spread over the toasted bread), served in a wooden bowl, of the type my Mum used to serve peanuts in at drinks parties in the 80s, was a mind-blowingly simple and tasty starter.

We immediately started pooling ideas on how we could re-create it at home. Just writing about it makes me want to rush back in and devour a portion all to myself with some grilled prawns and a glass of icy-cold white wine.

It even threw my hotly anticipated “Bloody Mary seafood cocktail” into the shade. However, that is also a cracker of a starter. Served in a traditional prawn cocktail dish, you get a pile of prawns, mussels and squid, along with some lettuce and avocado, served drowned in Bloody Mary instead of the usual Marie-Rose sauce. A little messy to eat, and a lot pricey at €14, but a very cool twist on a classic starter.

The other starter that was praised at our table was the Tuna Sashimi – very simply presented as three generous slabs of rare tuna in a soy-type dressing, oddly named “modern dressing” on the menu. Having already raided the sourdough starter, I decided against raiding the girls’ plates again even in the interest of research, so I’ll give you their word for it, and that word was “amazing.”

We had a bit of a wait for our main courses as the restaurant began to get busier. Not a wait of Coppinger Row proportions, but enough to mean we were very eager to get stuck in by the time the dishes arrived to the table.

The presentation of all our main courses was simple – almost a little underwhelming. The Blackened Swordfish Burger with pineapple relish presented itself as a small-ish floury burger bun isolated in the middle of a plain white plate (nice touch to have the SMS logo on the crockery though), not visually living up to the anticipation built by the colourful descriptions on the menu. Similarly, my “sea bream stuffed with samphire, lemon, garlic and capers” initially looked to be a very small piece of fish with no visible stuffing or any other bells and whistles. But in both cases, we got stuck in and quickly got over this initial perception, when the taste took over. My bream was incredibly fresh, the lemon and garlic flavouring perfectly balanced and adding just the right amount of buttery goodness to the fish and the bundle of samphire that was hidden within.

Intersting side orders are also a focus here. The cynical side of me knows that it’s an easy way to add a few extra fivers onto a bill, but it also offers a great way to sample more of what the kitchen has to offer and add interest to more simple dishes. The sides at Super Miss Sue are definitely in the latter camp. I could have eaten two bowls of the braised kale, and the “Cervi fries” turned out to be proper “chipper chips…” the talk of the table.

At the moment, it’s a wine-only drinks offering until the “Gin Bar” opens upstairs. Two bottles of Ca’ D’Alta Pinot Grigio (€29) went really well with the variety of dishes we had, and our bill for four people came to €190 before tip. Perhaps unnecessarily, we were tempted to order something sweet at the end, so this included one nice-but-not-amazing lemon tart that we shared, our chosen salted caramel dessert being sold out by the time we got that far.

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The only bum note for us (pun totally intended) was the bathroom. Only one unisex toilet for the whole place, where funky decor should not be a trade-off for hygiene. But you’d hope that a bigger space upstairs, when it opens, will mean more facilities (for both sexes, please).

So bring on the fancy upstairs opening, and let us try some more great seafood from sexy Super Miss Sue – I think she’s here to stay.

Super Miss Sue, Drury Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: +353 1 679 9009.

Visit their website or more news & deals/announcements are posted on their Facebook page.

Coppinger Row, Dublin 2.

Coppinger Row, named after the little alleyway on which it sits between Clarendon Street and South William Street, has now been open for almost five years, and is a Dublin restaurant institution at this stage. This place was the hottest Friday or Saturday night ticket in town for at least two of those years, but like me, you may be relieved to find it now pleasantly hip, rather than achingly hipster.

Even though it’s still always somewhere I recommend to people when I’m asked for suggestions for a casual city centre dinner with a bit of buzz, I hadn’t eaten at Coppinger Row for at least a year myself until I visited twice in the last two weeks – first for a Saturday lunch with two girlfriends, and then for a group dinner with some work colleagues on a Thursday night. I was curious to see if the food, and overall offering, had stood the test of time.

Coppinger Row

The day we visited for lunch, we made a simple order of one vegetarian mezze plate, one plate of Garlic & Chili Prawns a la Plancha, and one grilled sirloin steak with rocket and parmesan. Coppinger Row’s menus still make for appetising reading, self-proclaimed “Mediterranean” dishes proudly declaring their Irish provenance, with plenty of Irish and artisan suppliers visible on both lunch and dinner menus. After we ordered, we got stuck into catching up on the gossip, and given the time of year, the chat soon turned to our January diet and fitness regimes. I blamed the fact that I was suddenly starving on all the talk of diets, until I realised that the real reason was that we’d been waiting almost an hour for our lunch. Now, during this time we’d had our water topped up a number of times, and been moved to a window table by our friendly waitress…but really, I’d just prefer my food on time.

Once it eventually arrived, we enjoyed our lunch – the large portion of garlic & chili prawns (€11) was delicious, the vegetarian mezze board (€10) was colourful with top quality ingredients and my sirloin steak, served with a leafy rocket & parmesan salad, was juicy and perfectly charred from the grill. At €19.50 for the steak, it was a pretty pricy option for lunch, but I was treating myself as a reward for taking the carb-free, and also alcohol-free option…tough going as I watched the girls sipping on their chilled white wine. We did find it a bit strange that no side dish was provided with the garlic & chili prawns – where were the shells supposed to go? To solve this problem, we then had to ask twice before receiving a bowl. Really, with all the lovely, oily messiness that’s involved in shelling your own plate of Gambas a la Plancha, it should come with a finger bowl of hot water too.

Then, a week or so later, a group of eight of us were booked in for a work dinner after a day of meetings. After a swift drink in Grogan’s across the road, we were greeted by this appetising menu displayed outside, which definitely got us in the mood for a fine feed:

Coppinger menu

The brilliant cocktail menu is one of the main draws of Coppinger Row, and we ordered a round which included a perfect Cosmopolitan, a “Frisky Tart” (amaretto, pear liqueur, rhubarb bitters, lemon juice & sugar syrup, in case you’re wondering) and a couple of Hendricks-based “Cucumberlands” which I eyed jealously as I sipped an (admittedly pretty tasty) alcohol-free cocktail, cursing Dry January and the horse she rode in on.

Choosing a starter and main course was a tough decision, with no less than five delicious-sounding specials on offer, as well as the other options on the dinner menu. As I’d only recently sampled the Garlic & Chili Prawns a la Plancha, and their steak, I opted for Venison Carpaccio with artichoke puree and the interesting addition of “game crisps” to start, and their fish special, Hake with Mussels, Chorizo & Sugar Snaps, which ticked a good few boxes for me.

Coppinger starter

Venison carpaccio.

The venison carpaccio was superb and was just one of a selection of excellent starters, with no less than three of the others enjoying the goat’s cheese starter which came with roasted beetroot and brioche & pine nut croutons, and the garlic & chili prawns we’d enjoyed at lunch the previous week also making a reappearance. Unfortunately, the enjoyment of our starters began to wear off as we sat awkwardly looking at our empty plates and cocktail glasses for a good 15-20 minutes before anyone thought to come and clear our table. Once the plates and glasses were at last removed, we then began the long wait for our main courses. Thankfully, there was no shortage of chat and laughs to keep us going, but not once did either of the two waiting staff on duty come near our table to apologise for the wait, or to let us know when the main courses might be expected to come out. Hilariously, just as we thought our dinners were about to arrive, we were approached by the waitress to politely enquire “Would you like to see the dessert menu?”

Cue stunned silence from the table as we all fought the urge to reply “Eh no, we’d just like our bloody dinner please.” Really this was the theme of our evening overall – delicious, well-presented food let down by a comedy of errors when it came to the service.

We’d been told that the restaurant would need our 7pm table back by 9, but it was tipping 9 o’clock by the time our mains even arrived. Even though our friendly waiter had made a big production of taking our orders when we arrived – insisting on starting at a specific point on the table and going around from there – this bore absolutely no relevance to how the main courses were served to us when they eventually made it to the table. We were so relieved just to be getting our dinner at that stage, that we tried not to get too annoyed at having to answer “me” every time the waiter or waitress proffered a dish and announced “Steak?”/”Hake?”/”Venison” etc., with the plates plonked in front of us once we’d claimed them.

Going back to the food again, our main courses were mostly great, and when I polled the table, the Venison special (€25) and the Rib-eye steak with roasted bone-marrow (€27.50) were the particular highlights. I was a little disappointed with my hake, as although it wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the menu, the hake, mussels and chorizo were served in a tomato broth which contained a lot of potato along with the advertised sugar snaps. I hadn’t wanted potato, and it was almost impossible to remove it so I ended up eating the fish and picking the chorizo and sugar snaps out of the rest. Turns out, the absence of a side plate seems to be a ‘thing’ at Coppinger Row, as I was left without anywhere to discard my mussel shells, while beside me one of my colleagues struggled with the same prawn-shell dilemma we’d had on the previous visit. As the waiting staff were so thin on the ground, we didn’t bother making another request and instead improvised with one of the dishes from our side orders which was empty by that stage.

Funnily enough, we weren’t asked for our table back – I think they may have sensed our frustration, and we finished up our dinner, wine and enjoyed some delicious sorbet, teas and coffees without further incident. But for the price we paid, with starters averaging €10-€15, cocktails €12.50, mains in the high €20s and a few decent bottles of wine, the slow, shoddy service was unacceptable.

I still love you, Coppinger Row, but please pull your socks up, because food of this standard, especially at these prices, deserves better service.

Coppinger Row, off South William St., Dublin 2.

Tel: +353 1 672 9884 or visit their website.

The Brasserie @ The Marker Hotel.

The Marker opened just in time for our Summer 2013 heatwave, which for a few weeks, transformed Grand Canal Dock into the Riviera. Now, it was a particularly Dublin type of Riviera, with young wans in Penneys bikinis sunbathing on the dock while young fellas took running jumps into the ever so slightly polluted waters below. But still, it was Scorchio, and we were happy.

In those heady few weeks where the country threw caution to the wind and went for al fresco after work drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes even lunchtime, the shiny icon of this heatwave was the new Marker Hotel’s rooftop bar. I’m one of those so-called “Dublin’s Silicon Docks” workers, so I joined my colleagues on several occasions to beat an after-work path down to The Marker, where we grabbed coveted rooftop seats and sipped €13.50 cocktails until the sun went in and we remembered there was a recession on.

So I knew the cocktails were good, but it wasn’t until December and the occasion of our annual “Lovely Ladies Liquid Lunch – Christmas Edition” that I got the chance to sample the food at The Marker for the first time.

Originally aiming for lunch, the lovely Jill, bravely co-ordinating the diaries of ten busy women and finding a suitable venue, was told by The Marker that they didn’t do lunch during December, so we decided on an early dinner instead and booked a 5pm table.

There’s no separate restaurant as such, with the bar, reception area and Brasserie all running along the front of the hotel. You eat behind the glass windows that make up the outer wall, looking onto (at best) Grand Canal Square and the water beyond, or (at worst) straight into the side of the Grand Canal – sorry, Bord Gais Energy – theatre. It’s an ultra-modern, airy space, living up to The Marker’s “design hotel” credentials, and having seen it in daytime, I wondered if it would feel a bit cold and empty to eat there in the evening. But it was busy on the night we visited, with low lighting and the buzz of chatter warming up the space. Our long table was perfectly positioned in the middle of the room for us to be able to chat, laugh, exchange Christmas gifts and move around without being “that annoying table.”

Marker restaurant

The Brasserie at The Marker. Photo: Open House Dublin.

Given the early hour of the evening, we ordered from the pre-theatre menu, which reading it today looks largely unchanged from when we visited before Christmas – this is no bad thing. At €25 for two courses or €29 for three, this menu grabbed my attention straight away and had us all feeling excited about what was to come.

Although I was tempted by all of the starters, I went for the beetroot-cured Clare Island salmon, with horseradish cream, brown bread crumble and lemon puree. The salmon, when it arrived, was cured like sashimi, and had taken on the bright pink colour of the beetroot. It looked stunning on the plate, and combined with tiny tastes of horseradish and lemon, scattered with crunchy caramelised brown bread “crumble,” it had me declaring it was “one of the best things I’ve ever eaten” after just a few forkfuls. Really that good.

Off to a great start then, and our main courses did not disappoint. My pan-roasted sea trout, sitting in a light mussel chowder and topped with a crisp onion bhaji, had me raving about it all over again. Other main courses sampled “in the interests of research” were a delicious rump of roast lamb, and the roast Monaghan chicken breast in a puy lentil stew with Serrano crisps. All were excellent and meant we were a very happy table of ladies before we’d even clapped eyes on the dessert menu.

Pan-roasted sea trout, mussel chowder, onion bhaji.

Pan-roasted sea trout, mussel chowder, onion bhaji.

Full of good cheer/a few bottles of Picpoul de Pinet, we decided “Sure it’s Christmas!” and instigated a no-sharing rule on the dessert front. I had a very good creme brulee, warm and crunchy in a shallow dish and topped with mulled pears and raspberries. However, my enjoyment of this lovely dessert was tainted by the food envy created by Miriam’s chocolate mousse with cinnamon doughnuts, which was distracting me from across the table.

This was the star dessert for any chocolate lover – a generous blob of dense, slightly bitter chocolate mousse perfectly offset by the sugary cinnamon doughnuts, and even better when accompanied by an espresso. It was the kind of dessert you’d come back for.

The only downside of the evening for me was the service, which I’d heard a few grumbles about prior to visiting. Now, it was totally quick and professional, but also totally lacking in warmth and there was very little engagement from our waitress in terms of food or wine recommendations. In their favour, they didn’t rush us from our table which can often be the kicker about early bird or pre-theatre dinners, as the restaurant had emptied out a lot by the time we finished up.

So, even if the musical fare on offer at the Grand Canal Theatre doesn’t float your boat, don’t let that stop you trying out this “pre-theatre” grub, which is great value for the standard of food on offer. It’s a new part of town for most people, so it’s a good option if you feel like a change of scene for your evening out, and you can hop in a taxi into town afterwards or go for a glass of wine next door in Ely HQ.

I also like the sound of The Marker’s “Le Drunch” at the weekend, which sounds like the makings of a fun afternoon, despite its slightly pretentious name. One for after the January detox, perhaps.

The Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2.

Phone: +353 (1) 687 5100 or visit their website.