Restaurant review: Pickle's, Dublin 2

In this centenary year, I’ve found myself thinking about British colonialism and whether there is anything good to be said about it. 
Restaurant review: Pickle's, Dublin 2

From Ireland’s perspective I think there isn’t, and I doubt many would praise their involvement in India, apart from the railways and a few nice buildings.

The only positive (from a supremely selfish point-of-view), is that England’s involvement in India ensured that thousands of citizens of the sub-continent settled in the UK and Ireland and, of course, they brought their amazing food.

My introduction to the food of India came at the age of 18, when I was given a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook which I cooked from cover to cover in my student flat in Dublin.

I was rather earnest in those days so I followed every instruction meticulously and this taught me patience in the kitchen and, in many ways, began my love affair with all food.

The subtleties of Madhur’s better recipes was rarely found in Indian restaurants in Dublin in those days and we had to wait until the opening of various Jaipur restaurants by Asheesh Diwan.

Sunil Ghai was the creative force behind Jaipur and later the excellent Ananda in Dundrum, and he has finally struck out on his own with Pickle and taken along his old front-of-house colleague Benny Jacob.

These guys are old pros so there has been much excitement in the food world about Pickle and I was not surprised to spot staff from two other restaurants on the night I visited.

My guest also works in the restaurant trade and this was her fourth visit — Pickle had only been open for eight days!

The décor is fairly functional but attractive and comfortable and the menu is similarly a straightforward one-pager that includes small plates, curries, tandoor dishes, vegetables, and condiments.

The wine list is also short but reasonably well chosen and our bottle of Leopard’s Leap Chenin Blanc from South Africa worked very well, with some initial sweetness to soften the spices balanced by crisp fresh acidity to cut through the richer dishes.

The first dish to arrive was tawa machhi — a firm piece of sea-bass coated in semolina and crisp-fried, but made quite magical with sweet crab, pickled carrots, and cauliflower chunks, with a fun touch of some fried potatoes which resembled mini-chips, if anyone remembers their 1980s snacks.

Snack foods made more than one appearance, and our poppadoms came with what could only be described as North Indian versions of Chip-Sticks, Hunky Dorys, and rice crackers — a playfulness that was present throughout the meal.

Chicken wings were stripped down like a lollipop and coated with crunchy roasted tomato and garlic but the best part (and a highlight of the meal for me) was the divine Kashmiri chilli dip.

A simple enough blend of chilli, tomato, coconut, and yoghurt had hidden depths of flavour and incredible subtlety — I’d bathe in it.

The lamb in the lamb and bone marrow curry is cooked for at least 18 hours and was understated but complex and the black cardamom-flavoured goat mince curry also had a pleasing texture and aromatic background heat.

The goat mince was served with fluffy pao bread — a cross between a brioche and a milk pan.

Of the two pulses we ordered, the kali dal was the crowd pleaser and the only dish that contained butter and cream.

Chana masala cost just €5 but serve as a good example of the care taken in Pickle — the chickpeas are-slow cooked with Indian gooseberries, which darkens them and adds a complex sour character which is leavened with 15 spices.

The rich sour-sweet flavours were a good contrast to the dal, curries, and breads

The best of our desserts was a rose-water flavoured kulfi given some saffron vermicelli and chia and basil seeds to add playful textures and unusual flavours.

This is confident complex cooking but it is also comforting and familiar as mixed in with the unusual are some close renderings of dishes the chef’s mother cooked or street food favourites from New Delhi.

Pickle is already a smash hit despite being open just a few weeks and with staff barely trained — “this is only 20% of what we want to do”, Sunil told us. You might want to consider booking now for summertime.

The Tab

Dinner for two with four shared small plates, three larger dishes, two desserts, bread, dal, and condiments plus a bottle of wine: €128.50

How To

Monday-Friday: 12pm-2.45pm, 5pm-10.30pm. Saturday: 5pm-10.30pm. Sunday: 3pm-10pm

The Verdict

Food: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Ambience: 7/10

Value: 8/10

In a Sentence:  A modern Indian restaurant with creative and imaginative but unshowy cooking from a master chef at the top of his game.

Pickle, 43 Lower Camden St, Dublin 2, Tel: 01 5557755

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