The new restaurants keep on coming. Dublin has had some significant openings in recent months and more are due, but one in particular has made me very happy.
The first reason for happiness is that Circa in Terenure Village is just a few hundred metres from my house, but beyond that I am delighted that it is run by four young people who put up their own money and have paid proper attention to suppliers and all the elements that make a good restaurant — even down to the excellent (and relatively unobtrusive) hip-hop soundtrack.
There is a quiet confidence in these guys, all of whom have been in the restaurant trade for a while, and only a misanthrope would not want them to thrive.
We visited just a few days after they opened and began with a couple of creative ‘Spritz’ cocktails — one flavoured with yuzu, kaffir lime, and black cardamom-infused Lillet, and the other with strawberry, Aperol, and peppercorns — both were supremely refreshing and a generous size.
The wine list is solid and manageable with around 30 wines ranging in price from €26 to €53 including a smattering of naturals such as Testalonga El Bandito (a brave choice given its divisive nature).
The team member in charge of the list (Emmet Murphy) assured me there will be more wines added including sherry and hopefully Madeira — Murphy has connections with the Celtic Whiskey Shop so he has no excuse not to follow through or he might anger the locals (well this one anyway).
Our bottle of Plic Plic Plic from Montsant in Catalunya was fruity and fresh and fairly priced at €34.
Starters cost from €11 to €14 and mains from €21 to €28.
While some of the descriptions sound complex, in fact chef Gareth Naughton shows admirable restraint in his cooking, allowing his (very) well-sourced ingredients to speak for themselves.
Wild garlic is in season so it was rightly dotted around the menu, with leaves judiciously placed here and there and added to a number of sauces and emulsions.
One of Naughton’s signature dishes, I suspect, will be his buttermilk-marinated rabbit.
It’s lightly fried and served with a lettuce, pea, and lardon fricassé and a tarragon mayonnaise.
Now Open! Join us this weekend for dinner, small plates or a glass of vino at the bar! pic.twitter.com/F67TnpGP9V— Circa_Dublin (@CircaDublin) April 5, 2019
All the elements in the dish worked well with the greens and bacon rounding out the tender rabbit chunks.
Ardsallagh goat’s cheese was served with slices of raw squash and prunes marinated in sweet sherry — a simple and generously portioned dish that worked well.
‘Burnt Mackerel’ (charred is more accurate) was also very satisfying — lightly cooked and served with chunks of sweet Mooncoin beetroot from Kilkenny with extra salt and umami added in the form of crisp fried seaweed.
Pressed pork belly was also fine quality, meaty and rich tasting, with a beautifully textured crispy skin.
An apple purée added some sweetness and a celeriac purée added some depth while a large delicious pink fir apple potato from Ballymakenny farm was the perfect accompaniment.
We ordered more of these gorgeous potatoes as a side dish (€5) along with some crisp broccoli from the same farm.
Tender Wicklow lamb rump was served rare and allowed to work its own magic with some mousseline potato and asparagus and a light gravy — three elements in a dish that added up to so much more than its parts.
A lightly cooked piece of brill came with seaweed butter and dill flavours and a generous portion of smoked mussels.
At this point we were delighted with our meal and I was contemplating a relatively rare 9/10, and the rather triumphal desserts sealed it.
A kaffir lime parfait came with sheets of white chocolate and a wondrously intense passionfruit and mango mousse, my mouth zinged with flavour.
Just as brilliantly executed was a silky chocolate cremeaux which was topped with discs of nutty and densely flavoured peanut praline and a delicious salted banana ice cream.
This is some of the most generous and intelligent cooking in Dublin right now, generous portions of good ingredients, generously flavoured and judiciously conceived and plated.
Circa is brimming with creativity, youth, and energy, and if this is what they are doing after just five nights, their future is very bright.
Dinner for three with three Starters, three Mains, two Sides, two Desserts, two Cocktails and a bottle of wine cost
Wednesday to Saturday, 5pm-10pm; Sunday opening and Brunch coming soon.
Despite being just weeks old Circa is already a delight with confident, focused cooking and charming service from a young team in a good space — a neighbourhood restaurant with ambitions.