Restaurant review: d’Vine Restaurant, Co Louth

I KNOW what you’re thinking. You’re looking at the Tab details in the panel at the end of this review and wondering how in the name of Superman did three people get away with dinner and a bottle of wine for less than €50?

Restaurant review: d’Vine Restaurant, Co Louth

Well, let’s just say there was an incident with the shared dessert, and in a more than fair display of customer satisfaction, the owner made an executive decision to not only not charge us for the dessert but also to slice a percentage off the bill.

Because of this magnanimous show of decency, we’ll be coming back here.

Before we come back, however, we have to get here, so let’s start at the beginning: before it moved to its current location, d’Vine used to be tucked down a tiny alleyway in another part of Drogheda.

Back then (we’d guess about 10 years ago) it pitched itself as a wine bar with food, which was a new concept the provincial town took some time to get used to.

The change of location, however (as well as a gradual, incremental change in customer tastes, and the fact that the restaurant and its owners have taken on the assault course of the recession and survived) has proven their instincts correct.

Located in a basement premises at the back of the Drogheda Town Centre, close enough to the River Boyne that you can hear seagulls cawing away, there’s a welcoming feeling as soon as you walk in.

The floor space is deceptively large; to the left is an ante room that looks cosy enough, and to the right is more of the same, while straight ahead is a sit down/counter area where you can pass an hour with a glass or two of wine or a local craft beer.

The décor is a bit mismatched (appealing light fixtures shine on blackboards and wall frames housing generic images), and there’s a gas-effect stove that divides the room which is switched on because the late May day we are here is very wet and very cold.

We settle in quickly enough, though, and glance down through the broad range menu (which comes with a separate tapas menu selection).

The wine list is one of the more interesting we’ve seen recently — the owners take no small pride in sourcing wines from independently-owned vineyards, each of which can be read about in capsule biographies at the back of the wine list booklet.

Also, the restaurant is one of the very few we’ve been to in almost a year that utilises Le Verre de Vin technology (the industry standard for keeping wine fresh, thereby allowing far more choice for those who not only prefer wine by the glass but also those who like to experiment without paying full whack).

Food is duly selected — one course from the A la Carte (linguini with prawns), and several from the tapas menu: patatas bravas, pork belly, deep-fried goat’s cheese, cured meats, piri prawns, and chicken with kidney and black pudding. We choose a bottle of Bidoli Merlot (Vegan-friendly), sit back, chat and wait for the food to arrive.

You know the drill by now about tapas — the food is made for sharing, and so while there’s a certain look of envy on the face of the linguini owner, the undignified tapas pair dig in until there’s very little left.

The food, linguini included, is terrific — cooked just right (although a chilli with the piri prawns gets me right in the frontal lobe, causing me to sweat more than a Sumo wrestler in a sauna). The tapas dishes, also, are surprisingly substantial.

Aside from the food, there are other highlights. There is an upstairs open area that would be perfect for al fresco dining in good weather (hah!), and the toilets (male and female) are spotless.

The music is a healthy mix of funk, jazz and soul, although for some odd reason it later morphs into generic rock, which leads one to suggest that the owners need to focus more on this most crucial aspect of a small bistro-type establishment.

Desserts? We choose one to share from a pretty heart-shaped blackboard; it is, however, far too small and so the chalk writing is smudged and difficult to read. Which is, I think, where we came in.

All told, d’Vine (it’s far too much of a cliché to describe it thus) is a very cosy and hearty place to head to if you’re a native, a tourist, or just looking for somewhere to break your journey.

That said, careful with those chilli peppers on, or beside, the piri prawns — they’re dangerous!

d’Vine Restaurant, Distillery House, Dyer Street, Drogheda, Co Louth; tel: 041-9800440 / no website

THE TAB

Dinner for three, with wine, came to €48.68, €10 tip.

HOW TO

Wed-Sat, 12 noon-late; Sun, 1pm-10pm (closed Wed/Thurs, 3pm-5pm)

The verdict

Food: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Ambience: 7/10

Drink: 7/10

Value: 9/10

In a sentence

A little gem of a casual dining restaurant in a provincial town well worth searching out.

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