My father was a terrible shot. Or at least that is how I remember it. His double-barreled shotgun was always in pristine condition, oiled and cosseted in its velvet-lined box but his shooting trips were frequently fruitless. We would trudge through the fields of a friend’s farm looking for things to shoot (pheasants, rabbits) but apart from a crow he shot to hang as a scarecrow to protect my mother’s raspberries, we always returned empty handed.
He was however, an excellent driver, and would regularly bring home rabbits and pheasant for my mother to cook which he had hit with his car on his long journeys as a travelling salesman. I have vivid sensual memories of my mother’s rabbit stew and pheasant pie and some of those childhood aromas (and emotions) came to mind during my visit to The Legal Eagle beside the Four Courts.
There is no pheasant pie yet — the season starts on November 1 — I’m optimistic), but there is a ‘wild rabbit, bacon and cider pie’ and ‘beef suet pudding with crushed swede’ — both variations on things my mother used to cook.
There are pickled eggs, oysters and other traditional Irish bar snacks and every Irish person’s favourite childhood treat — the crisp sandwich. Here the crisps are homemade and flavoured with Coolatin cheddar from Co Wicklow and bits of bacon rolled with brown sugar and the bread is nutty textured sourdough. It is a truly wondrous thing.
The Legal Eagle was once a fairly grotty pub but has been tastefully and beautifully transformed with its original features all on proud display (after a lot of scrubbing I suspect). The pub opened six weeks ago and a ‘slightly more formal’ dining room is due to open upstairs soon. The Legal Eagle is from the folk behind The Winding Stair, The Woollen Mills and The Washerwoman, three other fine places to eat on DNS (de-north-side).
The beef suet was as good as my mother’s (possibly better but I refuse to admit that). The creamy sweet beef and suet was offset nicely by watercress leaves and the same bitter mashed swede (turnip) my mother served me. Rump of Lambay Island beef was served rare and had clearly been properly hung as it was tender and delicious.
Potato flatbreads are cooked in a wood-burning oven and are almost a pizza by another name, but the addition of potato gives them a much more robust texture and allows for similarly robust toppings — haggis, smoked haddock brandade and a game-changing extraordinarily tasty (and comfortingly Proustian) bacon, cabbage and parsley sauce version.
From a diverse and well-chosen winelist we opted for a bottle of Scala Ciro from Calabria for €34 — a perfect match for the robust food thanks to its flavours of wild berries with an underlying herbal note. This was also pleasingly served at the perfect temperature — 15C. Given the neighbours, the list wisely includes fine French and Italian wines plus Dom Perignon 2006 (€225) for the winners of litigation cases, and a selection of pints of bitter for the losers.
The Legal Eagle is still (thankfully) a pub but in the best modern sense. There is Guinness of course but also 20 craft beer taps and a large range of bottles and cans (clap your hands, as Beck would say — exactly the type of music you might hear on the speakers along with old school rap and The Clash). Barman David Somerville found us three fine pints to try — Scraggy Bay from Kinnegar, Little Fawn from White Hag and Monto Red Ale from 5 Lamps.
Desserts included a peanut butter and jam baked alaska, a (must-order) homemade jelly and ice-cream (made with leaf gelatin they assured me although I wouldn’t put it past this kitchen to have a big pot of calves feet bubbling away somewhere), and excellent homemade pastries including rock buns, chocolate twists and an excellent pecan nut and maple syrup pastry.
There is something joyous about the food in the Legal Eagle and I defy anybody not to love its quirky mix of the traditional and the modern from panko crumbed salsify to lunchtime roast in a roll. Go soon, go often.
A full dinner for three including homemade pub snacks, starters, main courses and desserts, a bottle of wine and three pints of craft beer cost €146.30.
In a Sentence
Proper Irish (pub) food of the very highest quality, a place to bring your mam and dad as much as your hipster friends — a place of comfort