“Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man,” drawled The Dude (as played by Jeff Bridges) in The Big Lebowski – the classic Coen Brothers film from 1998.
This is The Engineer’s favourite film (along with Bladerunner) and she is a frequent guest on my restaurant reviews — not just for convenience, but because I value her opinion.
Her strong opinions occasionally baffle me and I admit to being mystified by her dislike of chenin-blanc but she does know her food, so as you read on do consider that she may be right and that I could well be wrong.
Clanbrassil House is the new venture from the people behind Bastible in ultra-hip Dublin 8 which I have previously praised on this page.
There are two rooms, a bright high-tabled one at the front and a softly-lit smaller room at the back beside the kitchen. I think I’d have preferred the front but herself liked the back. The first disagreement of the night.
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We began with snacks: intensely savoury manzanilla olives (perhaps a touch too briny for me although the Engineer loved them), plus a couple of ham croquettes (€2.50 each).
The jamon croquetta has to be the ultimate tapas and they are far too difficult to find in Ireland given how easy they are to make. CH’s are fairly classic with tiny chunks of ham in molten béchamel encased in a panko breadcrumb style shell and I loved them. The Engineer not so much.
Next came some hot smoked trout on toasted sour-dough bread and agreement. It was excellent.
The trout flaked perfectly and was just barely smoked enough to cook the edges and retain maximum moisture and flavour while lightly pickled red cabbage added extra kicks and texture.
The Engineer adored her starter of leeks topped with crispy chicken skin and dressed with chopped egg, onions and vinaigrette and while I concurred on the leeks I was less sure of the pushy nature of the egg and the dressing.
Butternut squash and goat’s curd ravioli (€10) worked well but the sweetness of the squash rather overpowered the curd and not to sound picky (okay, I’m being picky), but I’d like a more silken texture from the pasta. Once again the Engineer was happier.
One of the stars of the meal for both of us was the homemade rare-breed pork cheek sausage with lentils and mustard (€18) which was soft and tender with a fine rich texture and lovely herbal autumnal flavours according to herself. A tiny easily-fixed gripe is that we wanted more lentils.
My Iberico pork shoulder was pleasingly pink with an apple ‘ketchup’ sauce that brought out its sweetness.
The braised cabbage on the side was rather over-braised and while I should have liked the bitter contrast it provided, I didn’t. Surprisingly herself agreed — and this is a woman that eats cooked Brussel sprouts cold from the fridge. I admit I have a brassica bias but neither of us were keen on the kale in the side dish of organic greens and kimchi (€4) either.
The kimchi was excellent — spiky and fresh — and we salvaged all of it from the rather chewy and joyless kale.
The winelist is short and well chosen with six red and six whites from on-trend regions and producers plus cava and port. Casas Novas Vinho Verde was a perfect zingy aperitif (€6.50 per glass) and a carafe of Mesta Garnacha from Cuencha in Castille-La Mancha for just €20 was fruity and fine for its low price.
Elsewhere on the list you will find malbec, godello (Rafael Palacios of course), blaufrankisch, German riesling and an Austrian beerenauslese.
Deserts included apple and blackberry eton mess, chocolate mousse with marmalade ice-cream and a cheese plate.
We dithered but eventually chose carrot and hazelnut cake topped with crème fraiche and grated orange peel which was perfectly fine but felt more coffee-shop than restaurant.
There were plenty of things to like in Clanbrassil House but that bitter taste of kale and cabbage rather lingers with me and removed some of the joy of the courses I liked.
Please don’t be put off as there are many good things here and after all it’s just my opinion (man!).
The Tab: Dinner for two including bites, starters, mains and sides, a shared dessert plus two glasses of white wine and a carafe of red cost €125
How To: Tuesday-Saturday 5-10pm Clanbrassil House,
In a sentence: A perfectly on-trend modern Irish restaurant — exactly what you would expect to find in Dublin 8, good value and some great flavours but watch out for the kale!
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