The idea of a ‘restaurant’ has changed a lot since the word was first coined in post-revolutionary France.
We rarely eat out just to be ‘restored’ these days, we expect entertainment, glamour, theatre — and given that this all happens in public, we too are part of the exhibit.
No I don’t really believe that, but I suspect it is the kind of thinking behind restaurants like Roberta’s, the new shiny bare-brick, high-ceilinged bar/restaurant from Press Up Entertainment Group.
These are the people behind the Dean Hotel (the rooms are ‘super cool’ don’t you know), and some decent cocktail bars such as the Liquor Rooms and Peruke and Periwig.
They also run Tower Records, Muji, Captain Americas and the Wow Burger chain.
In pre-publicity for Roberta’s (and there was lots) there was talk of LA and New York, and words like “cosmopolitan” were used.
If you google ‘Robertas’ you will find it is also the name of one of Brooklyn’s hippest restaurants (and there is nowhere hipper on the planet than Brooklyn).
Roberta’s NYC serves only Italian food but Roberta’s Dublin seems to be aiming to be more ‘cosmopolitan’ by supplementing the Italian dishes with ones from Spain (Jamon Iberico), France (Confit Duck), North Africa (Chicken with Chermoula and Cumin), Japan (Yellowtail Amberjack Sashimi), China (dumplings) and elsewhere.
Intriguingly the very first item on the menu is ‘wood-fired duck hearts’ — not something that I think would appeal to the average Millennial (or GenX) diner.
Don’t get me wrong duck hearts can be delicious (eg, Michael Viljanen’s duck hearts with celeriac and hazelnuts), but they seemed rather out of place on this menu.
Herself and the teenager doubted if any of their friends (male or female) would ever order them — ‘that’s the kind of thing only restaurant reviewers order!’ was one damning comment.
Perhaps I should have ordered the hearts however as my Stracciatella (pulled curd) cheese with lemon confit and toasted bread was terribly bland and unexciting.
I don’t think we should blame the main ingredient, as I love this type of cheese — I get quite giddy with excitement when I see the Real Olive Company’s fresh made mozzarella balls floating in brine at market stalls.
The other two starters fared better — Doon Castle Oysters came three ways — natural, with gin and tonic and with kataifi pastry and coconut and lemongrass – and worked well.
The ‘potsticker’ dumplings were also good and had a rich sweet slow-braised oxtail filling — I’m fairly sure that herself regretted giving me a whole one to try.
For mains the 17-year-old predictably ordered a ‘Chorizo Pizza’ and this had a crisp base and decent punchy flavours with olive and pecorino shavings, but no actual Chorizo.
Instead this was Nduja — the Calabrian spreadable salumi that tastes vaguely like chorizo — why not call it Nduja Pizza?
The other two mains were less successful. My Iberico Secreto flame-grilled pork had some good flavours but was rather dry and over-cooked for my taste, although the fennel salad on top worked well.
Linguine with fresh clams and brown shrimp badly needed some kick however (and maybe a few fresh clams in their shells), and the pasta was badly over-cooked.
Late in the meal our waiter asked us about the unfinished plate and they immediately offered to remove it from our bill.
We finished with a shared Pineapple dessert which cheered us, as all the elements worked – caramelised pineapple, pineapple sorbet and upside-down cake.
For drinks there are cocktails of course (herself had a decent Margarita) and lots of macro beers – Wicklow Wolf is the token craft beer.
The wine list has about 50 choices with the usual suspects – our Stoneleigh New Zealand Pinot Noir was perfectly serviceable and at €34 just about worth it.
It is early days for Roberta’s and a review can only ever be a snapshot of an experience but I wonder should they re-think some of the menu and the cooking techniques – even the chips were over-cooked and dried out.
Perhaps I made the mistake of paying too much attention to the food rather than the décor.
Three starters and main courses, one dessert, wine bottle and cocktail: €128 (with a main course not on bill)
Sunday to Wednesday: 5pm to late Thursday to Saturday: 5pm-10.30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10.30pm to 2.30pm
Roberta’s Dublin, The Verdict:
Roberta’s, 1 East Essex St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
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