AND YOUR starter for 10 is how many movie stars can you name from their photos on the walls of the gents’ toilets.
As you while away the seconds looking around you we can name all of them, but as we’re washing and drying our hands, we are puzzled: why is Phil Lynott loitering with intent on the same wall as a decidedly shady looking Charles Bronson? Did the interior designers run out of old movie star photos?
We know this is nit picking, but it irks nonetheless — Lynott shouldn’t be there. Get it right!
As minor mistakes go, it’s one of just two that we can direct at the Green Hen, a rather beautiful restaurant, right in the heart of Dublin’s fancy shopping and eating region.
It states on its website that it offers “classic French cuisine with an Irish twist”, but before we get to that (and mistake number two) let’s take a few minutes to admire the view from the seats.
As soon as you walk in from the cold, you know you’re going to spend more time looking away from the menu than at it; there’s an instant French influence on display as the wall-to-floor-to-ceiling décor consists of retro film posters, some framed, some pasted.
From François Truffaut to Michel Legrand to Brigitte Bardot — with a few well-chosen randomers thrown in for European balance — if these walls could speak there’d be accents to beat everyone into submission.
The walls are also studded with a sequence of mirrors, some of which have the day’s ‘specials’ written on them, which directly references the type of French brasserie that Green Hen clearly takes its influences from.
Movie posters aside (and a well-chosen jazz/soul soundtrack), the room itself is just gorgeous: small (there is also an upstairs section, which we didn’t visit), very cosy and warm, and ironically quite spacious, with good room between tables for those who come here to quietly plot and conspire.
We’re here for an early lunch, just after the start of this month, and already, after noon, the room is filling up.
Tired tourists carry Brown Thomas bags, weary residents drag themselves in, yet despite a strong sense of post-festive sluggishness there’s a good mood in the air.
Some restaurants have a knack of making you feel relaxed as soon as you take your coat off, and the Green Hen is one of these. We check out the set lunch menu, which is remarkable value — two courses for €17, three courses for €19.
We order starters: smoked salmon (with avocado puree, and barely discernible crumbled brown bread), ham & chicken terrine (with fig chutney, celeriac remoulade, toasted brioche), and St Tola’s goat’s cheese & beetroot salad (with apple and walnut).
So far, so fine, with no complaints at all from fussy eaters (one of whom has worked in restaurants for the past two years). Mains don’t go so smoothly, however.
We choose pan-fried fillet of hake (with mussel fricassee, herb gnocchi, cavolo nero — a black-leaf variant of kale), duck confit (with champ, cabbage, carrot & blackberry vinaigrette), and grilled beef burger (with onion ring, bacon, rocket salad, fat chips).
The hake is good, but the gnocchi is deemed to be “too dense”; the duck is considered “tough”, while the champ is “divine”.
Meanwhile, the burger (for which I was not asked how I’d like it cooked) was a post-Christmas cracker, with a crunchy onion ring and perfectly cooked Hulk Finger fries that definitely lived up to the menu description.
To slake our thirst we select a bottle of Tor Del Colle Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a standard well-rounded wine that ticked most of the boxes it needed to.
Service throughout was good, but points are deducted for not being asked the rare/medium/well-done question.
We also reckon that not having a small basket of bread placed on the table minutes after we sit down is a bad idea.
We know that such good value arrives only with serious number crunching, but a brasserie without crunchy bread is like hearing Gerard Depardieu speak with a Mayo accent: very odd, and just not right.
This noted, we like the Green Hen, and we’ll definitely be returning.
And not just because there’s a strong hint here of it being a restaurant for adults: its website states, politely but firmly, that children under 12 years of age are not catered for after 5pm. I’m good with that, by the way. Cluck, cluck!
Lunch for three, with wine, came to €83.00, tip extra.
(Lunch) Mon-Sun, 12pm-4pm; (early bird) Sun-Thurs, 5pm-7pm; (dinner) Mon-Thurs, 5pm-10pm; Sat, 5pm-11pm; Sun, 5pm-9pm.
The Green Hen,
33 Exchequer Street,
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