Bastible, 111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8; tel: 01-4737409; www.bastible.com
ONE of the best things about city living for me is that cities renew themselves, often through happen-stance.
Take Temple Bar — the story goes CIE wanted to build a massive bus station between Dame St and the river so they began buying up old buildings and letting them out cheaply with the intention of levelling the lot once planning permission came through. Soon it was full of art spaces, galleries, and trendy second-hand record shops so permission was refused.
Dublin 8 around South Circular Road was once Dublin’s Jewish Quarter but these days you will find Libyans, Egyptians, Kurds and Palestinians. I shop around here for spices, homemade baklava and paratha bread, cheap lamb and beef, and the finest sweet yellow mangoes in the country between April and August.
Trendy spots like Fumbally Café and the George Bernard Shaw have made the area one of the coolest in the city.
The newest addition is Barry Fitzgerald’s Bastible which opened a few weeks before Christmas and has been full ever since.
Fitzgerald first came to the notice of many Dublin diners when he was head chef at Etto on Merrion Row. Bastible could be called modern Irish dining, seasonal ingredients, classical techniques blended with an eye to the current trends (preserving, homemade butter and cheeses etc).
The room is exactly as you would imagine — bare brick, plain wood, functional but warm. Our waiter Jen was a bit of a charmer and made us feel minded throughout the evening — water was offered immediately, she warned that there only a few sweetbread specials left should we wish to reserve the dish and we felt safe in her hands.
The menu is admirably short with just four options for starter, main and dessert (including specials). Homemade sourdough bread and butter arrived first along with an amuse bouche of punchy baby croquettes of broccoli and Crozier blue cheese, followed by two excellent starters.
Venison faggot, butternut squash, and pickled chanterelles were softly textured and richly sauced with nice contrasting flavours from the preserved mushrooms and the earthy root vegetable.
Veal sweetbreads were beautifully cooked, caramelised, and sweet, delicately textured and appropriately paired with roasted onion and creamy buttered potato.
Salt-baked beetroot, milk curd dumplings, and walnuts was a perfect winter dish with the sweet beets and warming milk and nut flavours — a fine balanced dish.
Balance was also there with my partridge — my favourite game bird, but in the wrong hands it can be dry — this was admirably juicy with the sweet flesh matched with some tart prunes and with extra texture from some curd dumplings and pearl barley with a home-made blood sausage adding some depth to the dish.
Walnut ice cream sandwich was the only course which disappointed, the ice-cream tasting more like a parfait with only a whisper of walnuts. It wasn’t a failure, I just felt it would have worked better with a creamier texture and more emphasis on the walnuts.
Young Buck raw milk blue cheese from Co Down is one of the few raw milk artisan cheeses from Northern Ireland — and as usual it was deliciously creamy and served with fine crumbly drop scones.
The wine list is an eclectic mix with many of the current fashions such as Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Natural Wines and a Telmo Rodriguez Godello from Galicia.
In reds there was German Pinot Noir and regions such as Saumur, Limoux, and the Langhe as well as Bordeaux, Rioja, and Burgundy.
I chose one of the less expensive reds Quadrifolia from the Douro in Portugal, produced by the well respected Port house of Quinta do Vallado — its mix of red fruits and earthy textures turned out to be well suited to both the beetroot and the partridge.
So yes, as you might expect, many would call this a (ferociously) trendy restaurant but do not let this put you off — there is a reason things become trendy and that is because they suit our mood right now and how could this be a bad thing? Go soon for the tightly focused and measured seasonal cooking, charming staff, and fine flavours.
Dinner for two with two starters, two mains, two desserts plus one bottle of wine, one cocktail and one glass of dessert wine: €123.50 (excluding tip).
Wednesday-Friday: 6pm–9.30pm (last orders at 9.45pm); Saturday: 12:30pm–2.45pm, 6pm–9.30pm (last orders at 9.45pm); Sunday: 12.30pm–3.30pm
In a sentence: A restaurant of its time and all the better for it – this is what modern Irish cooking looks like.
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