Grub & Grape Spy: A vintage kitchen on a forgotten street
I think I may have found a rare ould gem in Dublin city centre.
It’s on Poolbeg Street, which for most Dubs is where ordinary Dublin leaks into posh Dublin. It’s not a bad street or anything like that, but it’s fair to say tourists will never swoon over its architecture or rub shoulders with Bono and the boys there.
Still, as a remnant of the old cityscape, it is always worth a visit. But, I wondered as I stepped over its buzzing threshold, would The Vintage Kitchen always be worth a visit?
I had tried calling in for lunch before, but on both occasions it was rammed with smiley diners.
Today I’m lucky, and the first thing I notice is an open-style kitchen the size of a shoebox and a dining room that’s not much bigger.
The second thing I notice is how good my starter is. I don’t think I’ll get across how much I like this gorgeous golf-ball sized rice cake.
Accompanied by a quenelle of spiced mascarpone, nutty roasted baby beetroot, asparagus and a bunch of the freshest baby basil that also has a hint of fennel, it delivers far more than a description on a menu.
It’s a joyous encounter, a slice of pure umami on a plate.
A homely pair of Hicks garlic-infused sausages will never disappoint - but joined with a dollop of syrupy, slow-cooked, balsamic-infused shallots, they become heroic flavour bombs.
The shallots have been shot through with something extra; maybe sherry? Maybe star anise? The result is complex and exciting.
A side of crushed potatoes with notes of chopped chives and cream, plus a few roasted cherry tomatoes, wraps it all together.
These are big, in-your-face flavours. I really like it, far more than I thought I would. It’s the kind of dish any professional kitchen would be proud of, and one that will keep diners coming back for more.
I am also impressed with the flamboyant waitress whizzing around, keeping everybody happy without being intrusive. And even though its commercial hook is the vintage angle, this is very much a restaurant of today.
It’s is a kitchen dedicated to producing mind-blowing quality and, in terms of ambience and atmosphere, it also covers all the bases.
So for those willing to venture down a largely forgotten street, there is a restaurant of secret gastro pleasures awaiting them. It’s the kind of place you will eat extremely well in, put your feet up (metaphorically speaking), and forget your problems for an hour or so.
You can even bring your own records (no death metal or grunge, thank you) because, believe it or not, they have an actual 1970s turntable.
And you can bring your own wine. No corkage charged provided you order two courses from the dinner menu. They do have an excellent wine list, but the BYO is a nice touch from days gone by.
Worth a visit? Always and absolutely. Oh, and definitely make a reservation.
The Vintage Kitchen 4.5/5 STARS
Grape Spy by Jean Smullen
2013 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon €14.99
As the Rugby World Cup kicks off, look out for limited edition labels from Wolf Blass - 15 labels, one for each rugby position.
On the Wolf Blass Facebook page you can win a case of wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red, perfect for autumn rugby days.
A great wine to match with steak.
For wine events see www.jeansmullen.com.