Food & DrinkGrub Spy

If you're tired of culinary letdowns, head to Roly's Bistro

A Dublin institution that still delivers first-class service
A Dublin institution that still delivers first-class service

You’d never know to look at its cherub-like exterior, but Roly’s Bistro has been around since 1992. I mean, for a city that can be a bit of a culinary graveyard, where restaurants are seemingly gobbled-up just for the craic, 23 years is pretty darn close to amazing.

Chuck in a couple of economic disasters, a burst property bubble and decades of taxing the life out of everything that wasn’t nailed down and you know something special must be happening here.

I don’t recall Roly’s having much in the way of serious local competition back in the day, but since that time, lots of places have certainly out-swanked - but never quite out-ranked - the old girl. 

It’s years since my last visit, and even now I remember how impressed I was by the wonderful bill of fare here.

Today the menu is still whip-smart and interesting without being preachy – there are soups and salads, pork bellies and steaks and fancy meringues and tarts. Every taste catered for and not a yawn in sight.

Take my crab and apple sourdough bruschetta starter with an avocado purée and little dabs of beetroot gel for example. Crunchy, soft and sweet; the sharpness of the apple and the smooth taste of the avocado. A perfectly balanced dish that reads very nice and tastes even better.

Roly’s sure knows a lot about fish. My roasted cod wrapped in Parma ham with French-style minted peas and lettuce is ship-shape, uncomplicated and peerless. The cod, gloriously fresh and especially well cooked, is what all fish lovers hunger for.

The advertised new season asparagus and mushroom risotto doesn’t appear on my plate. No explanation is given, and while the cabbage and the carrot mash replacements confidently carry out their jobs, the pea-lettuce-cabbage-fest is a little overly-green for my taste.  

Dessert is a real high point and I’m immediately back in veneration mode. An outstandingly-good almond Bakewell tart must have been on a day trip to Bakewell heaven and back. It is exactly what I want in a dessert and, surprisingly, is almost bested (but not quite) by the syrupy kirsch-leaden cherries. Without doubt, my favourite dessert of the year so far.

A bevy of warm, friendly and coolly professional servers handle matters without a hitch.

Finally, a glass of delicious Sauvignon Blanc brings a first-class lunch in first-class surroundings to a close. No doubt I’ll look back fondly on it in the next 20-odd years.  

What you get at Roly’s are classic dishes with full-on concentrated flavours using the finest of ingredients. It’s the all-in-one antidote for diners who are tired of culinary letdowns and avaricious fashion-obsessed restaurants that never seem to last the course.

If Roly’s ever has a business logo it might read ‘Besotted with quality since the last century’ or words to that effect.

In the cost department I don’t feel like my privates are clamped in a monkey wrench until I cough-up my inheritance. Not too painful at €42.52 including 10% service. 

Verdict: 5/5