Food & DrinkGrub Spy

Grape & Grub Spy: This place is so ‘now’ that I feel almost hipsterish

Grape & Grub Spy: This place is so ‘now’ that I feel almost hipsterish

Take the humble olive for instance; a fantastically versatile little taste bomb that works equally well straight in the gob, sliced in salads, in tapenades, stews, or martinis.

For any Italian kitchen worth its salt, olives are an indispensable tool.

I thought I had sampled olives in every possible way - and then I call on Osteria Lucio, just off Grand Canal Quay, under one of those old railway bridges. 

It’s a new establishment so I’m not sure what to expect. It could be one of those plasticky Italian knock-up jobbies with pepper grinders the size of an excited ponies doo-hicky.

Their online blurb (a silky piece of PR window dressing) boasts of initiating an Irish version of ‘sprezzatura.’

Apparently, that’s a nonchalant ability that Italians have to make difficult culinary tasks look easy-peasy.

One look at Osteria Lucio’s menu and I reckon they’re halfway there. We’re knocked sideways with the flavours. The Cicchetti snacks have olives roasted with fennel seeds, orange rind and rosemary. Imagine...roasting an olive! That’s the extra bit of magic. The arancini (stuffed rice balls that are coated with breadcrumbs, so often a no-go area in Dublin) are outrageously delicious.

Ditto the grilled sprouting broccoli scented with smoked almonds, amazingly-light goats cheese, and a fine mustard sauce. A bruschetta is overflowing with roasted peppers, broccoli tips and tomato.

Only the Italians can do this to simple things. My tastebuds have goosebumps. This is in-your-face sprezzatura.

The goodies keep coming. With the mains, we get luxurious pillows of baked gnocchi draped in spinach, tomato and mozzarella.

It’s the best gnocchi The Boss has ever had. Next are big velvety ribbons of handmade pasta with veal ragú.

The ragú is gutsy, ballsy and cooked so deep and slow it becomes an addictive substance.

There is a big hunk of fresh cod baked with potatoes, tomatoes, olives and capers. They call it Alla Mediterranea. The components are top-notch - the chef knows what he’s doing so the end product is supreme.

So far, everything tastes of itself; a gastronomic outcome not always guaranteed nowadays in Dublin. I guess you can tell I’m falling in lust here. And then we hit a little culinary bump.

The tiramisu is barely a passing resemblance to a proper tiramisu.

It’s more like a glass full of mascarpone and cream with a sprinkling of coffee – no sponge fingers and only the merest hint of marsala.

Against what came before, it’s an inexplicable disappointment indeed.

The hot chocolate mousse with campari jelly, hazelnut praline and vanilla ice-cream is a luscious success – it got us right back on track.  

Osteria Lucio is a fantastic restaurant. It is so ‘now’ I feel almost hipsterish.

Three people have eaten really well and, provided the lofty standards are maintained, these same three people will be calling back very soon.

It’s not the first eatery to occupy this interesting building, but I do hope it stays the course a lot longer.

Osteria Lucio gets four and a half stars out of five


Grape Spy

McGuigan Frizzante €14.99

This new sparkling wine is launching on the Irish market this week.

If you like Pro­secco, you will love this fresh zesty number from Australia.

Look out for it on offer at €9.99 in SuperValu. It has low alcohol and is a lighter style of sparkling wine.

It has flavours of citrus and crisp apple with lemon aroma.

The perfect summer aperitif.

For wine events see www.jeansmullen. com