Grub Spy: Stacks of potential

Grub Spy  Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations

Outside Stack A

The delicious rigatoni venison ragout

The vaulted interior

RAccording to the Urban Brewing website Stack A is ‘one the most unique settings and dining experiences in Dublin.’ And I must say by no means are they over-egging the omelette with that description.

Built in 1820 as an underground bonded warehouse for tobacco, tea and spirits, these ex-storage vaults are truly unique and a stunning example of Georgian architecture.

STACK A CHQ Building, Custom House Quay, IFSC, Dublin 1 Three Stars Food:€38.50; Drinks: €18.20

Plus it’s so handy to get to. I mean, the Luas literally stops outside the front door. I always love unusual dining spaces like Stack A, spaces that offer something different and lavish, even with harmlessly pretentious marketing blurbs like ‘Our dishes are influenced by our journeys around the world.’

Sounding slightly on the pretentious side is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it can mean idiosyncratic or wacky or just plain crazy. It all depends on the humour you happen to be in, and/or how hungry you might be. Ensconced in an arched vault with a friend I hadn’t seen in yonks, we peruse a lunch menu that seems to exclude silly faff and fussiness and is influenced more by practicality than world travel.

The delicious rigatoni venison ragout

OK then, to the food. My Rigatoni Venison Ragoût is an utterly delicious thumpingly good pasta dish bursting with rich meaty tomatoey goodness and, quite frankly, an enemy of diets everywhere.

My friend goes for the delicious sounding Soy Cured Sea Trout and, quite frankly, in both looks and taste is not a winner.

The trout is barely evident, the baby potato and broccoli, the spinach and lettuce are pretty-much saturated to death in a bland mayo-like dressing. And although topped with nicely poached eggs, they fail to save the day.

Thankfully my friend is a calm and patient dining companion who tries her damnedest to enjoy this rather unappetising offering. In the end she throws the towel in and has no choice but to send her meal back to whence it came. On a tight schedule she settles instead for a quick portion of fries and a mayo dip. Heaven only knows how the same kitchen can produce such a gaspingly delicious pasta dish and a dish so depressingly poor. Sometimes things just work – other times they just don’t. For instance there’s a side of grilled broccoli with hazelnut butter. Bingo – a gorgeous dish made with three simple ingredients.

The vaulted interior

The overall vibe in such a fantastic place is always going to be dramatic and atmospheric, and while the service proves (on our visit) to be a mixture of full-on and distracted, and while care has gone into constructing the lunch menu, what should have been a barnstorming meal proves to be far less than satisfactory.

We sip a glass of wine each and my friend concludes her lunch with an espresso.

It should be noted at this point that Stack A, on our visit, had lots of earnest looking lunch-time diners and family groups with happy children, all seemingly having a rollicking good time. So, stone me, it is obviously a winner with some customers and clearly the kitchen is doing lots of things right.

However, including a €7.46 service charge, it didn’t quite work for us.

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