Licence to mill | 

The Millstone restaurant on Dublin's busy Dame Street is not just handsome on the outside

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

The old-style exterior

Inside the restaurant

The surprisingly juicy main

Alan Kelly

STANDING on Dame street recently, across the road from the Millstone Restaurant, I thought what a handsome old building number 39 is. Except for numerous paint-jobs, I doubt it has changed one iota from when it was built c.1865.

MILLSTONE RESTAURANT 39 Dame Street, Dublin 2 4.5 Stars Food: €33.90; Drinks: €8.50

In its time it has housed everything from an insurance company, a tobacconist, a deli, and now a restaurant. Most older Dubs will fondly remember it as Lucky Cody’s shop which sold Sweepstake tickets from the 30’s to 1986 when the Lotto started, and it still retains that classic vintage look.

For me, it embodies historic Dublin with a charm and personality that no amount of refurbishing, revamping, face-lifting or re-jigging can ever plaster onto a modern building. Simply put, you can’t make a sows ear look like a silk purse.

I am also pleasantly surprised by the interior. With its antique-look, Victorianesque comfort and style-appropriate ornaments, it has the guise of an eatery that’s been around forever. So hurray for Millstone. Looking cute is all well and good, but what about the food I hear you ask? Honestly, going by the Express/Tourist Lunch menu at €12.95, and the rather ordinary-sounding regular lunch menu, I’m not expecting to be bowled over. Choosing the regular option I order almost absent-mindedly.

Inside the restaurant

Well, well. Two wedges of toasted garlic bread with melty mozzarella and pesto, fancy swirls of balsamic, blobs of Parmesan-like mayo and a nicely flavoured sundried tomato purée, my starter looks good and tastes great.

A main course of chicken breast with a herby-tomatoey stuffing neatly wrapped in Parma ham, is satisfyingly laced with rich meaty flavours and surprisingly juicy.

A small side of roasted carrots, parsnips and beetroot are perfectly cooked, subtly seasoned, and darn close to swoon-worthy. The splash of red wine jus is confidently seasoned and just on the right side of luscious. I slightly regret choosing fries instead of mash, which are edible if a tad overdone. That’s what happens when food is this good. You start to get picky.

The surprisingly juicy main

No complaints whatsoever though with my chocolate mousse with a biscuity base. Its gooey, custardy, and heady with deep chocolatey gorgeousness. It’s not what you call a Michelin Star fine dining dessert, but it’s the sort of deliciousness you could easily bury your face in.

Service is a little slow, but that’s to be expected when the place is filling-up with tourists who, going by the accents, have just flown in from all over Europe. I especially notice an Italian family of five, grumpy at first with the long-ish wait, begin to nod approvingly in that distinctly Italian way, as they wolf down their lunch. It’s hard to get het up when grub is this good, even if you are Italian.

Discovering little places like Millstone is the stuff of dreams for restaurant reviewers — and hiding in plain sight makes it all the more interesting.

There is tons to like about this unpretentious gem (except maybe the service charge). I want it to do well. I want to be able to recommend it to people visiting the capital. Most of all I want to call back and stick my face in that chocolate mousse.

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