Lotts to love in this game
Newly opened for supper, the Food Game is a tiny restaurant in Ringsend that’s big on flavours, writes CATHERINE CLEARY
There’s nothing big about Food Game in Dublin’s Ringsend. No big shopfront, big-name chef or big production-line kitchen. From the outside it’s a teeny shop. Blink and you’d miss it. Even the plates of food are small. Chef Richard Gleeson worked in Yottam Ottolenghi’s cafes in London so I’m interested to see what he’ll do with evening meals or “supper” which they’re now serving four nights a week (Wednesday to Saturday). When I ring to book a table I’m offered a 7.30pm or 8.30pm slot. “We’ve about 15 people coming at 8pm, we’re going to be rammed,” the guy explains, which seems a pretty straightforward way of dealing with a rush in a small place.
The first thing we notice as we walk in is the smell of cooking. “It smells like Gruel,” my friend Paul says. He’s not referring to Dickensian porridge but the now-closed Dame Street restaurant. Gruel smelled of comfortable stock-based things like soups and stews, slippers for the soul. Gruel also, in truth, smelled a little like a damp bedsit by the end of its days but that isn’t a feature here.
We sit at a high bench where a couple are at the coffee stage. They have had a great meal, the kind that makes them want to tell two strangers about the treats that await them. They mention the pork belly with the air of people who can’t believe their luck. We, however, go for the lamb, a slightly ornery decision that comes back to bite us.
The handwritten menu has a“How we eat” note stapled to the front. Sharing is encouraged, and “please eat when you are served. All sharing plates will not arrive together.” The two “tasters” are well named and we order both. There’s a butterbean hummus, where a lone bean has survived the blender in this garlic-laced mush. It has cracker-crisp toasted shards of flatbread and a delicate chorizo and tomato salsa where the chorizo is cut so tiny it’s a whisper rather than the typical roar of this spicy meat.
The dish of the night is, for the first time in the history of this column, a salad. It’s not a big salad for €6 but it’s one that makes you glad to be alive. Tiny flying saucer shaped slices of Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella are buried under thick leaves of mint, rocket that tastes freshly-picked, oily crisply-fried cubes of “torn bread” and thinly-sliced beetroot pickled with a citrus flavour that makes it sing. Other restaurants might combine these flavours in a sauce and pipe them on to a plate. Here they put them up to you fresh and whole. “And your mouth gets to be the blender,” as Paul puts it.