The Woollen Mills: delicious blast of fresh air
Dublin’s Lower Ormond Quay has a new eating house and it’s a great one
Restaurant Title: The Woollen Mills
Address: 41-42 Lower Ormond Quay
Phone: (01) 828 0835
Dear Dublin City Council did you you really have to act like a teenager and trash the place when I was away? Yes the Luas extension will be great. But you’ve bombed the city’s good room and the visitors look bewildered as they pick their way round the rubble.
Coming home from a prettier city isn’t easy. Dublin is a dump, I declare hotly after a heart-thumping bike ride round College Green. Only I don’t use the word dump. Hours later in a room overlooking a sunlit iron bridge my relationship with the city clambers off the rocks. I’ve strolled to the Woollen Mills with my dad, who realises he’s never looked properly at the Ha’penny bridge until now.
We’re in the unadorned upstairs room, an oddly shaped space carved into two areas by a huge chimney wall which still has a safe set into it from its time as the offices of the old Dublin haberdashery. The starkness continues with heavy black steel and wood chairs which look like they’ll be hard work for a long stay but are oddly comfortable.
I want to like the food. Not least because I like Elaine Murphy, the restauranteur here, and one of Dublin’s great women. I’ve had two reports from friends. “Looks impressive even if they are still finding their feet a little,” was the first. A simple “Loved it,” was the second.
It’s a big beast of an operation with people eating in every corner of the place, both inside and out. The wait staff have to work hard climbing stairs and making regular appearances so the quieter nooks don’t feel forgotten.
There’s a wait, which we fill happily with a summery Lombeline sauvignon blanc served in a 50cl glass bottle. The wine has been decanted from their own cask, as several of the wines (marked with a “c” on the menu) are here.
The menu is a four-parter: fish, meat, vegetables and Gruel. The last one takes some explaining to the tourists beside us. It’s a tribute to the dear-departed Dame Street restaurant of that name that served Mammy-cooking for years.
Like the building, the Woollen Mills menu is quirky and ambitious, with little that’s predictable or safe. The meat, fish and vegetable dishes have hero ingredients laced through them like fancy trimmings. We’re not in McBistroland anymore. The first wow is a Dr Seuss dish. Move over green eggs and ham we’ve got pink eggs and tongue. They’re ox tongue fritters, thin pink patties covered in a crisp crust, a bit of cow that tastes like ham. The pink eggs have been pickled in beetroot and then roughly jumbled together with a slick of horseradish mayonnaise. It sounds heavy but it’s not thanks to the beetroot sweetness and horseradish heat.