Undiscovered city centre gem
Francesca's restaurant offers assured cooking from a hotel chef who cares - so why isn't it busy?
Restaurant Title: Francesca's restaurant
Proprietor: Patrick McLarnon
Address: Brooks Hotel, 59-63 Drury St, Dublin 2
Phone: 01- 6704000
It tastes quietly brilliant and the second best thing is its arrival at room temperature, not fridge-chilly. Two generous glasses (€7.95) of the La Vendimia Rioja-Tempranillo-Grenache blend go down nicely.
Main courses are just as sure-footed, guinea fowl stuffed with brandy-sozzled prunes and a celeriac puree is judged “just right”. My two rectangles of crisply finished pork belly sit on top of kale and bacon strips stirred into buttery mashed potato. The pork is a layer cake of crisp crackling, fat, white pale meat darkening to a deep brown. Every morsel is memorably good.
Desserts tend a little more towards hotel blandness. A milk chocolate mousse is like Plasticine and my blood orange steamed pudding has more than a hint of marmalade. It’s redeemed by some cardamom ice cream, though it’s a faint whisper that is nearly entirely drowned by the citrus swagger.
This is the food of a chef who cares. The keg yard has a small vegetable patch and McLarnon has a plan to grow garlic in wine crates. In elderflower season he’ll be heading to the yard of Kilmainham garda station to forage, and someone has just shared a secret Dublin samphire spot with him.
By the time we finish, the dining room is empty. There’s been just one other table all night. That’s the biggest mystery of this place. With food like this at €23 for two courses, it deserves to be thronged. Our three-course dinner for two with three glasses of wine and a mint tea came to €97.
They’ve successfully tinkered with a classic in The Cracked Nut, a lovely new food market and cafe on Dublin’s Camden Street. Scones are made with a generous helping of cinnamon, and topped with cinnamon sugar. They are (they won’t thank me for this) large enough to share. The packing case shelves have a small range of food that gets you thinking about dinner while you munch. Or you can sit at a table on the footpath.
The Cracked Nut, Natural Food Market, 71 Camden St, Dublin 2, tel: 01-5375942
THE VERDICT: McLarnon is quietly making lovely Irish dinners with great ingredients.
Facilities: Downstairs. Nice. Hotel-y
Music: Light jazz
Food provenance: Excellent
Wheelchair access: Yes