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Chequer Lane review: Why did Jamie Oliver bother opening this new restaurant in Dublin?

This is the type of place you might tolerate in a captive environment such as an airport, or a large train station. But in the heart of the city? I think not

Chequer Lane by Jamie Oliver on Exchequer Street in Dublin 2. Photograph: Anthony Woods
Chequer Lane
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Address: 27 Exchequer Street, Dublin, D02 A527
Telephone: 01-4992424
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

Back again? Dear, oh dear. We’re all very fond of Jamie Oliver, but his recent opening in Dublin city centre is a bit perplexing. I mean, why? This Exchequer Street restaurant was planned for 2020, and enough warning signals have since been fired to have operators scurrying for cover. Planet Jamie imploded, with most of his restaurants biting the dust, although overseas franchised outlets survived, including Jamie’s Italian, in Dundrum in Dublin. But you would have thought, after the imposed reflection period of the past two years, that there would be less appetite for celeb-branded nosh.

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But here we are, his familiar name barely visible over the door of Chequer Lane; and the partnership with Gerry Fitzpatrick continues. It is, we are told, a one-off, a unique restaurant in the Jamie Oliver stable. But somehow, with its colourful fitout and tasteful but nondescript decor, it doesn’t feel unique – we could be in any of Oliver’s 60-plus franchised restaurants across six continents.

It has all the hallmarks of an all-day-dining menu that can be adapted to Oliver’s existing markets (Bali, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, whatever). The names of top producers are emblazoned on the back of the menu and trumpeted proudly by the staff who look like they’ve walked straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine. It is all very admirable.

A pint of Guinness (€6.50) with the sort of head that merits a post on the Shit London Guinness Instagram account is not the best start to our evening, and a trawl through the wine list indicates a considerable mark-up on the 150ml by-the-glass options compared with the bottle prices.

Chequer Lane: black pudding Scotch egg. Photograph: Ella Miller

Lightly dressed crab on toast (€14) is dull – not the combination, because Clogherhead crab on Roundstone Bakehouse sourdough should be something quite beautiful, but somehow the flavour is deadened, tasting of very little more than the chopped chervil or tarragon that is folded through. A remoulade on the side is perfunctory.

The mushroom toast (€13), a porcini ragu, fares much better. It’s got the richness you expect, with just a touch of acidity from creme fraiche, on a substantial hunk of that sourdough toast.

For our main courses I am expecting the chicken Kiev (€23) to unleash a stream of garlic butter that will have me eating porridge for a week to balance the calorie intake, but the near bulletproof coating of golden breadcrumbs yields with a mere sigh of melted butter and not nearly enough garlic. It is Ring’s Farm chicken, so top marks for using a free-range bird, and is so uniformly shaped it looks like it’s the result of a finely tuned kitchen process. The braised baby-gem lettuce is a sad, soggy rendition of a French classic. Perhaps it spent too much time seeing off a recent prime minister.

The lamb chops (€29) are coffee-rubbed. I have never tried this crime against lamb before, and I don’t intend to again. Sticky onions that have been treated to an unfair level of cooking, and perhaps red-wine vinegar, do nothing to lift the dish, and a side of roasted carrots in cumin and honey (€5.50) remains mostly untouched.

Chequer Lane: much juggling has been required by our waiter to fit the dishes on our small table, from which we have a view of the back of the service station, where napkins are being folded

Much juggling has been required by our waiter to fit the dishes on our small round table, from which we have a view of the back of the service station, where napkins are being folded. I have no idea why we and three other tables for two are tasked with keeping this wretched corner of Siberia warm while there is plenty of space to the front of the restaurant.

But then there is much I cannot fathom about this restaurant, including the citrus trifle dessert (€11), which would not be out of place in the chilled section of Tesco Finest. Biscuit crumbs top a wallop of cream that guards a slick of barely set jelly and two pieces of yuzu-splashed orange.

Chequer Lane. Photograph: Anthony Woods

To give credit where it is due, everything is piping hot, including the plates, and our waiter tends his tight corner of Siberia with charm. But the dishes are at odds with the food ethos that Oliver spells out on his website: “Food is fun, joyful, creative and should keep us healthy.” Perhaps he needs to move the “should” to the beginning of that sentence. Food should be fun.

First Look: Inside Chequer Lane, Jamie Oliver’s new Dublin city centre restaurantOpens in new window ]

Chequer Lane is the type of restaurant you might tolerate in a captive environment such as an airport, or a large train station. But on Exchequer Street, in the centre of Dublin? I think not. This is the celebrity restaurant that no one ordered.

Dinner for two with a pint and three glasses of wine was €127.25.

THE VERDICT: Irish produce ruined by operations procedures

Music: Chic and disco classics

Food provenance: Gilligan’s Farm, Rings Farm, Kish Fish, Caterway

Vegetarian options: Limited – mushroom toast, burrata, grain salad

Wheelchair access: Accessible, with accessible toilet

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column