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Loretta’s review: Everything about this place is smart, from the food to the room and the service

This weekend you could do worse than go for a feast at this great neighbourhood restaurant

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Address: 162-165 Phibsborough Road, Dublin 7, D07 RX3P
Telephone: 01-8309737
Cuisine: International
Cost: €€€

“Where’s good to eat in Dublin on a Sunday?” is a question that regularly pops up on Twitter. There are a few stalwarts, but probably lesser known is Loretta’s in Phibsborough, in the north of the city, which does a “sharing Sunday dinner”. There’s no fixed-price carry-on, no stipulation on how you order, and you don’t even have to share. You could easily drop in, order a few small plates, and toddle on home, delighted that you’ve managed to avoid cooking and washing up on a day of rest.

It seems to be a popular approach. I spot a pile of Korean-style drumsticks being demolished, good value for €9 (I just wish they were free-range), and, beside us, wood-grilled bone marrow is being slathered on to sourdough toast and sprinkled with parsley, a Fergus Henderson classic for €7. But home-made chicharrones (€6) seem like a Sunday type of snack, perhaps with a beer, or indeed a Heineken 0.0 (€4.50) for the driver. For the uninitiated, chicharrones are shameless puffs of pork skin that have been rendered to a crunchy cloud, and should really be shared between more than two, but guilt is offset by the salsa verde dip, which surely qualifies as one of my five-a-day.

Our next small plate is two stuffed courgette flowers (€10), a dish I’ve seen popping up on quite a few menus this summer. In Italy, the male courgette blossoms are used, which don’t have any fruit attached. Often, they are filled with ricotta and mint before being deep-fried in the laciest coating of batter made from flour and water; sometimes they’re not stuffed at all. Here, the flower and baby courgette are coated in a crisp golden batter, filled with a scallop mousse that is as light as a souffle, and sitting in a puddle of coral-coloured scallop foam. There is clear evidence of a generous hand with the butter, all very harmonious, with a pop of anise from the velvety green tarragon sauce that circles the dish. A 175ml glass of Domaine Servin Chablis (€11) washes it down nicely.

There are quite a few options by the glass on the wine list, which is commendable, although, as at most restaurants, bottles below €40 are limited. It is good to see grapes like Cabernet Franc make an appearance, but a pét-nat, the sparkling wine of the moment, and a few low-intervention bottles would not go astray in this neighbourhood.


We stick with the vegetarian option for one of the larger sharing plates, because many of them – a whole roast Skeaghanore duck (€75) for instance – sound like they’d feed more than two people. Judging by the generosity of the dish that lands on our table, my assumption is probably right. It’s served up nicely – a wooden board with a dish of charred aubergines on couscous, and smaller bowls of hummus, labneh and salad (€30) – in the centre of the table, ready for us to serve on to our piping-hot plates.

The aubergine is cross-hatched and charred, the centre is collapsing and creamy, and the couscous is very well flavoured. Which is important. Because couscous is not a grain or seed, like rice, quinoa or millet; it is essentially little beads of semolina or wheat, rolled to form grains, and unless they get a good lashing of flavours they can be a bit dull. All is well with this couscous: they are large pearls that are just slightly al dente, spun through with parsley, scallions and red onion, with a grassy snap of olive oil. The hummus is terracotta coloured and, judging by the gentle kick of heat, involves some pimento peppers. A few sticks of carrot or celery to dip into the hummus and labneh would have been good, perhaps instead of the small salad, which is not particularly exciting.

We share dessert, which is plenty for two. The panna cotta (€9) is set in a shallow creme-brulee-type dish, so we’re unable to put it to the wobble test. But it looks beautiful, with sliced strawberries and a Thai-basil granita adding fruity and floral notes to the richness of the set cream.

Everything about Loretta’s is smart – the room, the service and the food – and there plenty of interesting dishes on the Sunday sharing menu. If you want to do the large dishes justice, round up a few chums; otherwise, work your way through the small plates and enjoy an easy Sunday evening.

Dinner for two with a glass of wine, a nonalcoholic beer and coffee was €73.60.

THE VERDICT A clever menu with plenty of tasty dishes.

Facilities Cubicles not gender specific, clean and smart.

Music Ambient and background.

Food provenance Wright’s of Marino, Pat McLoughlin’s meat, Andarl Farm pork, Larousse and Caterway.

Vegetarian options Limited: the courgette flowers and Padrón peppers on the small-plates section, and a dish like the aubergine on the large sharing plates. Can be adapted for vegans.

Wheelchair access Room is accessible, and there is an accessible toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

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