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Peperina City Bistro review: This fun new restaurant offers great food and service, at an affordable price

Casual restaurant sizzles with taste and the empanadas sing with flavour

Peperina City Bistro
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Address: 52 Richmond Street, Portobello, Dublin, D02 X7K3.
Telephone: 01 598 3905
Cuisine: Argentinian
Cost: €€€

I have never been to Argentina. Indeed, Argentina and just about all of South America are on my rather lengthy bucket list. But I have had a very good empanada cooked by an Argentinian, the wife of a cousin I see all too rarely. Empanada score, 10; degrees of separation, two.

This of course makes me no expert on empanadas, which food writer Kevin Vaughn clearly is. In Argentina, he writes in Vittles (an online food magazine), the stuffed half-moon pastry is categorised by province: Salta, which stipulates that the shells measure 10cm across; Chaco, where the onion to meat ratio is 1:1; and Buenos Aires, where whole green olives are used in the filling. Strict criteria apply in competitions, ranging from the number of folds to the “right” amount of sealed-in juiciness, but ultimately, no matter how standardised a recipe is, everyone’s empanadas taste different.

In Peperina City Bistro in Portobello in Dublin 2, the sister restaurant of Peperina Garden Bistro in Ranelagh, the empanadas are made by 76-year-old Ida Landa, who moved to Ireland to be closer to her daughter, Silvana, who runs the luxury brand Landa Bags. Opened in July by owners Evan McAuliffe and Diego Cabrera, there is more of an Argentinian focus to the menu in this outpost, with Landa’s alfajores and media lunas contributing to the appeal of the bustling daytime trade.

It’s an attractive space, which has changed considerably from the formality of Adrian Martin’s short-lived Wildflower restaurant. The baby blue panelling in the bar area is now a deep azure, with shelves lined with bottles of spirits, coffee cups and glasses; the dusty pink high stools and bar have been replaced with a glass display counter; and lilac light bolsters the urban view of development across the street, with a graffitied wall and the remnants of the Bernard Shaw pub in the foreground.


It is an extensive menu, and while it includes crowd pleasers like chicken wings and burgers, there is plenty from Argentina, with empanadas, meat from the parilla, and Milanesa, which are breaded escalopes of meat and vegetables.

For starters, the tablita criolla (€20) is a good opportunity to try a number of dishes as it includes empanadas, grilled chorizo, morcilla and salsas criollos. The plump empanadas, one stuffed with a juicy chicken filling and the other with beef which has a touch of cinnamon, are encased in crisp pastry; the golden lacquer cracking slightly like the glaze on an oil painting. A wedge of lemon, spritzed on the empanadas after each bite, keeps the flavours singing.

The deliciously meaty chorizo sausage is made by Tommy Kelly, a fourth-generation Argentinian who came to Ireland in 2002 to find his family roots and ended up staying and setting up The Irish Gaucho; and the Spanish morcilla is similar to an Irish black pudding. As is customary in Argentina, grilled meat comes with salsas, and there are three – tomato, earthy chimichurri and criolla, a sauce with small cubes of crunchy cucumber, carrot and celery marinated in a vinegar dressing.

We have opted for a bottle of the house red to have with our meal, a Zagalia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for €29, which given the way wine prices have escalated in the last year, is notably good value.

Asado is an integral part of Argentinian cuisine – the fire, the parilla and the sizzle of beef – so we’ve ordered entraña (€24.50), which is skirt steak. We discover that our order has been upgraded at no additional cost as they have run out of entraña, so we’ll be having sirloin steak instead. A nice gesture. It is extremely good, medium rare and nubbled with the charred aroma of charcoal. It comes with sides of frites which are crispy, perhaps a little too much so, and a substantial tossed salad. If you were looking for a light dinner, this would serve two people.

Our other main, aubergine Milanesa (€16.50), is two large slices of aubergine, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and fried. It is a little under-seasoned (maybe this is how it should be), so it is good to have the three salsas on hand that came with the steak. Like the steak, it also has sides of frites and salad.

For dessert, it’s budin de pan (€8.50), a classic Argentinian bread pudding dessert doused in a light caramel.

Peperina is that elusive combination of a menu with broad appeal, tasty food, affordable pricing and great service. It is a place that is perfect for groups, particularly those who appreciate a good steak.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €98.50.

The Verdict: 8/10 Tasty Argentinian food and delicious steaks

Music: Gotan Project and Latin sounds

Food provenance: Meat and free-range chicken from Doyle Bros, Pallas Foods, Wrights of Marino, The Irish Gaucho

Vegetarian options: Arancini, corn and cheese empanadas, goat’s cheese salad, aubergine Milanesa, gnocchi and tortellini

Wheelchair access: No accessible room or toilet

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

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