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Grapevine restaurant review: Crowd-pleasing menu and keen prices make for a good neighbourhood spot

Tasty food and excellent wine list means this south Dublin eatery is heaving, even on a wet Wednesday

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Address: 26 Castle St, Dalkey, Co Dublin, A96 W5A0
Telephone: 01 235 3054
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

Just over two years ago, Dalkey famously was host to a certain Hollywood megastar and his unflashy SuperValu sack. A quick recce of the location indicates that there’s not a plastic shopping bag in sight, no towel or soggy Speedos poking out. But then again, it is a wet Wednesday night and you’d think that most people would have stayed at home.

Not in Dalkey. Every restaurant I pass on Castle Street in the rip-roaring rain is doing a rollicking trade and here too in Grapevine, the natives have abandoned their swanky habitats to revel in a convivial bite with chums. We’re in a tight, dark corner. It feels like Siberia for blow-ins, but the reality is, the place is full and we’ve got the last table for two.

Tables turn, a significant birthday is being celebrated and there’s much gaiety as friends spot friends across the room. If any one of them is famous, well I’m afraid I can’t enlighten you. I have become notoriously bad at recognising faces (I’m blaming our two-year hiatus).

Gabriel and Pamela Cooney opened Grapevine, on St Patrick’s Road, almost 25 years ago. With an interesting line-up of wines, many of which they source themselves, a rustic wine bar with a neighbourhood vibe started to evolve, with cheese plates and nibbles served in their compact shop. A move to a larger premises around the corner in 2016 led to the opening of a full-scale restaurant post-pandemic. There is now a dining area upstairs – parquet floors, wooden tables and comfortable chairs – and a more casual wine bar with high tables in the wine shop on the ground floor.


The torch on my phone doubles as a trusty flashlight for menu reading and while there is quite a bit of interest on the starters – ceviche, prawns, octopus and crab – the main courses are a little less inspiring, with sea bass, which is typically farmed and pork belly, which is generally not free range, getting an immediate strike-through. But there are steaks, which I’m sure are popular and the news that the special is roast rump of lamb with gratin potatoes has us perking up no end.

It’s a crowd-pleasing menu that takes advantage of the considerable stock of wines, with each dish paired with a wine-by-the-glass option. Six crab claws (€18) on a slice of griddled Firestone Bakery sourdough sit in a pool of buttery sauce, speckled with garlic, parsley and chilli. Fingers are called for, which of course must be licked and the bread mops up the sauce very nicely. A glass of Albarino (€8.50) is a refreshing accompaniment.

Our grilled octopus (€16) may well have put up a bit of a fight in the pan. It is a generous portion, and there is plenty of good charred flavour with a nduja and blood orange salsa adding depth and a kick of heat, but the larger of the two tentacles is tough going, too rubbery to finish, even when cut into thin slices.

Our lamb (€30) is blushing pink and crusted on the outside; clearly, there’s none of your sous vide carry-on in this kitchen and the gratin potatoes are notably good with delicious crunchy bits. Perhaps I should not complain about salmon in the seafood linguine (€23) as it was listed on the menu, but it does seem unnecessary as there are plenty of prawns, clams and mussels in the dish, with some samphire adding an additional taste of the sea to the garlicy, white wine sauce.

Dessert is a simple matter with choices of chocolate mousse, maple crème brûlée and a selection of ice creams. The chocolate and orange mousse (€7.50) comes in a Champagne glass, so we dig down deep into what feels like a nicely retro dessert. The accompanying homemade shortbread is delicious. There is a chef in this kitchen who is a dab hand with an oven.

For the main part, Grapevine is what you want in a neighbourhood restaurant. It’s unpretentious, serving the food that you might cook at home, done nicely, so you get to take a night off. The service is friendly and efficient and the keenly-priced wine list is notable, with a mark-up that is lower than most restaurants. If you like what you’ve been drinking, you can pick up a bottle at the retail price on your way out.

There’s no guarantee of celebrity sightings, but you’ll certainly have a very pleasant night out.

Dinner for two with four glasses of wine was €132.45.

The Verdict: Very convivial dining with tasty food and wine.

Music: Background jazz, Blue Moon and the likes.

Food provenance: Ocean Marine, Kish Fish, Pat McLoughlin, Caterway.

Vegetarian options: Vegetarian risotto and falafel which is vegan.

Wheelchair access: No accessible room or toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

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