A wine bar where food is more than an afterthought

Review: A new Dublin city centre winebar has a pleasant surprise in store: good food

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Bagots Hutton

  • 6 Ormond Quay
  • (01) 8788118
  • Italian

I love wine. But it doesn’t love me. So we’re on a break. There are no hard feelings. We’ve had our good times. But there have been one too many glasses that tasted like a headache followed inevitably by a dread-sodden morning. Given the choice I’ll always eat rather than drink my calories. So the wine goggles are back in their velvet-lined case as we head to, of all places, a wine bar for dinner.

We’re in Bagots Hutton on Dublin’s Ormond Quay. This is a building that morphed from an art gallery to the Ormond Wine Bar a few years ago and then, until recently, a casual Brazilian restaurant. The last time my friend had dinner here a row spilled into the dining room and a staff member threw a spectacular strop before walking out mid-shift.

Now it’s a new offshoot of the South William Street wine bar Bagots Hutton, named after the Dublin drinks importers who would announce the arrival of new season Devonshire cider in the small ads of The Irish Times in 1860. We’re getting used again to the idea that food has seasons, but who knew that drinks did too?

Big river skies

Instead of textbook grey they’ve gone for a duck-egg blue and gilt finish on the handsome wood panelling and teamed it with yolk-yellow banquettes and nifty grey chairs. The dickying up stops at the handsome old wide plank floor which wears its age like a battered badge of honour. It’s a sort of Marie Antoinette-does-hipster look. There are several different rooms in this monster building; the front one, where we’re sitting with that view of the river, feels most like a wine bar. There’s a smaller room beside it and then the cavernous bar with a stage at the farthest end decked out with purple velvet curtains. Downstairs in the basement there’s the same footprint again and another bar area with banquettes. It’s a big-bellied whale of a place.

Between the canals

There’s good grassy olive oil on a breezy tomato salad, all yellow, red and bruise-dark purple cherry tomatoes on a pretty plate. My bruschetta has good bread, toasted biscuity and topped with milky mozzarella and more of those cherry tomatoes, including some just-roasted halves to add some jammier flavour. Carol has the pasta with mussels and n’duja, a perfectly spiced plate with great fat mussels in their shells. The special is pretty special in this price range: rib-eye with purple potatoes and a tasty selection of greens: kale, spring onions, broad beans in a wine jus with slices of juicy, well-cooked beef on top. The potatoes don’t just look good, they taste properly of potato, a simple idea that falls through the cracks too many times in Irish restaurants.

Silky panna cotta

I cycled by since and wondered at how empty this place is. Would they struggle to keep the food and service standard good if all 120 seats had bums on them on a Tuesday evening? I don’t know. But what I do know is Bagots Hutton on Ormond Quay is the best of both worlds: a wine bar where the food doesn’t taste like an afterthought.

Dinner for two with one glass of wine, one soft drink, tea and coffee came to €55 

Bagots Hutton, 6 Ormond Quay, Dublin 7 (01) 878 8118

Facilities: Unisex

Food Provenance: None

Music: Pop but live music Thursday to Saturday

Wheelchair access: Yes

Vegetarian options: Limited

Verdict: 8/10 A lovely wine bar with a fresh approach to food

Second helping . . .

Annie’s is a pleasant neighbourhood cafe on Grand Canal Street that’s been revamped recently, according to its website. I don’t know whether it was all chintz and tea cups before, but now it’s pared-back concrete and plywood, taking minimalism to a new level. It’s cosier than it sounds, especially on a sunny day when the big window floods the place with warmth. The food is good too. I had a heartwarming bowl of broccoli soup with a broccoli and sweet potato salad and a bracingly strong coffee there recently.

Annie’s, 10 Grand Canal Street Upper, Dublin (01) 667 5321