Old Dublin post office transformed into fine dining Chinese restaurant
First look: Sea of cool blues and greys in €1.6m refurbishment overlooking the sea
The Old Post Office, Blackrock, Co Dublin, opens on Tuesday for dinner
Once upon a time people went in there to lick their stamps. From this week, they’ll be going into the Old Post Office in Blackrock, Co Dublin, to lick their chops. Or even their chopsticks. (Ba-boom.)
The striking stone-fronted building in the centre of Blackrock in south Co Dublin, built in 1909 – once its post office, and later a Starbucks – has lain empty for some time. Now, after an extensive refurbishment over the past year, it’s reopening as a fine dining Chinese Sichuan restaurant, joining an array of eclectic new eateries in the suburban village.
The new team will open its doors to the public on Tuesday for dinner.
After walking through the original doorway, the space opens out into a surprising fresh-looking room, divided into areas with arches and glass panels. Bright, airy and spacious, with a pale palette of blues, greens and greys, the feel of the new Old Post Office restaurant is subdued, calm and discreetly plush.
Designed and fitted out by the DJI Group, the setting is European fine dining with Chinese touches – sculptures imported from China, a flower pattern on the carpet, bamboos on the terrace, china chopstick and spoon holders – and the food is strictly Sichuan.
Whereas many Chinese restaurants in Ireland offer a mostly Cantonese cuisine, the high-end Old Post Office will have an extensive menu of Sichuan dishes, such as hot and sour soup, Sichuan-spiced steamed whole black sole with ginger and scallion, marinated sea trout in black bean sauce, Irish king scallop Gung Bao. Provenance of the ingredients includes Skeaghanore Duck from west Cork, corn fed Manor Farm chicken from Cavan, and Hereford beef.
Showing off the restaurant just before opening this week, general manager Paul Malone says its emphasis on high standard Sichuan cooking looks towards UK restaurants such as Hakkasan or Kai. He expects a clientele that’s a mixture of locals and Chinese diners – and he reckons the rack of Irish lamb served with a spicy Sichuan salsa will be one of its star dishes.
Beyond the entrance lobby is a small dining area and the bar, which stocks the legendary Moutai, a distilled Chinese spirit which has a reputedly distinct taste (it’s been described as having a “pure, mild, and mellow soy sauce-like after-taste”, while Malone describes it as sweet and smooth).
There’s also a lounge area for those waiting to be seated; from here you can see into the kitchen – a good spot to watch the chefs at work at the particularly impressive wok station.
The attention to details extends to the tableware: Degrenne French cutlery, WMF glasses in the dining room and Timeless cut-glassware in the bar. There are white and blue linen napkins, and the China is duckegg blue with a gold rim, imported from China.
The main dining room at the back of the building features a wall of windows overlooking the sea and across to Dublin Bay. This vista is echoed in the muted blues and greys . A small balcony will have a couple of tables, and swish looking partition doors can divide the room to create a more intimate private dining area.
The walls throughout feature about 20 paintings by artist Willy Redmond, of the local Blackrock area, and stretching to Stephen’s Green and Dun Laoghaire. The paintings were commissioned by one of the unnamed owners, who are two Chinese investors working between China and Ireland, and with seemingly deep pockets – the refurb, Malone estimates, cost close to €1.6 million. .
And as for the main attraction: Four Sichuan chefs, including head chef Yu Shuchen, lead the kitchen team. The emphasis is on tasting menus, priced at €70, €90 or €120 for dinner, or €45 at lunchtime (there is a la carte available also).
While the €70 menu includes won ton soup with prawn and chicken dumplings, and monkfish Sichuan style, the €120 tasting menu brings a veritable feast of Sichuan cooking – starters include Rockhill ½ Peking duck and pan-fried king prawn with hot garlic, hot bean, Sichuan chilli sauce; mains consist of steamed whole black sole with ginger and scallion, fillet of Hereford beef with black bean, garlic sauce, Scallop Gung Bao, and lamb chop Sichuan style, along with a glass of Bollinger champagne..
The lunchtime a la carte starters range €7-16, soups are €9 and mains range from €22-€32. And evening starters range from dumplings Shui Jiao for € 12 to the Peking duck to share for €28; soups are €11-14. Evening mains range from €22 up to €38 for scallops or black sole, with the beef at €42.
Sounds like enough to lick chopsticks, indeed.