McGettigans: Dublin’s North Star hotel gets the Dubai treatment

McGettigans Cookhouse and Bar in Dublin does better-than-average bar food

   
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McGettigan's Cookhouse and Bar

  • The North Star Hotel, Amiens St
  • (01) 8559638
  • Irish

I’ve never been to Dubai. Somehow I imagine it is like a ginormous Kildare Village. With more sand. Having never been to Kildare Village either, I could be wrong. Amiens Street in Dublin’s north inner city is one place I have been, however, usually in a rush for a train. It’s a street that conjures up none of the gentleness of its name. Traffic roars along a four-lane road that feels as if it is not quite big enough to accommodate all those buses, cyclists, taxis, cars and pedestrians with cases who look like they are about to miss their trains.

But now a little bit of Amiens Street has been Dubai-ed in the shape of the North Star Hotel. Someone put a pin in the map and drew lines linking this star to others including the O2, the Aviva Stadium, Croke Park and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, not to mention a major train station and an airport route.

And so The North Star has been boutique-ed as has its restaurant McGettigans Cookhouse and Bar. The restaurant is part of the McGettigan’s chain, which has four Irish bars in Dubai.

Now The North Star smells of money. The fresh clean aroma left in the wake of a cash grenade which has exploded inside the walls of the building transforming it from the ground up.

There’s a smartly lacquered parquet floor, olive green leathery banquettes and tweed-upholstered chairs. Two greys – dove and slate – have been applied to the walls and woodwork. An open hatch to the kitchen is surrounded by blackboard painted timber. A central bar has clever lighting along its chunky lengths and hooks for handbags. There’s a lovely old biscuity brick wall that looks, to my eye, like it might have been built inside the existing wall with salvaged old biscuity bricks.

I’m not the only one trailing a wheely bag of prejudices with me into this place. “She’s taking you where?” was a my friend’s husband’s surprised text when he heard the news. But the overall impression when the freshly painted doors close behind you is that this is a very pleasant oasis away from the bustle of the street.

The menu is ambitious and interesting with a commitment to sourcing from within a 20km radius of the hotel. So you get vegetables from the fields of north Dublin where possible and “Dublin-landed fish”, which sounds like it means fish that own Nama sites around the city, though it probably doesn’t.

There’s a mix of families and tourists eating here, so most people are wearing a variation on summer holiday clothes. Our waiter is efficient and friendly. A large coach tour of tanned happy-looking people has arrived into the chandelier-ed lobby to check in. It’s all calm.

The food arrives on fancy things such as wooden boards, rectangular plates and the inevitable slate. There are trimmings such as a violet aioli with my mackerel starter, which looks like a spoonful of Petits Filous.

My food suffers a little from my choice of starter and main. They are both variations on a theme. There’s a leathery fillet of mackerel on top of mustardy potatoes with the purple mayonnaise.

Then I get the skillet of that “Dublin-landed” fish which includes salmon, cod, smoked haddock, gurnard, clams and mussels. It’s all smothered in a cream sauce so the only shout-out flavour is the salty, smoked fish. It’s a treatment that seems a little heavy-handed for fresh fish. But it’s not bad. There are more potatoes in the skillet and ribbons of tasty leek in this deconstructed fish pie.

Carol’s starter, rings of calamari, are on the inner-tube side of chewiness but are hot and crisply fried. Her free-range chicken thigh is a little dry but the Rubik’s cube-sized portion of gratin potatoes are good and there’s a meaty mushroom “casserole” on the side.

A bottle of St Felix Languedoc Sauvignon Blanc/Vermentino is €22.50. A good creme brulee and a too-sweet chocolate brownie round it off.

The overall impression is that McGettigans Cookhouse and Bar is serving better-than-average pub food. Would I come here just to eat? Probably not. But as reasonably-priced hotel food goes, they are trying a bit harder and that’s only to be applauded.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine, orange juice, tea and coffee was €88.40


Second helping
It’s nice to see local businesses branching out into new areas and even nicer when it’s a hardworking friend who’s behind all the expansion and empire-building. This month that’s happened with Kennedy’s Food Store in Dublin’s Fairview. Owner Sarah Kennedy has opened a new branch of Kennedy’s in nearby Raheny, bringing her cafe, deli and grocery shop to another Dublin neighbourhood. The new Kennedy’s of Raheny is doing breakfast and lunch.

Kennedy’s Food Store, The Hilltop , Belmont Park, Raheny, tel: 01-851 3000