Meal Ticket: Cavern, Baggot Street, Dublin 4

A wine bar with wine shop prices and tasty nibbles? Oh go on then, just one more glass

   
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Cavern

A winebar with wine shop prices? Now there’s an idea. Cavern, a new winebar underneath the gem that is Baggot Street Wines, is just such a place. To find it, you duck down some stone steps at the side of the wine shop, past a tasting room and into a long, grey stone-walled room. There’s seating for about 40 inside, on grey couches and banquettes. At the back, a covered courtyard hemmed by old stone walls and cool, white paintwork sits about the same number again. There are large wooden tables with blankets thrown over the backs of chairs. Comfy leather couches lie under a white painted archway, with glass doors at either end. It’s a bright place – good for chatting and the “go on, just one more glass” kind of atmosphere that means it’s busy on a dull Tuesday evening.

The menu is limited when we visit due to a changeover in chefs, but there are plans for a wider range of food. It’s divided into breads and dips, charcuterie and cheese boards and terroir plates, which have nibbles paired with a suitable wine or sherry. The list of Irish suppliers is almost longer than the menu itself, and includes familiar names such as Toonsbridge Dairy, Gubbeen Smokehouse, The Real Olive Company and Goatsbridge trout farm.

We decide on artisan breads with Ed Hick’s bacon jam, whipped Ryefield goats cheese (€6), and a trio of lemony hummus, basil pesto and beetroot tzatziki (€6) to start. The breads – from Arun, O’Hartigan and Tartine bakeries include a crisp and chewy baguette, a very good fig and walnut bread and a dense brown soda. They’re fond of their slates here – obviously oblivious to the We Want Plates movement – but portions presented on them are generous and the sticky, salty-sweet bacon jam is particularly good with the creamy whipped cheese. 

Charcuterie and antipasti boards (both €14), are suggested for one person, but in fact work perfectly well shared between two. The antipasti is laden down with treats including the three house dips (an accidental replication of our earlier order), olives, creamy bitesize Toonsbridge bocconcini, grilled halved courgettes, sun dried tomatoes, a bean salad and some very good dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). The charcuterie board includes some parma, Serrano and a good spicy smoked chorizo from Gubbeen and a salami flecked with pungent fennel seeds.

One of the main benefits of Cavern is that you can pop upstairs to get a bottle of wine while you wait on your food. So we let Baggot Street Wines staff know what we plan to eat and come back down with an excellent 2011 Chateau Segonzac (€19.90 plus €5 corkage), which would have cost considerably more at restaurant prices. It’s then decanted at the table. There’s also a decent wine list downstairs, with 15-20 whites and reds, at least eight of each available by the glass at any one time. A generous glass of oaky, spicy 2014 Dada Malbec/Bonarda is well worth €7 a glass. This is a good spot for a midweek catch-up, it will be interesting to see what they do with their menu.