Meal Ticket: Luna, Drury St, Dublin 2

This semi-subterranean spot harks back to early 1960s Italian-American restaurants, with low ceilings and lighting, dark booths and a Campari bar

   
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Luna

Dinner at Luna is both a joy and a disappointment. The food, the décor, the service - all very good. And yet the lingering hope that Sinatra, Martin and the Rat Pack might stumble in for a steak and martini is never met. A futile notion, of course, but this is exactly the atmosphere they’re going for. This semi-subterranean spot beneath Super Miss Sue harks back to early 1960s Italian-American restaurants, with low ceilings and lighting, dark booths, a Campari bar and many, many dark-haired waiters gliding around in plum-coloured Louis Copeland tuxedos.

The menu is divided into Italian-style courses; salume (cut to order with an enormous yellow meat slicer), primi; soups and salads; pastas; and a grill section split into fish and meat. Bistecca Fiorentina (Italian t-bone) and a veal chop come in varying sizes. Our waiter takes great delight in telling us there’s a 1.5kg bistecca available when we visit, but we’re here to try the new pre-theatre menu - €30 for three courses, served Wednesday to Saturday until 6.45pm.

There are four choices for each course; to start we try prawn cocktail with lettuce, Marie Rose and an upright fan of avocado slices. It’s topped with a sprinkle of chilli flakes which adds a nice kick. Two of us opt for mushroom and artichoke bruschetta. Slivers of artichoke and assorted mushrooms - wild, chanterelle, chestnut, shiitake - some cooked, some so wafer thin they don’t need it, are piled high with creamy garlic and parsley atop a slice of bruschetta. There’s a sprinkling of parmesan to finish. It’s seriously good, so good sharing becomes an issue.

For mains, a bowl of thick, housemade macaroni is coated with a tomato and ‘nduja, with torn chunks of almost melting mozzarella and flecks of basil. A little more ‘nduja heat would have served it well. Slices of slow-cooked pork cheek come on a pool of slightly gloppy polenta with sweet confit peppers - this pales in comparison to a large sea bass fillet roasted over coals until the skin is charred crispy. There’s a tangle of raw fennel, some heftier chunks have been charred, with a tang of lemon sauce.

Portions look conservative (on beautiful blue and white tableware), but the first two courses are filling, so none of us can finish desserts of gelato (Ferraro Rocher, vanilla and a particularly good rhubarb crumble flavour); a rich coffee and Baileys panna cotta with mascarpone mousse and the darkest of chocolate; and a large New York-style baked cheesecake with lemon curd and raspberries.

Early birds can be a rushed, slightly frazzled affair, but it’s relaxed here, with no watch-tapping or bills arriving to shoo you out the door. They’re calling it their pre-theatre menu, although much of the theatre happens while you’re here, no doubt thanks to new manager Declan Maxwell, formerly of Chapter One. Just beware the most confusing toilets in Dublin that will have you pushing walls, mime-like, to find a door.