Meal Ticket: The Workshop, Dublin 2

Not the place for a quiet Friday pint any more, but it is a good option for lunch

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The Workshop

J Kennedy’s at the entrance to Tara Street Dart Station was long a spit and sawdust kind of pub. It had a lick of paint and some new decor a few years back but it never shook off the feeling of drinking in Ciaran Kennedy’s front room. Not such a viable business model, no matter how welcome a refuge from the windy quays and grumpy commuters outside. Fast forward and it’s had a complete revamp. Gone are the yellowing walls and the old leather couches. The Kennedys still own the place - but it’s run by the former manager of the Chophouse on Bath Avenue - and it shows. Now called The Workshop, it’s covered in panelling painted in that Farrow and Ball bestseller “Gastropub Grey”. It’s all slick bar stools, wooden platters and metal pails of chunky chips, white napkins, heavy cutlery and large wine glasses.

This isn’t the place for a quiet Friday pint, a chat and a packet of crisps any more. But it is a good option for lunch. It’s heaving when we arrive on a recent weekday. Office workers cram every available table and we take a bar stool in front of an impressive - though slightly incongruous - selection of wines displayed on the bar. The menu is short and sweet - lunch is served from 12pm to 3pm Monday to Friday (12 - 4.45pm at weekends). There are three sandwiches, a salad and a handful of mains, including mussels, burgers, and fish and chips.

From our bar stool vantage point in front of the service door we watch the lunchtime food come and go. The steak sandwich with béarnaise (€7.50) looks very good - we note too late for our own order. A large table orders many burgers (€12.50), and they arrive out in procession, wide and tall in a brioche bun with lots of cheese, salad and chips. Two are sent back for being “undercooked” and are quickly replaced. They looked perfectly good to us though - slightly pink and moist inside as opposed to the usual Food Safety Authority-authorised seared cardboard.

The turkey crown sandwich (€6.95) is recommended - a good tip. Plentiful slices of house-cooked turkey crown are crammed between toasted slices of good batch loaf with melted brie, rocket, lots of avocado and a tomatoey mayo. A quinoa power salad (€8.50) has smoky, well seasoned quinoa with baby spinach, chunks of tart feta, with sweet dried cranberries and tomatoes, roasted seeds and a honey and sesame dressing. A glass of earthy, full bodied Pegos Claros 2010 is pricey for a lunchtime tipple (€8.45) but the house bottles start at €23 and seem to be popular among the groups eating here.

There’s a more formal dining room, the Peppercorn, upstairs, which appears to be serving the same evening menu as the gastropub, but is set to have its own menu shortly. As the lunchtime brigade files out the door at five to two, the place empties to a quiet hum. A few tourists nurse pints of Guinness while sheltering from the filthy weather outside. Perhaps not everything has changed.