Review: A joyful night in a buzzing restaurant – just like the old normal

With a cocktail in the courtyard before dinner, this is the perfect place for a celebration

   

Mulberry Garden

So what happens when you turn a restaurant off and back on again? In the case of Mulberry Garden surprisingly little. Mulberry 2.0 has practically been preserved in aspic. Like many of the top-end around the country, the Donnybrook, Dublin 4, restaurant already had the luxury of well-spaced tables, so adapting to suit current pandemic circumstances is less drastic than you’d expect.

A drink before dinner is very much part of the experience here, and outdoors in the courtyard, with comfortable seating, greenery, wood-burning stoves and a large canopy, everything feels safe and “old normal”.

There’s an impressive drinks list, with gins, beers, sherries, and of course, their much-lauded cocktails, overseen by cocktail maestro Adi. He has some good suggestions, and we spend a relaxing time sipping a Pisco Sour (€15), and Adi’s Old Fashioned (€16) before heading into dinner. It feels a little bit like being on holidays.

The L-shaped diningroom wraps around the courtyard and has changed little over the years; it’s wearing well, with white linen tablecloths defying the Covid-19 trend for bare tables.

The seasonal dinner menu is concise; three courses for €55, with three choices on the starters and main course, which include a vegetarian option, finishing with dessert or cheese. And if you’re feeling flaithulach, you can add additional courses of a 30g tin of caviar (€120) or 120g of Acorn Iberian ham (€45). There is also a six-course tasting menu for €80, with a €50 wine pairing.

Our wine waiter has a good sense of what we’re looking for, and from a list that ranges in price from €29-€1,200, he steers us to the Trascampanas Verdejo from Rueda (€42) rather than the Penfolds Grange. An unoaked, crisp white, a refreshing sip and a bite of our croqueta amuse bouche filled with earthy, slow-cooked meat starts our meal off nicely.

While salmon is as common as Sauvignon Blanc on menus, I’m not a huge fan unless it’s wild – I know, good luck with that – but having tasted it on the Mulberry at Home box, I’m happy to try it again. Nicely firm and piqued with a bit of lemon, the simple accompaniments of a few slices of room temperature confit potatoes, lightly pickled cucumber, leek oil and scatterings of seaweed, trout caviar and sesame seeds, combine to make this a fresh, pleasing dish.

Kilkenny rosé veal is sliced and topped with crunchy pear and cubes of smoked eel – which add hugely to the dish – dots of puréed egg yolk, and pickled walnuts, crowned with a neat little mound of green leaves. Again, light and pleasing, what you want in summer.

Turbot is one of my favourite fishes, whether cooked on or off the bone, but not sous vide. I’m not sure if this is the method used to confit it here, but the fish is a little bland – 30 seconds in a hot pan lashed with butter would have added colour and flavour. Luckily the roast shellfish sauce does the heavy lifting, adding another dimension to the dish, which is enhanced by courgette and fronds of seaweed.

Our other main course, duck breast, works on all levels. Cooked pink with a nice crispy skin, it is served with braised and raw endive, celeriac purée and an aromatic punch of bright green lovage purée. With a glass of Côtes du Rhône (€11.75), this is the standout plate of the evening.

We end the meal, with cheese – Irish and in good condition – served with homemade crackers and a refreshing firm lemon tart on a crumble base served with a deliciously tart raspberry sorbet.

The food in Mulberry Garden is very good, but what sets this restaurant apart and tips the score to the top end of the scale is the sheer joy of dining here. Service is spectacularly good. In a room which is buzzing, relaxed, and filled with regulars, the waiting staff, who deftly keep a social distance, manage to chat to everyone. It really is the whole experience – Mulberry Garden is perfect for a special occasion.

Dinner for two, with cocktails and a bottle and glass of wine came to €199.

Verdict A complete night out
Facilities Good, Irish soaps and hand lotions
Food provenance Irish all-stars, and super seasonal
Music Well-chosen jazz
Vegetarian options One option on each course
Wheelchair access Room is accessible but no accessible toilet

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