Review: Luna offers fancy food and fun

Old school and unashamedly bling in places, this Drury St restaurant is a crowd pleaser

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The dessert trolley in Luna is a prop so over the top it has trundled down the other side. The wooden contraption is made, it seems, from the salvaged remains of Liberace’s most flamboyant four poster bed. The friend has just virtually stuck out a foot to halt it beside our table. We haven’t had our dinner yet, but she’s getting a preview of the treats. It’s the kind of bad behaviour that’s positively encouraged here.

Luna is restaurateur John Farrell’s tribute act to an Italian American hangout in the smokey old days. You imagine a signet-ringed hand waved over the room sometime in 1978. And the gingham cloths and chianti bottles of the old country got swept away in a wave of low leather booths and honeycomb patterned carpet with that dessert trolley as the final flourish. But it’s all an act of imagination. The below ground Drury St restaurant was a suit shop and basement in the back end of a multistorey carpark until Farrell took it over a couple of years ago. His fish restaurant Super Miss Sue arrived at street level along with Cervi, the city’s classiest chipper. Then slowly Luna emerged in her underground lair, first as a bar and now as a fully-fledged restaurant built to look like a time capsule or a movie set, or both.

We are the stories we tell ourselves in this persona-driven age. And Luna has personality in spades. You descend into a red velvet entrance hall that is part chocolate box and all panto. It’s a living it large kind of place. The menus are poster sized, even wider than the grin on manager Declan Maxwell’s face. Full disclosure? The former Chapter One front of house professional ran the front of house at my Appetite Talks feast maestro-style last month. This will not be an anonymous visit. But que sera sera, as they say in joints like these.

“I can’t remember the last time I was offered a kilo of meat,” our third diner, John, who hasn’t hijacked the dessert trolley says. He’s a little meat stunned. We’ve just had the rundown on the menu from Peter, whose tableside manner is of a waiter you’d trust with your darkest secrets. He’s explained how some of the more eye-wateringly expensive items would feed two or even three, like the kilo of veal shank in the osso bucco (sic) bomb, a menu item listed at a wallet-straining €85.

We’ll get to those mains soon (in a small spoiler I can tell you a lurcher in Fairview became Ireland’s happiest hound later that evening).

Starters are decidedly grown up. This is definitely Farrell’s poshest restaurant yet. There’s a gorgeous frothy parsnip soup with shards of hazelnuts and smoked duck lardons floating in its creamy nutty depths.There’s a plate of raw scallops, sliced into rounds and dotted with Baeri caviar (gosh remember caviar) which has even more blingtastic touches of gold leaf dotted on. It’s a shameless sod-the-locavore-trend plate of food. I’ve gone for the roast cauliflower a chunky floret in a cheesy soup that’s been decorated latte-art style with green petals of lovage sauce. The cauli wears a bacon and hazelnut layer that’s the crunchier, saltier cousin of a brunch ice cream crumb. It’s only slightly let down by its tepid temperature.

A sea urchin fettuccine nails the bottom of a boat flavour of sea urchin but the chewy pasta could have been silkier. There’s a birds nest of seaweed with a golden egg yolk in its centre, topped with another fleck of gold leaf. The hanger steak is sold out so Anne gets sirloin. It’s smokey charred outside, juicy pink inside and thicker than a crime boss’s money roll. It’s so large the last chunk winds up heading home to doggy (or possibly spouse’s) jaws in a bag.

I have a whole roast partridge, clenched claws and all in a treacly sticky meaty plate of robustly flavoured food. There are mahogany brown rounds of mulled pear, adding a nice astringency to the meat and a crunchy rosti tucked underneath soaked in partridge juices. My ribs are suitably stuck.

Waistbands straining the dessert trolley trundles to a stop at our table with its jelly bowls of tiramisu, a chocolate tart with an Oreo cookie base and something that might have been a pumpkin cheesecake with a nutty crumb. Wimps that we are we share a bowl of lemon and rosemary olive oil cakes, oozy towers of tangy flavoured polenta (I think) with a marmaladey orange syrup poured over them to sweeten their edge.

Luna is shameless, from its gold leaf and caviar down to a menu postscript telling you the staff were “tailored by Louis Copeland”. It’s been a dambuster of a meal in which the first plates have outshone the heftier ones that followed. The food is good. For this kind of cash you could eat better elsewhere but I’m not sure you can have as much fun. So you choose. Food swoons or belly laughs. My advice? Order from the small plates part of the menu and then summon that dessert trolley. Dublin’s got itself a new institution of a restaurant, a story that’s spun itself into being out of the great Italian American songbook, a set of blousey crowd pleasing classics that never go out of style.

Verdict: 8/10 Spendy but fun. Dinner for three with a bottle of wine came to €178.00
Facilities: Challenging. “It’s like Narnia in there,” the friend says after a visit. Tackle them before attempting a second class of wine
Food provenance: None
Wheelchair access: No
Music: Low key funk
Vegetarian options: Limited