Let’s talk about vegan Parmesan. There’s a clump of it on the chips in Glas Restaurant, in Dublin’s city centre. I don’t know how they make vegan Parmesan but wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first step involves the fermentation of the old trainers of a large team of cross-country runners. It’s a toss-up which is worse, texture or taste. When I try to lift it off the chips the strands stick to each other, so it’s like rolling up AstroTurf.
It says a lot about how nice Glas is that the despite the vegan Parmesan we enjoy our meal here. There’s much to like in Glas, not least the ease of bagging an early table on a wet Friday night when the offices of Dublin seemed to have emptied all their staff straight into the city’s restaurants.
It has been an evening that has defeated us. We are cranky, rained on and bookingless with party season near full throttle. “Welcome,” the server says quietly as we walk into the warm restaurant. He repeats the word quietly two more times, and he finds a table for us that he’ll need back in a short while, but that’s fine. We are grateful and dry.
My spirits lift thanks to a menu full of interesting ideas and springy fresh house-made bread to dip into luscious baba ganoush and nutty hummus
My spirits lift thanks to a menu full of interesting ideas and the three kinds of springy fresh house-made bread to dip into luscious baba ganoush – smokey, sloppy baked aubergine – with nutty hummus alongside it.
Tradition dictates that as diners we go elbow deep in foods with a face at this time of year before a severe case of the meat sweats sends us to plants for penance in January. So it feels like being a bit ahead of the curve to be ordering the mushroom pâté and spiced cauliflower ribs before the advent calendars are even hung.
Glas is a roomy place with lamps topped with cardboard circles to keep the lights low. There are real flowers and fake candles on the tables and vintage-style chairs that, unlike the salvaged school chairs, are padded for your dining comfort.
The restaurant seems to be vegetarian and vegan, which makes the vegan Parmesan a bit of a head-scratcher. Vegan food works best when it’s based on vegetables in their glorious, seasonal and whole best, or fermented into fizzing flavours. So give me a tomato salad at the height of summer with a grassy olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. In winter? Maybe roasted Jerusalem artichokes, their skins crisped to a chewy, nutty texture that makes them as moreish as Tayto. The best vegetarian food marries butter, cream and real cheese with all the best vegetables, and you have as many crowd-pleasers as you like.
We’re going for the early bird, at €19 for two courses, and the first of those, sweetcorn and jalapeno fritters, are lovely, elongated rugby balls of freshly fried comforting corn flavours with a lip sting of heat from the peppers.
I have the white truffle and “forest mushroom pâté”, which is black as a November sky and spreads tastily on toasted bread. The quince and tomato chutney alongside it could do with more tang and less fruitiness, but it’s a minor complaint.
Those spicy cauliflower ribs (a stretch if you’re a ribs fan – is the term“florets” not macho enough?) are nicely roasted, with a sticky, satisfying sauce.
My risotto is almost perfect, but by the end I long for lactose, a rich cheesy something stirred in at the end to bed down the grains and vegetables together
I have the risotto (here called an orisotto), which is made with fermented barley, great big chewy pearls of it, and dotted with flavours and zing in the shape of pickled pumpkin and cauliflower, rounds of crisp radish and a grating of fiery horseradish. It’s almost perfect, but by the end I long for lactose, a rich cheesy something stirred in at the end to bed down the grains and vegetables together. Making a risotto without butter or cheese seems like doing things the hard way. They pull it off, but only just.
Dessert is my favourite course here. It’s a rhubarb-pink poached pear cooked to perfect softness and infused with Christmas spices. The oat-milk ice cream works a treat alongside it, and there are candied hazelnuts to remind us that nuts and sugar are a match made in heaven.
Glas is a hard-working, professional restaurant bravely putting vegan dishes on a brasserie-style menu. Maybe they have to decide if they’re a vegan or a vegetarian restaurant, or a restaurant mimicking nonvegan foods. Vegan Parmesan will never be my idea of a good time. But order your chips without it and a trip to Glas will see you well fed.
Dinner for two with two glasses of wine and two bottles of water came to €72
- Verdict Go veggie rather than vegan for the food kicks
- Facilities Nice
- Food provenance None
- Music Nice
- Vegetarian options It's all there is
- Wheelchair access ★★★★★ Room and toilet fully accessible