Review: Fab food from this daytime cafe turned evening restaurant
The personality on the plate is right. A night-time glow shouldn’t be far behind
- Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2
The switch from day to night might sound like more of a fashion staple than a restaurant one. But daylight does lots to a room and when it’s gone a different set of considerations comes into play. Candles are the restaurant equivalent of sequins for a desk to dance floor shimmy. Toss in some marmalade hued bulbs and a look that says warm cave where you will feel safe, and bingo! You own the night.
Gertrude is on Dublin’s Pearse Street. It’s the latest venture by Colin Harmon of 3Fe Coffee and a showcase for young talented chef Holly Dalton. Gertrude becomes a lady of the night on Friday and Saturday evenings. The rest of the week she’s a breakfast, brunch and lunch place. The food in this stretch of street has long been sandwich bars by day and chippers by night. But Bread 41 and Honey Truffle have upped the game closer to town and now Gertrude is here to light up the night, at least twice a week.
It’s set back from the footpath with its name in white on the plate glass windows. The logo is designed to the point where it might be a struggle to read if you didn’t already know it was there.
The standout dish of the night is a golden tennis-ball-sized Scotch egg, sliced across the middle to reveal fudgy yolk and pepper-flecked sausage meat inside a crisp coat
Inside the look is grey, teal, dark blue and lemon yellows. There’s a high counter with stools set inside a timber ark towards the front of the room. There’s something of the 1970s modernist church feel off it, like there should be doves cut out and a sliding tabernacle. I can see what they were going for but on a dank cold night you can also see how plenty of people and sunlight (neither of which are here now) help take the chilliness off it.
The menu is where all the personality lives. It’s a simple one pager set of two or three courses with allergy numbers in brackets after each dish rather than prices which is the way of the world.
The wine menu is much more text heavy and they even have a house-made non-alcohol drink, a bay leaf lemonade that’s pronounced only slightly sardonically by my friend as “very up your alley”. I’m saving this phrase as the title for a tell-all memoir coming to good bookshelves some time in 2027.
She gets the standout dish of the night. It’s the simplest plate of food, a pale golden tennis ball sized scotch egg sliced across the middle to reveal fudgy yolk and pepper-flecked sausage meat inside a crisp coat. There’s a celeriac remoulade where the root vegetable has been softened to the texture of al dente pasta and a quenelle of wild garlic pesto. Taken all together the tricolour (it is actual green white and gold here) achieves all the best things redolent of great cooking.
I have a plate of the snacks to road test the rest, but secretly envy the scotch egg. My plate has a lovely house-made cracker topped with cucumber yoghurt, beet-cured salmon and matchsticks of granny smith apple. A tiny doll-sized nasturtium leaf packs a smart sting of heat. Cooleeny croquettes are gobstoppers of oozing comfort and there are bacon and cabbage dumplings with a great smokey bacon flavour. I would have liked more cabbage but that’s probably just me.
Really simple and really lovely is the final verdict on what we’ve eaten. There are plenty of places with better lighting but way worse food
The mains have more of that satisfying supper feel of well-sourced and expertly-cooked food. There’s a feather blade steak that collapses into soft threads under the fork. This is important as my friend has just come from the dentist and is not in the mood to wrestle with her food. There’s a bed of mash to soak up the meat juices and glazed carrots which do precisely what they need to do.
I have a lovely plate of brill with lightly fried capers, flayed into piquant juicy crisps. It comes with a roast lemon puree which could do with having its bitterness balanced out with something creamier. But other than that I’m in my happy place. Fries with caper mayonnaise are skinnier than I would like (best eaten in bunches of three to get the full effect) but made up for with their crispness.
There are apple fritters for dessert. These are soft brown UFO shaped cinnamon dusted doughnut and apple mouthfuls that just work. It’s a reminder that actual pastry-cheffing desserts are so much better than assemblies of creamy things. Normally served with custard, my friend asks for a mashup with the 3Fe (naturally) coffee soft-scoop ice cream. It is a very good call.
I have a lovely bowl of mascarpone so rich and unctuous it could probably start its own Instagram influencer account. There are tangy threads of cheerful pink rhubarb (this season’s happy offering) and a nutty crumb over the whole lot.
Really simple and really lovely is the final verdict on what we’ve eaten. There are plenty of places with better lighting but way worse food. In Gertrude they’ve got the personality on the plate right and the mood glow stuff of a night time restaurant should be a cinch to follow.
Dinner for two with two glasses of wine, a house lemonade and one side came to €97.50
- Verdict A nice addition to dining in this part of Dublin
- Facilities Lovely
- Wheelchair access Yes
- Music Nice
- Food provenance Limited. Rick Higgins beef and that Cooleeny croquette
- Vegetarian options Limited to one starter and one main, but they sound good