Spitalfields, Dublin: This pub has one of the best beef dishes in the city

Restaurant review: A real pub with great food in a real part of Dublin

   

Spitalfields

By far the grandest thing in Spitalfields is the staircase. It’s wide and gleaming with a conker sheen, like something designed for a barracky country pile rather than a pub on a corner of the Coombe where creamy afternoon pints have been slipping down quietly for decades. 

At least one customer has congratulated Declan Maxwell, who has gone from front of house in Chapter One to Luna to here, on creating the authentic feel of an old pub. Yes, he agrees, nodding and smiling. “That’s because it is an old pub.”  The authenticity is authentic. There’s a beautiful new kitchen (lots of timber and cupboards for the gorgeous crockery) and a swish, fully accessible toilet. But mostly they’ve given it a good scrub and turned the upstairs function room into restaurant space. 

Spitalfields used to be Shanahan’s, and before that Scrumpy Jack’s. Husband-and-wife team chef Stephen McAllister and Andrea Hussey of The Pig’s Ear on Nassau Street took it over earlier this year. 

The leap from a packet of dry-roasted peanuts ripped from the strip beside the till to an €18 bar snack of grilled bread, Perle Imperial caviar and sour cream is audacious

The leap from a packet of dry-roasted peanuts ripped from the cardboard strip beside the till (if you’re lucky) to an €18 bar snack of grilled bread, Perle Imperial caviar and sour cream is audacious. Actually, forget the staircase, Spitalfields caviar on toast may be the biggest thing to hit the Coombe since Biddy Mulligan.

There are no comfort zone-y pulled pork dishes on this menu. But there are plenty that feel like great reasons to come back. Flaggy shore oysters are priced like shots at €4 a gulp, but they’re beautiful meaty babies served with sorrel and tiny cubes of apple, two different but complimentary notes of tartness. Forgive the sentimental idea here but there’s something lovely about these west coast oysters picking up the flavours of autumn as they cross from one coast to the other. 

The salt and vinegar house crisps are a snacky delight, strips of purple potato fried crisp but still tasting of potato, with crisp curls of carrot and Jerusalem artichoke all dialled up with a powdered salt and vinegar dusting. 

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Amy has a bowl of leaf-brown broth with an egg yolk in the middle, a savoury partner to the shiitake mushrooms and sweetcorn in the miso laced bowl of warmth.

I get the beef cheek and bone marrow Parker House roll. Beef is a rare treat these days. As less but better beef dishes go, this one is the best in town. The meat has been cooked low and slow and then folded into a milky buttery brioche baked in a round of tearing segments.

A cock-a-leekie pie for two to share at Spitalfields. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
A cock-a-leekie pie for two to share at Spitalfields. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

It comes in its own iron bowl with a ceramic bowl on the side of bone marrow gravy the colour of soya sauce into which you dip the pillows of soft beefy bread. This tastes like a dish created by a chef who has dipped a roll into the cooking juices in a roasting tray and realised it’s a better mouthful than any of the fancy-plated stuff they’ve just sent out to the dining room.  

There’s a juicy fillet of slip sole laden with grapes and potted brown shrimp and rainbow radishes, small and pale as pickled onions, so much jazzier than Amy’s childhood memories of this fish.

I go from beef to pumpkin with two meaty wedges of Crown Prince (that pale-green skinned squash with innards the colour of cantaloupe melon) roasted and served with cooked burrata, that spilling mozzarella typically served uncooked. There’s a sprinkling of nutty dukkah over it all and it is as satisfying as meat. 

If I have a quibble it’s that some roasted cauliflower is a bit watery, but there are smoked almonds to make up for it.

The audacity and ambition are what I love about what they’ve done. And they still serve creamy pints to regulars in the afternoon. Welcome to the hood lads

We finish with hazelnut and chocolate mille-feuille for two, which we assume will be a small serving. But we couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a Mannings Bakery close-of-day scale shoebox of a portion with hazelnut and chocolate creams piped between layers of freshly baked pastry. 

Like “journey” and “story” the word “authentic” is in danger of slipping into nonsense territory. Spitalfields is real, in a real part of Dublin where gentrification has been talked about for decades and is now dropping out of the sky in the shape of build-it-anywhere cash-cow developments.

The audacity and ambition are what I love about what they’ve done. It’s no pricier than The Old Dublin on Francis Street was in its heyday, where the caviar raised no eyebrows. It was part of the richness of the place. And they still serve creamy pints to regulars in the afternoon. Welcome to the hood lads. We’re delighted to have you. 

Dinner for two with a shared dessert came to €90.50

Verdict 9/10 A Dublin pub with deliciousness squared. 
Facilities Fine
Food provenance Good. Flaggy Shore oysters, Jack McCarthy’s black pudding, St Tola and Cashel among the cheeses
Music Nice
Vegetarian options Limited but good 
Wheelchair access ★★★★★ Accessible ground floor and there’s a new accessible toilet.