The Vintage Kitchen: Irish food with flair

You can bring your own vinyl and your own wine to a great new restaurant cooking Irish food with flair

   
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The Vintage Kitchen

  • Irish

I t’s a grade three fouler of a night, the kind on which folk tend to shelve dinner plans and have cheese on toast for tea. So there’s something cheerful about the Vintage Kitchen, a small new restaurant nestled beside Mulligans pub on the desolate stretch that is Poolbeg Street in Dublin’s city centre. The restaurant and pub are the only sign of anything welcoming hereabouts.

The Vintage Kitchen is a little sister operation to the Portobello restaurant Seagrass. It offers a €25 two-course menu and it’s bring-your-own-bottle. It’s also a bring-your-own-vinyl operation. The record player will take customer’s vinyl if it “fits into the easy going nature of our restaurant”. Later, a diner will hand over two albums, with a “these are my children” warning. Due reverence is paid.

It’s not the only area where they take things seriously. The menu reads temptingly like a stroll around food Ireland. The cooking is happening behind the counter in the cafe space and every now and again the heat lamp flicks on with the tinkle of a little handbell for service.

Two fruit smoothies with a dash of vodka in them arrive as a cocktail. There’s warm house-made beetroot bread served with onion butter and a pot of black olive and aubergine paste with a smoky garlic bottom note you’d swear was truffle. The bottle of Picpoul I’ve brought gets opened (no corkage if you’re eating the two courses) and popped in a cooler.

My main difficulty with the menu is deciding on just two things because they all sound wonderful. Even better is word from the kitchen that the squid my friend has ordered for her starter is “a bit rubbery” so instead she’ll get hake on top of her roasted red pepper and coriander risotto. “That’s like something you’d do at home,” the impressed friend says, “cause you wouldn’t want to serve rubbery squid.”

My bacon and spring cabbage looks way posher than this typical dish can be. The boiled bacon has been finely diced, mixed with some shards of deep green cabbage and served like a tian of crab. There’s a vivid pea and mint soup around it, which smothers small chunks of the surprise ingredient – tangy soft green rhubarb. And on top of it all is a piece of cabbage leaf turned into a salty glass-crisp crunch.

My main course of lamb shank has the right mix of cooking and cheffing. The meat has been slow-cooked till it’s tumbling off the bone and is swimming in a treacle sticky, almost black gravy (minor quibble here: the sauce is a bit salty). Dotted around the rim of the plate are roasted baby carrots on their own blobs of carrot puree and some cherry tomatoes slowly cooked to mouth-exploding pockets of sweetness. This is a kitchen that has a way with vegetables.

The second main course of mackerel is pan-fried and served with beetroot quarters that have sagged in on themselves after a slow roasting. There are more of those great tomatoes and caperberries tossed around like sweets.

To finish there’s a baked limoncello cheesecake which is a deep bowl of almost-savoury, fluffy lemon cheese, with a sprinkling of crumb on the top. Desserts are €5 apiece. The cheese plate (for €4 extra) comes with generous chunks of room-temperature cheese, including a sensational seaweed cheddar.

The Vintage Kitchen has created a warm refuge on a dreary street. Its food is sprinkled with imaginative touches, something often lacking in a budget restaurant. Dinner for two with a glass of house wine (€4.50) and desserts came to €68.50.


THE VERDICT: A great place to feel at home in and eat excellent food


The Vintage Kitchen, 7 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2, tel: 01- 6798705. Dinner, Wednesday to Saturday nights.
Music: Cool old school, bring you own
Facilities: Sparkling
Wheelchair access: Yes
Food provenance: Excellent. St Tola cheese, Kilmore Quay hake and Slaney River lamb all get mentions

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