It wasn’t quite like that when Harry met Sally, but when La Bodega met Babette it was a very nice feeling indeed. Restaurants have been leaning forward, backward and sideways in recent years to deal with the effects of the pandemic, morphing into all sorts of layers of skin as needed.
One such place is La Bodega in Ranelagh, which for about a decade has had a regular clientele who come down from the area’s affluent red brick houses for gambas al pil pil, calamares a la romana and a few bottles of white wine. But I think things must always move on and last December owner Ali Barker announced that the next chapter would be a new restaurant, a new look, new food but still a warm welcome and familiar faces.
When I spotted this on Instagram, I noticed watched the shop clear out and a new color scheme and furniture coming and when it opened we arrived too.
It was only Babette’s second night on the job, but Mary and I immediately liked the vibe. The door opened quickly and we were greeted by the corridor of wind swirling down the strip Ranelagh. It was beautifully tropical Wallpaper and a long bench across from the bar; We were accommodated in a pretty nice little area at the back.
A brasserie menu arrived serving classics Dining and cocktails, with something for everyone under four main headings: The Comfort; The fish; The healthy; The steaks. Well you can guess the ones that appealed to me!
First the appetizers (9-11.50 €), which, with the above-mentioned echoes, are reminiscent of the restaurant’s former life shrimp Squid mix with spicy chicken wings and French onion soup with matured Gruyère .
I’ve chewed through a few gummy squid in my time – we probably all have – but Mary’s simply presented, tender squid (€9) was the best ever, she said – a statement from this fish fan. Served with simple garlic mayonnaise and lemon, we could see why this popular La Bodega staple had made the cut for Babette’s menu. Likewise, my starter of fresh, silky Irish burrata (€12) with roasted figs and gorgeous pink swirls of 24-month aged prosciutto on roasted sourdough was a winner.
Main courses (€16.50 – €34.50) included a variety of 10oz burgers under different headings, as well as mac & cheese with braised ox cheek and crispy onions. There was monkfish curry, baked cod with bean chorizo cassoulet, and beer-battered fish and chips. There was a 9oz/10oz roast beef and salted rib eye with all the trimmings and a huge 18oz roast beef for two for €67.50. Under the heading “Healthy” there was a superfood poke bowl; a bean burger; and Middle Eastern-style grilled chicken.
Mary had the duck cottage pie (€24) which, as you can imagine, was in The Comfort section. Like a big, warm hug, it featured a deep, rich duck leg and ragout base topped with a rich, fluffy blanket of swirling mash – perfect on a bitterly cold evening. I had a large salmon and smoked haddock fishcake (€16.50) that sat on a rondelle of shredded peas and herbs and topped with a suitably oozing poached egg. It was also excellent – as were finger licking truffle fries (€5).
Desserts (€9) included a chocolate dome; sticky toffee pudding; knickerbocker fame; a selection of Irish milk ice cream and a lemon meringue pie which we shared. Light and fluffy and lit at the table for a bit of drama, it was the perfect end to a lovely evening.
Cocktails seemed to be the thing at the tables around us, but we stuck to vino and offered a starting price of €30 – which is true accessible to most. For those on a tighter budget who fancy a €60 Saint-Émilion or €95 Barolo, more expensive wines are available. With a bottle of vegan-friendly L’ETang de Sol Picpoul de Pinet (€38), our bill with water (€2) and 10 piece service was €127.05.
It was just good food that you would happily eat every day.
Tel: (01) 497-5577
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/lucinda-osullivans-restaurant-review-babette-serves-a-fussy-fish-fan-the-best-calamari-ever-41499362.html Lucinda O’Sullivan’s Restaurant Review: Babette serves up ‘Best Squid Ever’ to a picky fish fan