“This has got to be the spookiest table in Ireland right now,” says Chef Dan Hannigan as he brings our cheeses to the table. On the second night of trading on Orwell Road, the latest venture from Marc and Conor Bereen, owners of Charlotte Quay and the much-lamented Coppinger Row, the small restaurant plays host to two critics from national newspapers. The other critic happens to be both a friend and professional rival, so we joined forces at the end of the night for a catch-up.
hannigan was trained at Michelin starred restaurants including L’Ecrivain and Thornton’s and was formerly head chef at Mister S. He ran a food truck during lockdown and more recently has scheduled time on both Coppinger Row and Charlotte Quay to prepare for running the kitchen on Orwell Road, which almost had to change its name to Independent Ukraine Road just weeks before opening.
At the new neighborhood restaurant (which means you could get chicken nuggets for your kids if you ask very nicely), Hannigan aims to produce food that’s primarily meant to be flavorful and delicious, rather than pleasing customers with fancy ones to dazzle kitchen magic. Though with a resume like his, it’s no wonder his light isn’t entirely hidden under a bushel. The sense of dedication that Michelin training brings, coupled with a clear love for quality ingredients, shines through.
My first piece of advice is don’t pass the snacks. There’s a perfect, delicate tart of salted mackerel smothered in a homemade chilli ponzu, with finely chopped radishes, dressed with lime and salt and topped with a seaweed and sesame furikake – a portent of good things to come.
A croquette of Andarl Farm pork shoulder with a slice of pickled apple is melty and mustard-y, while a buttermilk-fried lion’s mane mushroom served with an emulsion of tarragon (that’s mayo for you and me) is decadent and very good as long as you’re dosed with it not averse to greasiness.
Of the actual appetizers, the scallops with chicken wings and shallots are the tastiest, with the boneless wing served on a small plate that doubles as a lid for the scallops in the bowl below.
Filled with chicken mousse studded with lemon zest, the wing is first steamed and then cooked over a hibachi grill to get it nice and gooey. The caramelized scallops pair with crispy chicken skin in a chicken butter sauce that’s bad in a very good way or good in a very bad way, if you get my meaning. It’s a great dish. Tortellini stuffed with cais na tire, Ireland’s answer to parmesan, in a roasted onion broth is also delicious.
A generous slice of dry-aged halibut comes with a velouté of fennel and mussels, with smoked butter whisked at the end and Goatsbridge trout roe to top it off. Next to it is a fleshy slice of King Oyster Mushroom from GarryHinch in Co Offaly, who also supply the lion’s mane mushroom, and leeks, which are all char and sweet.
Our second main course is lamb from JJ Young in Co Kildare, the rump marinated in herbs, garlic and anchovy oil, grilled, with the slow cooked belly, served over a deconstructed Caesar salad of charred baby gems, topped with a pickled cucumber and anchovy relish. The asparagus is French, awaiting the arrival of the Drummond House crop in Co Louth, coming into season every day. This is full-bodied lamb — none of your new-season namby-pamby stuff — and might not be to everyone’s taste. Sides are delicious Ballymakenny Spuds with Wild Garlic Mayonnaise and a gorgeous looking bitter leaf and shaved veg salad with a citrus vinaigrette that unfortunately fails to impress. Oh, for proper Italian bitter leaves.
For dessert, there’s vanilla parfait with chef’s favorite Ryan’s Rhubarb, the compote spiced up with rhubarb vinegar, topped with ornate slivers of meringue. There are subtle herbal notes of light green tarragon oil and some tweezers in the form of lemon balm cress.
Controversially, Hannigan serves his Wicklow Bán cheese and Conference pear relish with a cheddar scone. For me there are other more exciting Irish cheeses and the scone is just too much at the end of a meal. There is nothing wrong with good crackers.
We drink an elegant, unassuming Etna Rosso from Sicily – Vino di Anna, Palmento Rosso (€55) – and our bill is €197.50 before service, which is young and cheerful. Lucky Rathgar has a winner.
A vegetarian two-course meal costs €31.
Go all out with snacks, appetizers, cote de boeuf, sides, dessert and cheese and you’ll spend €150 on food for two before drinks.
Orwell Street, 8 Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6; Instagram @orwellroad
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/food-reviews/orwell-road-restaurant-review-the-sense-of-dedication-that-michelin-training-brings-coupled-with-a-clear-love-for-quality-ingredients-shines-through-in-this-neighbourhood-gem-41506438.html Orwell Road Restaurant Review: “The dedication that comes with Michelin training, coupled with a clear love of quality ingredients, shines through in this neighborhood gem.”