Eoin Higgins says it’s well worth chancing your arm to get a place at the hottest table in town, Clanbrassil House.
I’d made a number of phone calls trying to get a table, but it always seemed to be booked up. As with a Tinder match who has no notion of actually meeting up, I eventually got tired of trying to make the date, so I decided to turn up at the door, early, to see if I could garner a place at the table as a walk-in.
Early was 5.30pm on a bitterly cold Saturday. With no reservation, my pal and I were kindly offered an hour-and-a-half on a two-top, we accepted and tried to warm up in the cosy room.
Perched on our stools we surveyed our surroundings: the staff were New Balance-wearing, professional and pleasant; the lighting was soft and the room was bijou.
Clanbrassil House has a delicious pedigree, being the progeny of the recently-bestowed-with-a-Michelin-Bib-Gourmand darling of the critics, Bastible, which is located within walking distance. Heading up the kitchen is the passionate and talented Grainne O Keefe (Pichet, Bastible) while front-of-house stalwart Míchael Murray (l’Gueueleton, Cotto) is the man with the table plan. Scanning the menu we decided on the very reasonabe €40 ‘family style’ menu, which meant we’d get a wide-ranging selection from the full offering. There is also a good-value, albeit more limited in choice, €25, three-course Early Bird option available until 6pm.
First off the pass, a pair of delicious, intensely ham flavoured croquettes –hammier than Miss Piggy playing Peppa the Pig, in a Rodgers & Hammerstein production of Babe: Pig in the City. The modestly-proportioned morsels were a triumph. These were joined by another flavourful gob smacker: verdial olives. Grown in Andalucia, these particular ones were imbued with a gorgeous anchovy/briney flavour that sent deliciousness levels through the roof.
Next up, a handsome trio of teasers from the ‘plates’ section of the menu: roasted leeks, chopped egg and chicken skin; organic beets, Toonsbridge ricotta and walnut butter; chicken liver parfait, toasted brioche and quince. Each a satisfactorily interesting dish and hard to choose a favourite, but the parfait illicted the most “mmmm’s”, by a hair. Two mains then from the grill, beginning with my favourite dish of the repast: homemade sausage, braised cabbage, apple and polenta – a heartening, punchy winner of a dinner. The other main: barbecued cauliflower, curry butter, lentils and yoghurt wrought my only criticism: the lentils were very slightly underdone for my taste.
The mains were joined by two stellar sides: AMAZING hash brown chips (do yourself a favour and try these) and a fabulously fermented brussels sprout kimchi. For dessert, chocolate mousse with a game-changing marmalade ice cream and honeycomb, and a pickled rhubarb sorbet … not a huge sorbet fan myself, but tartly tempting was this. I want to go back. And soon.