I flaked on dry January and meat-free January to dine in this south Dublin restaurant
26th Jan 2020
I was doing so well too… A sip of wine hadn’t passed my lips since December 31, and apart from that one breakfast I had in the first week of January where I genuinely completely forgot I was attempting a meat-free diet and gobbled three bits of streaky bacon before you could say ‘vegetarian’, I was completely on track. Until I was invited to dine in authentic Sichuan Chinese restaurant Old Post Office…
“If you like meat, I’d recommend the lamb rack,” said general manager Paul Malone when my dining partner queried the size of the lamb shank from the Chef’s Special Menu. Little did Paul know, we were three weeks into meatless January, and were both foaming at the mouth at just the thought of a rack of lamb sizzling in front of us.
“Sold,” said the man, who ordered a side of fried rice and a starter of crab meat and sweetcorn soup.
I opted for wontons in a hot and spicy sauce, and Hereford beef with hot bean sauce and red green chilli with a side of veg for mains.
We were comfortably sat at a window table with sprawling views over Dublin Bay just before nightfall. The interiors of Old Post Office, on Main Street in Blackrock, have undergone an impressive refurbishment that reportedly cost over €1m. The plush chairs, wide tables and authentic Chinese decor are south Dublin fine dining at its, well, finest.
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The impressive space caters for couples who want a cosy atmosphere, and for larger groups who want to enjoy a Tasting Menu of authentic Sichuan cuisine. You’ll find a varied menu that stays true to its heritage, with distinctive spices and plenty of flavour to tantalise even the most seasoned palate.
The copper bar, also designed by The DJI Group, set against marble walls and pastel surroundings, is welcoming, as is the plush reception area designed in muted duck egg blues, aqua greens and whites.
From the outside, the building maintained the facet of the old post office it once was. Impressive columns and large-scale windows and doors loom over the tiny village street – you can’t help but do a double take when you walk past.
We weren’t long dreaming of our reunion with succulent meat when Paul presented us with an amuse-bouche of a tasty prawn ball, that we washed down with our house red Sicilian wine – more on that later.
As if we were his only customers – we definitely weren’t – Paul served our starters in record time, attentively but not over-complicatedly checking if everything was to taste.
The wontons were indeed hot and spicy as promised, and plentiful, unlike most fine dining restaurants where you’re left searching for the wontons only to be disappointed they only served you two.
The crabmeat and sweetcorn soup did what it said on the tin, and was again a generous portion size.
The long lusted-after beef was cooked to perfection – melt-in-your-mouth – and the veg was crunchy and delicious mixed with the hot bean sauce. There was enough to eat and bring home in a doggy bag if you hadn’t been on a meat ban the last three weeks as I was. I ate my plate clean.
The lamb rack was huge, and had enough chilli on the side that I think he may have gotten some of mine. The words “falls off the bone” were muttered between chewing.
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We did struggle when it came to dessert – not just because we were stuffed. Head Chef Yu Shucheng, who was recruited directly from the Sichuan region to ensure Old Post Office’s authenticity, has curated a dessert menu that has stayed true to traditional Chinese heritage. Even Paul admitted we were “brave” when we ordered the sweetened rice dumpling in rice wine (the other options were pumpkin cakes, sweet potato cakes, and Mooli cake, which Paul explained was similar to turnip). Paul also offered us an almond caramel tart which was the more agreeable choice.
There is an extensive wine and cocktail menu on offer, but we ordered the house wine. We were influenced by Russell Norman, founder of the Polpo restaurant chain in London, who wrote in Oldie magazine the week before “We instinctively don’t want to appear cheap, so we often skip the house wine and opt for the second cheapest. The margins on this wine will be particularly good for the restaurant but not so great for you in terms of value. It makes much more sense to go further up the list and choose a wine above £35 … The margins will be smaller and the wine will be much better in quality and value. Or, stick to the house wine – always very carefully sourced by the restaurateur or sommelier.”
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We were poured a Nero d’Avola from the Mandato range. Packed with wildberries and red fruits like cherries and plums, it paired perfectly with our mains and saw us right through to nightfall until we couldn’t see the Bay anymore… I swear that was nightfall.
All in all, a very enjoyable meal that was €87.40 without the wine, and was well worth breaking dry January and meat-free January for. We’ll be back to try the Tasting Menu at €65 each, the lobster has our name on it…
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