Eoin Higgins finds a familiar space in which to relive past "glories" at La Cucina in Farrier & Draper.
The last time I was here was more than ten years ago: it was well past the witching hour on a school night and I was slightly frayed around the edges, but 'dancing' - enthusiastically - to Where's Your Head At, by Basement Jaxx. I can't remember the name of the club (if you can remember it, you weren't there, man).
Thankfully, my mode of socialising has matured somewhat over the past decade, I find the dining room far more appealing than the dance floor these days ... well, for the most part, it depends on the song really.
As much as I can't remember the details, the space seems very different now - a happy marriage of contemporary and ancient. Stone vaulted ceilings, copper piping, tan leather banquettes, a wood-fired oven and various other handsome bits and bobs - the place has a touch of steampunk about it.
A busy Thursday, the room had more than a few well-known faces from the Dublin social scene and all present seemed to be digging the joint (see, I'm still down with the kids). To begin, strips of deeply-flavoured, umami-rich prosciutto, chunks of creamy Buffalo mozzarella and sweet, ripe figs - a plate of simple, gorgeous flavours, well-curated. Starters can be ordered small (approx average €8.50) or large (approx average €15).
The menu is Italian (the clue is in the name, duh!) and is a nice collection of rustic and classic staples, lots of earthy comfort food dishes, pastas and risottos and not many surprises, which is how you want your Italian bistro fare, or at least I do. For my main, the Agnello: slow-braised lamb neck osso bucco with wild garlic and soft, roasted aubergine. It was a nice dish, the lamb falling off the bone, melting into its own juices and? offset nicely with the herby gremolata.
I also tried the Orzotto salad (?8), consisting of pearl barley, courgette, aubergine, peppers, red onion, salted cod and ginger in a mint citronette (it's a vinaigrette made with citrus juice instead of vinegar, so it is). There were too many flavours going on with this dish for my palate, but I'm sure it has its fans.
For dessert, a classic affogato (?7), which was what it was, thankfully: not messed with. Overall, I enjoyed the La Cucina experience, not strictly as a go-to restaurant but as a nice-food-on-a-night-out kind of place - the Farrier & Draper bar and cocktails option upstairs makes it a great spot for that.
I had two glasses of something red, Italian and slinky (Valpolicella) to accompany my meal and also sent a couple of glasses over to two attractive women sitting at the bar, which is something I've never done before and probably very uncool ... but sure look, at least I didn't ask them for a 'dance'. Little steps.
Farrier & Draper
South William Street,
01 677 1220;