Clodagh’s Kitchen, The Blackrock Village, Co Dublin, tel: 01212 2981
Clodagh’s Kitchen may sit at the exterior of a shopping centre but the space has been impeccably designed. The entrance has a generous wine bar area with harder surfaces softened by modern but comfy looking single-tone sofas. There then follows a dining space with a 40s subdued luxury feel and then a space with a much more kitchen feel. This final space was where we were led on an early week dinner. Though when I say ‘kitchen feel’ I mean the sort of country kitchen you might find in a Scandinavian billionaire’s modern rural pile.
Unusually for an Irish restaurant with so much visual investment equal thought has gone into the menu. Each dish had some curious jewel or technique so I found myself in the rare position of struggling between choices.
We ordered wine from a list with a vast number of choices including native artisan beers, cider and cocktails. Very sensibly you’ll find a wealth of wine choices by the glass, the carafe and the bottle. We went for two glasses of Txomin Etxaniz, Hondarrabi, Txacoli, 2012, Spain (€9.20 each) which was super chilled and only came into its sharp and interesting self when it was warmed a bit.
To kick off we had the potted fresh crab from Dingle with tarragon horseradish and crème fraîche with sourdough toasts (€8.95). A classic dish and in this case filled with punchy flavours which folded beautifully into the sweet crab.
I had dithered between the carpaccio of Himalayan salt aged beef with radishes and Coolea cheese shavings (€9) and the cured salmon but settled on the beef, however the salmon arrived instead. I decided to keep it as reordering creates such a disjointed meal for fellow diners. Interestingly, for a quiet night, it was not the first slip in service with our wine going to the wrong table after a long wait.
The ‘salmon and cucumber’ (€10.50) of Irish organic salmon was cured in house, with lemon, poitin, and juniper berries, served with yuzu mayonnaise and brioche croutons. The salmon had an interesting, dense texture as it was served in a thicker slice and though the juniper did not sing loudly, the jellied cucumber and other notes combined into a flavourful and welcome new take on the traditional Irish salmon.
For the main course I had the butternut squash gnocchi (€18) with pickled shemji mushrooms, mooli (white radish) which was nearly too pretty to eat. The dish included little cubes of butternut squash cooked just-so, the firmness quickly melting after the first pressure (how did they do that?) and the pickling made for a superb thrust through the gnocchi. A really accomplished and clever dish.
The seared hake (€24.50) was probably the star of the night served with brandade, broccoli, roast garlic, smoked milk and crispy olives. The supporting cast, though varied, bowed elegantly to the greatness of the firm flavoured fish. Superb.
For dessert I had the ‘lemon and egg’ (€6.50), a sort of deconstructed lemon meringue pie with lemon sabayon, scorched Italian meringue, apple espuma and tuile biscuits. This was mouth-puckering stuff and my ideal end to a meal. However, my companions simple Valrhona chocolate tart with fresh raspberries was a reminder of how classic pairings of fine products are difficult to beat.
Staff were super-friendly but perhaps some lacked the necessary finesse or working systems for a ‘kitchen’ that is far closer to a restaurant than a brasserie. They may think it is handier to serve dinner in the space nearer the kitchen but the main dining room would have been a better match for the stylish looking food.
Clodagh’s Kitchen is a lot posher than the name suggests and is delivering some very fine food. Although the menu is changing for the autumn there is a risk that an expensively printed menu traps the kitchen in the same, rigid food choices regardless of what is available daily, though on our visit all went deliciously well. If you’re the kind of person who is always found in the kitchen at parties you will find yourself in very luxuriously tasty one here.
This first appeared in The Sunday Business Post, September 2013.