Charlotte Quay
Millenium Tower
Charlotte Quay Dock
Dublin 4
Phone: 01 908 9490

Irish Daily Mail
10 September 2016

Third time lucky, I reckon. The space that recently transformed into Charlotte Quay has had a chequered history, despite being rather fabulous. It has a great view of Grand Canal Dock and the Bórd Gáis theatre and of those funny red lightsaber things which are supposed, a little implausibly, to reference the gondoliers’ poles in Venice.

It also has the kind of international restaurant coolness that means you could be in Sydney or Canary Wharf or Vancouver. But it’s only now managed to get the right team to run the place.

First came Conrad Gallagher whose ability in the kitchen was the polar opposite of his business acumen. And there was Mourne Seafood, an offshoot of the Belfast original that didn’t quite manage to read Dublin accurately.

Now the Berreen brothers have taken it on and brought with them a few of the staple dishes that have made Coppinger Row such a favourite with discriminating eaters (and quite a few undiscriminating ones too, no doubt, especially if the exceptional gin menu has been experienced in detail). But they have added some new and adventurous things too.

We went on a Monday night and the place looked like it was experiencing peak weekend. It felt as if a representative selection of Google’s international employees were there for the night. And our neighbours were a UK fashion blogger and her North London developer husband.

So, it’s not exactly Wynn’s Hotel.

While Charlotte Quay is very much of the moment, praise the Lord it’s not a concept restaurant. When a waiter starts to explain the concept to me (this happens in London a lot) I tend to remember an urgent appointment. No, Charlotte Quay is merely doing the contemporary thing of offering “small plates” and a few rather more generously proportioned affairs.

Crubeen cromisquis are designed as the smallest of all plates, a little nibble to amuse the bouche as you decide on the rest of the meal. They are marble sized spheres of liquid trotter encased in a crisp shell. They are also absolutely fabulous: little explosions of pure, molten pigginess that must be a vast task to make (I have cooked crubeens myself and it’s not a job for the fainthearted).

I did feel, however, that the tarragon mayo into which these are supposed to be dipped was so potent that it was Herb 1, Pig Nil.

A dish described baldly as “tuna crudo, orange, scallion, chilli” was simply a triumph. The paper-thin raw tuna had been percectly trimmed, the orange element had “cooked” it in the way that citrus works in an escabeche, while the scallion and chilli enhanced the fish rather than dominating. Very simple, clever and deftly executed.

Salt cod croquettas could have been leaden balls of mashed spud (as they all too often are) but here there was a light hand in the kitchen. Yes, there was a lot of spud – that’s the idea – but it was gossamer light and the salt cod came through loud and clear.

Toonsbridge halloumi, squash, pomegranate, za’atar? I needed no second bidding and it was a revelation. The halloumi from Macroom was not the industrial grade Plasticine that this favourite cheese of vegetarians usually is. I found myself describing it as “delicate” which is almost a contradiction in terms.  It had substance, saltiness, creaminess and was, if you like, very light on its feet. No clodhopping at all.

The sweetness of the squash, the acidic tang of the pomegranate seeds, the saltiness of the halloumi and the herby pungency of the za’atar all worked impeccably together. I’d go back for this dish alone.

Gambas pil pil. Why bother? It’s so often done badly by a slepwalking kitchen. And yet we had seen some passing by and they called out to us. There were four fat prawns sitting on a thick slice of toasted sourdough, all generously basted with a thoroughly savoury combination of good olive oil, chilli, coriander and lemon. Charlotte Quay’s gambas pil pil is a very clearly a superior version.

Things dipped a little when it came to dessert. Charlotte Quay’s strength lies in the savoury stuff at the moment. Peanut butter parfait scored well on taste (as did the dollop of chocolate mousse) but it was melting away by the time it hit the table.

Charred peach and fig with amaretto and ice cream tasted of the past, and not in a good way. The peach was lost in the kind of spiced poaching liquid that was big in 1983, the figs were dried ones, the ice cream turning liquid.

But we loved the place. With a bottle of wine, mineral water and coffee, we came out with a bill of €103 before tip.