109a Lower Baggot Street
Phone: 01 661 1919
Meticulous cooking, a wizard of a sommelier and a sense of fun all combine to make L’Ecrivain one of the most impressive restaurants – in every sense – in Ireland.
“The sense of well-being, as we headed off to catch the bus home, was beyond description. L'Ecrivain seems to specialise in happiness.” That’s how I concluded my last published review of Derry and Sallyanne Clarke’s remarkable Dublin restaurant, and I meant every word of it.
It’s a difficult establishment to define but I suppose I may be in a reasonable position to do so, having put together the book L’Ecrivain: Not So Much A Cookbook a few years back.
Derry’s approach to food is intensely disciplined yet, at the same time, utterly open-minded. He has a natural instinct for flavours and textures and knows exactly how far it’s possible to push at the boundaries. He is also exceptionally visual; the presentation at L’Ecrivain is always a complete delight, a final touch of perfection.
In a sense, when the food is as good as this – and as complex, refine and cerebral – you expect the environment in which it is consumed to be reverent and hushed and uptight. But not a bit of it. L’Ecrivain manages to apply the highest of standards to everything, while remaining utterly relaxed and confident in itself. This, I am quite sure, is why a certain rubber company has not deigned to confer a second star upon the place.
There are sommeliers and sommeliers, of course. Some are there to make you uncomfortable enough to spend more than you wish, some will gently nudge you in the right direction. Martina Delaney, who fulfilled this role at L’Ecrivain for many years, has left a legacy not just in the wine selection but in her successors who are true experts and, most importantly mind-readers of a sort. I never choose the wines here and this is why.
Sallyanne conducts the restaurant with the kind of diplomacy and delicacy that you expect in such a fine restaurant but she also seems to know virtually everyone and has a prodigious memory for detail. The many, many regulars are familiar with the genuine warmth of the reception.
How to describe the food? It’s highly seasonal, very local, very ingredient-driven. There are foams and fermentations but only when called for. It’s far from pretentious for the simple reason that this is confident, calculated and precise cooking born of decades of practice in the same restaurant (and a significant career before that).
As I say, it’s a place that specialises in happiness, especially if you appreciate the extraordinary synergy that can exist between great food, matching wines and a sense of warmth.