Mulberry Lane
Dublin 4
Phone: 01 269 3300

A well hidden restaurant tucked way in the heart of Dublin 4 that has given real meaning to the phrase “casual fine dining”. And it has a very pretty little garden.

It took me a while to get to Mulberry Garden. Three years to be precise but this was not due to lack of interest. It had a lot to do with the fact that this discreet little gem restaurant opens only Thursday to Saturday and just for dinner. It’s tucked away down a lane in Donnybrook, handy for the side door of Kiely’s through which Ross O’Carroll-Kelly has so often emerged unsteadily into the Dublin 4 night.

You will be pleased to know that Ross would not be a Mulberry Garden man, but I suspect his parents go there. The clientele is a curious combination of the well heeled d’un certain age who live in large, redbrick empty nests within staggering distance, and a broader bunch who, no doubt, are drawn by the good food, properly cooked, and the reasonable prices.

It’s not good food as most of us know at home, though. This is the kind of cooking that requires two things: one helluva commitment to outstanding fresh produce and kitchen skills that elude even the most fanatical home cooks. It may not be all haute cuisine in the tortured sense, but it sure ain’t Jamie or Nigella.

The woman behind Mulberry Garden, Laura Peat, says that there’s a lot of talk about “casual fine dining” these days (and it’s a phrase that is way over-used) but that you rarely get the real thing. She and her team appear to have got it right. There’s a certain reverence for the food but elbows on the table would not be seen as a mortal sin. You might dress up to go there, or you might choose not to.

As is fashionable these days, there’s a list of producers who supply the restaurant but this is different in that it’s one of the longest I’ve seen and it’s pretty clear that managing this number of suppliers is quite a job. So, it’s no token gesture (as it so often is).

Highlights for me include a risotto of Hegarty’s cheese which turned out to be one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time. A generous grating of truffle turned this dish into something celestial.

Roast langoustines with leek oil, a kind of shellfish reduction, a stuffed courgette flower and some lardo made stunning symphony of tastes and textures.

Braised ox cheek, exceptionally tender meat varnished with a dark, glistening reduction of juices with smoked potato purée as an inspired supporting act here as was roasted bone marrow.

Glazed turbot was kicked into a highly superior league by the barigoule sauce, that herby Provençal wonder that usually goes with artichokes, little firm winkles, intensely green tasting shaved asparagus and – lovely touch – pepper nasturtium with its suggestion of caper.

I think you get the picture. A lot of thought goes into this kind of food and a great deal of skill. What makes the cooking here truly exceptional, however, is the impeccable judgement. What makes it even more enjoyable is that the restaurant does not take itself too seriously and the prices (including those on the wine list) are rooted in a sense of reality.