THE OLD POST OFFICE:
I PREFERRED IT WHEN THEY SOLD STAMPS.
Old Post Office
7 Rock Hill
Phone: 01 555 9991
Irish Daily Mail
3 August 2019
Chapter One is one of the very best and most celebrated restaurants in the country. If you order the sublime 3-course pre-theatre menu between 5pm and 5.30pm and get away by 7.30pm, it costs €44.
This is by way of context for one of the city's newer restaurants, the Old Post Office in Blackrock. Other restaurant critics have expressed dismay at the prices but I suppose if the owners have shelled out over €1.5m, as has been reported, they need to get a hefty return.
Certainly, the fit-out takes advantage of a terrific view of Dublin Bay (and, less terrific, the DART station and bus park); the glassware and napery and chairs all have the expensive sheen that not so much whispers serious money as states it a little too loudly. It has the look of a place where restraint came with difficulty, perhaps a designer trying to rein in the excesses of a client who wants to spend, spend, spend. I don't know.
I wanted to experience the Old Post Office without going mad on the cost, if you see what I mean. The Chinese menu offers fried lamb with cumin, for example, at €38, pig's intestines for €28, both dishes that you will find in Chinatown for a fraction of that. There's a menu for €80 which didn't grab me by the lapels, And then there's a set lunch for €45 and an early-bird (pre 7.30pm) for €50. I felt I could justify the €50, especially as the potential bill would be just for one as I couldn't find any of my regular companions to accompany me. Perhaps they had read earlier reviews but some of them were on holiday. Or so they said.
I rolled up at half-past-six on a Thursday to find the door shut. I thought I'd got the day wrong, but you have to ring the bell here. The hallowed interior proved to be completely empty; a group of Chinese diners were perched on an outside terrace wreathed in cigarette smoke which wafted, rather unpleasantly, inside.
My solitary meal kicked off with an amuse bouche of a very small vegetable won ton which was, well, a vegetable won ton. Then came what the menu described as "Salt and Chilli Prawns". What appeared on the plate were indeed prawns, all three of them, small, and each encased in a batter which managed to combine crispness with oiliness. They lay beneath a very fine dice of scallion, chilli and red onion. I found myself asking, like Peggy Lee, is that all there is?
And then -I quote - "Fillet of Hereford Beef Broccoli & Green Pepper". Try as I would, I failed to find any green pepper, but there was a lot of broccoli, broken down into small, decidedly al dente florets. Even the most ardent broccoli fan could not have complained of a lack of broccoli; and there was a modest payload of sliced beef that had been tossed in some kind of combination of chilli oil and, perhaps, fermented black bean paste. A few slices of chilli were scattered through the dish.
In terms of taste, it would have been unobjectionable in a takeaway. But the texture of the beef was extraordinary. Fillet beef is meant to be tender but this took tenderness to extremes. It was actually mushy, turning to a sticky paste in the mouth. How do they do that? I have no idea but I wish they hadn't.
I finished with what the menu calls "Irish Cheese Selection, Fig, Grapes, Quince Jelly", generously portioned, prettily presented but fridge-cold. There was Wicklow Blue, which is fine when allowed to ripen; this had the texture of Plasticine. There was smoked Gubbeen, similar in texture. And two slivers of Dubliner cheddar, which looked as if it might be standing in at the last minute for something more glamourous.
The bill, with a cocktail (€15), mineral water (€6.80) and a glass of red wine (€12) came to €83.80. For one. And service was not included, so not much change out of €100.
Crikey! As Bojo might say.
It's a lovely building but, to be honest, I preferred it when they sold stamps here.