BISTRO COOKING REACHES A NEW LEVEL. AT A PRICE.
16 St Stephen’s Green
Phone: 01 676 3144
Irish Daily Mail
4 August 2018
It’s odd to think that Peploe’s is a teenager. It seems to have been there since well before its birth in 2003 and you may well ask why I’m writing about it again, having reviewed it just under three years ago.
Years ago I had a truly terrible meal in Peploe’s. It was so bad that the paper in which I was writing at the time refused to publish my review. And then, several years later, having heard good things about the place, I returned for lunch and had a very pleasant experience. Describing it to a very picky gastro-friend, I said it was not bad, but not brilliant. And there’s quite a lot of that about.
Anyway, I returned again a few weeks ago because I had heard of changes. Graeme Dodrill had been persuaded back from Dubai to head up the kitchen and, I was told, he was bringing bistro food to a new level for Dublin.
But what is a bistro? The dictionary definition has it down as a small, inexpensive, unpretentious restaurant but I think this needs to be updated. Bistro, for a lot of us, doesn’t always mean small (Peploe’s is pretty big) but it does mean unpretentious. Bistro is not foams nor gels, it’s not gold leaf, it’s not food that has been tortured into fanciness, it’s not, God helps us, things we’ve never heard of or ants. And while not expensive, it doesn’t have to be cheap as chips, which is just as well, because Peploe’s is certainly not that.
I descended on the place with three dining companions rather than the usual one; this was a Dutch treat, and it offered a great chance to explore the menu. By and large, the menu seeks to comfort those Peploe’s regulars, the well-upholstered, moneyed, older folk who know what they like, while offering a bit of excitement to mere striplings in their… oh, forties or so. Peploe’s people seem fairly mature.
So, how was it? There was lightly seared tuna, mainly delightfully raw and moist, served with a riff on caponata . There were devilled kidneys, still faintly pink, worthy of a very grand Edwardian country house party; there was a dense, intense foie gras terrine with peach purée and pain d’épices; and there was grilled octopus, very tender, with a bright pepper purée and crisped capers. So far, so bistro.
Amongst the mains (which cost in the high twenties for the most part) there was one Peploe’s stalwart that had been retained and brought to a new level: spaghettini with a lot of monksfish and Dublin Bay prawns all seasoned with chilli and lubricated with tomato. This is a dish that could be a disaster; it requires timing, excellent raw materials and a certain confidence. It was 24 carat bistro cooking.
Saddle of suckling pig (yay!) with a deconstructed crisp trotter formed into a sphere, bacon and a thoroughly bistroesque, in the best sense, accompaniment of lentils had the cheffy, but justified, addition of verjus (the sour juice of unripe grapes).
Sweet plump scallops (which, unusually, stayed plump after cooking) were served on the shell with deeply savoury Comté cheese lying on a bed of creamy spinach. And that was, indeed, as good as it sounds.
A soufflé was, I have to report, so good that I didn’t get to taste any, and proper, nay classic, crème brulée was exactly as it should be, silky, vanilla-scented and served with fresh raspberries. A selection of cheeses were all in good condition.
With two bottles of wine, a lot of mineral water and one coffee, my half of the bill for four of us came to €140. This is bistro cooking taken to a higher level and there is no doubt that Peploe’s has upped its game. Prices are not so bistroesque for either food or wine but they don’t seem much out of line with what is happening in much of the neighbourhood.