PIGLET: NO HAYCORNS BUT LOTS OF GREAT SMALL PLATES
AND A COOL WINE SELECTION
Piglet Wine Bar
Phone: 01 707 9786
Irish Daily Mail
3 December 2016
Can this be the restaurant that Dublin has been waiting for? Mind you, I may be misleading some of my more conservative readers by using the word restaurant. This is, in its own description of itself, a wine bar; and it is a wine bar that should be taken very seriously indeed, with a selection that kicks off at €24 per bottle and doesn’t feature a single wine that isn’t very fairly priced or meticulously chosen by Enrico Fantasia, wine merchant, former opera singer and ray of Italian sunshine in our Augustan capital of a Gaelic nation.
But, my goodness, the food elements are different. Any old wine bar can do a sharing platter of indifferent charcuterie and fridge cold cheeses with a few cornichons. I suspect some such things come, ready plated, from the back of the food services trucks.
Not at Piglet Wine Bar (a name which, to be frank, doesn’t really even start to do justice to what is actually involved here). How about this for different?
Confit duck gizzard with garlic butter. Cured goat’s bacon with capers and sultanas. Mortadella with grilled baby artichokes. Pickled anchovies with tomato. Lardo with bitter honey. Oyster with anchovy foam sprinkled with crumbs of dehydrated smoked salmon seasoned with tamarind . Smoked eel with a purée of cannellini beans.
All of these explosions of flavour and texture were served atop slices of toasted sourdough bread of excellent quality, each presented like a little offering at the altar of gastronomy but without ceremony or fanfare, just as they were.
The gizzards like juicy bacon, the finely diced and cured goat salty and meaty with the cut of acidic capers, the anchovies intense, the beans and eel a surprising and highly successful partnership, the oyster and friends a revelation and something you more expect at the upper end of the restaurant pecking order. The only element here that tasted rather ordinary, but very pleasant, was the mortadella combination.
Piglet Wine Bar’s take on prawns pil-pil was remarkable; firstly for the prawns which were huge and outstandingly fresh, tasting intensely marine in a way that few such creatures of the deep do when brought so far. The espelette pepper in place of the more raucous chilli was subtle and the toasted bread soaked in buttery, spicy juices was, in a sense, a meal in itself.
Let’s face it, even quite half-baked restaurants attempt this simple dish and acquit themselves quite decently. How can one go wrong with what is, at heart, a kind of garlic butter combined with chilli. But this was on a different level altogether and exceptionally generous; the crustaceans were, most unusually, as huge as they were packed with flavour.
Then followed a globe of mozzarella that was so creamy it was almost burrata. On top of this was a generous couple of spoonfuls of pickled turnip tops or cime di rapa, earthy yet tart and very slightly sweet. Alongside were slices of toasted bread topped with melting lardo and bitter honey which tasted like candied chicory.
A salad of octopus was highly original and very successful. Indeed it was the first dish, I think, that I have ever tasted in which fresh lovage seeds were used fearlessly. Lovage, I should remind some readers, is a herb that tastes of celery but in a savage, sometimes brutal way. Using it subtley like this is unusual, to say the least.
The octopus had been cut into rounds, tender and almost buttery and served with a little salad of baby rocket leaves, finely sliced celery, tart and salty capers and – a lovely touch – a dash of quite fiery chilli oil. A lot of thought went into this dish.
Finally we tried some pasta – there are five such dishes on the menu, all based on the fresh stuff – and our plate of rigatoni came with a sauce of molten Pecorino cheese, sweated guanciale (the thinking person’s pancetta) and sweet, soft onions. It was one of the best fresh pasta dishes I’ve ever encountered in Dublin and one for which I shall return. Soon.
Of course, this was far too much food for two people but in the interests of research we wanted to see what Piglet’s Wine Bar could do to match its sensational wine list. Well, the answer is simple: it has a very verstatile kitchen with a considerable sense of originality.
Each of the little starters mentioned above cost €3 each. The octopus salad is €10.50, the prawns €11.50. The pasta was €16.
And so you can see that prices are very reasonable. The place is comfortable but basic and the staff are delightful. Yes, I think we have been waiting for this place.