Platform 61
27 South William Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 558 3932

Irish Daily Mail
26 September 2015

I departed from my usual policy of letting new restaurants settle down before reviewing when I ate in Platform 61. It wasn’t open a week when I rolled up and, I suppose, it may be absolutely wonderful now that it’s had a while to straighten things out.

But, to be honest, I’m not, wildly optimistic about that. There was just so much wrong that I reckon a back-to-the-drawing-board approach is needed. Sorry, but there it is.

Especially when you consider the avowed aim of the people who have created the restaurant. According to an email from them “our aim is to offer a bold, refreshing and healthy take on contemporary European cuisine”. 

Oh dear.

But first, an explanation of the name. Now, I have every sympathy with restaurateurs trying to stand out from the crowd, frantically trying to think up a suitable name.

Platform 61 was, apparently, the private underground railway stop beneath the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York as used by such luminaries as President Franklin D Roosevelt. It had a gilded lift, it seems, which ascended to the lobby.

The connection between this bit of New York trivia and a basement in the heart of Dublin 2 eludes me, but the owners have put in a whole wall of brass as a rather arresting, and doubtless very expensive, nod to the story.

Tables and chairs, however, are pretty bare and spartan and the whole place has a minimalist look as dictated by contemporary (or fairly contemporary) restaurant chic. You know, not very much of anything and the sense that the not very much didn’t come cheap.

We started with a platter of dips and toasted foccacia. In summary, it was no worse than you would find in many other places, although it has to be said that hummus and pesto in contemporary Dublin don’t set the pulse racing like they might have back in the 1980s. The addition of some romesco sauce was, I suppose, a stab at innovation but I can’t imagine where they found the recipe.

Essentially, you need a lot of roasted red pepper, red wine vinegar and ground almonds. And a lots of olive oil. Oceans of the stuff. And garlic, of course. It should be deep red and singing with flavour. That’s how they make it in its natural habitat, Catalunya.

Platform 61’s pallid, pinkish, rather solid version tasted like it had been recreated from a vague and distant memory of the real thing. A few green olives were unremarkable.

My dining companion, a restaurateur, has en eye for portion control and he maintains that the “gambas” (can we please get back to “prawns”?) on toasted ciabatta (yawn) involved three of the creatures. I think there may have been four, but perhaps that was wishful thinking.

Anyway, they were more fishy in flavour than I would have liked and the pancetta, cherry tomatoes, white wine and chilli sauce promised by the menu turned out to be a lot of little bits of salad, as far as I could ascertain. That was something of a relief, to be honest, although charging €8 for this is a bit rich.

A dish involving konjac (we’ll come to that later), wild mushroom (really?), romesco sauce (Oh God!), rocket and Parmesan was, for some reason that we failed to fathom, called “zero calorie rice”.

It begged to be sampled, of course and when it arrived it looked vaguely like a timbale (you know, one of those tower things) of white crab meat. Konjac is a kind of yam, the root of which is usually made into a paste, then cooked as a cake. The raw fibres are, indeed, very low in calories, if that floats your boat, and these are what looked like crab.

Whatever about the other ingredients, this “zero calorie” dish managed to deliver, as far as my palate was concerned at any rate, zero flavour. In Japan they eat konjac with a very intense miso sauce, presumably because having it any other way is either penitential or pointless.

And I still can’t figure out what this has to do with rice.

The main course that we shared was described on the menu as aromatic braised pork belly medallions (the first time I’ve encountered medallions of that part of the pig), with shallot purée, caramelised apple and black pudding tarte tatin and aubergine caviar.

Now, even if the dish had been executed with brilliance, it would probably have been too much. As Escoffier liked to stay “keep it simple, stupid.” Or words to that effect.

At first sight, it looked deeply unpleasant: a couple of thick slices of grey pork belly appeared to have been steamed or boiled, turned into coils (notmedallions) and covered in a thick blanket of gloopy yellowish sauce that tasted vaguely sharp and about as spicy as cream cracker.

Dissecting this we found that the meat and gloop were sitting on a disc of puff pastry in which a black, indeterminate substance was pooled, presumably the pudding and apple. There seemed to be the remains of a few slices of aubergine laid on top, possibly as a mark of respect. Aubergine caviar is generally considered to be a purée of the stuff.

We tasted it thoroughly but frankly couldn’t eat it. The bill came to €69.

By contrast to the food, it has to be said that the staff and owner of Platform 61 are charm itself.