43 South Richmond Street
Dublin 8
Phone: 478 8783

Irish Daily Mail
16 April 2016

It’s hard to find the right word. “Hipster” is tired and meaningless at this stage. “Fashionable” is just too vague. “Cool” means different things to different people, but it might possibly fit the bill.

Maybe “smart” will serve. Not smart as in how you looked in your Confirmation photograph, more smart as in the way Nancy Mitford or, indeed, Lord Grantham might have used it. A smart restaurant. On trend, rather inside track, a destination for smart people.

Anyway, in my own vocabulary, Richmond looks quite cool. You can tell by the shade of grey paint on the façade and by the retro neon sign. Who does neon these days? It’s no longer advertising, it’s art.

Richmond has the distinction of being the second former greasy spoon caff that I’ve reported on in almost as many weeks. However, it has travelled to a distant galaxy compared to what was there before (a joint, usually described as “iconic”, where full Irish breakfasts were served, usually with bottles of red wine; it was the stuff of louche legend).

Where The Gig’s Place was all plastic banquette booths and framed photos, Richmond is very stripped back: walls, floors, tables, chairs. There’s no uneccessary detail and the same goes for the menu and the wine list. Even the service is understated, calm, efficient and, in a sense, refreshingly ineffusive. Yes, of course it’s all a bit self-conscious, but it’s a case of less is more.

On a busy Thursday night – the place was packed – we kicked off with a brace of bright, light and thoughtful starters.

Scallops, perfectly cooked on the pan, came with a sharp pink sauce (red wine and apple purée as it happens), bitter pink folds of crunchy radicchio, a strip of nearly melted suckling pig belly and, unexpectedly, some fragments of cauliflower. Cauliflower with scallop is a modern classic but this bit of brassica didn’t add anything to an already cleverly conceived dish that was busy enough.

Is that a quibble? Not really.

A salad of fashionable or perhaps cool Young Buck raw milk blue cheese from Ulster was good. When you see kohl rabi in Dublin, you know you’re in a smart restaurant or the veg aisle in Fallon & Byrne. Here it provided crunch, in the form of carpaccio thin slices, but nothing else. It was as if someone had asked “what will we do with the kohl rabi tonight?” Tossing it into a salad like this meant it was going to get lost.

A rather different crunch came from equally thin toasted sourdough. And there were some lovely leaves. It was a very decent starter.

We shared a Côte de Boeuf as our main course. Now a Côte de Boeuf, essentially a very thick slice of rib-eye with the bone in place, is not to be trifled with. We didn’t. And we ended up carrying away about half of it in the form of a most delightful doggy bag.

It came, cooked as the chef wished (i.e. medium rare; a rare rib-eye is sinewy and chewy), cut into thick slices, with little ramekins of decent Béarnaise sauce flecked with tarragon, and two humungous, crisply battered onion rings. The fried potatoes, for all the generosity of the portion, were overcooked to the point of bitterness in parts, oily and as out of place in a restaurant like this as I would be at London Fashion Week.

So out of place, indeed, were the spuds, that I departed from the habits of a lifetime and complained. Two glasses of wine were comped in return, a handsome gesture.

The meat had been seasoned and cooked to perfection, was a pleasure to eat, but we felt was light on intrinsic taste. This, I often think, is down to the age of the animal and not the ageing of the meat. Beef with intense flavour is becoming a rarity.

A shared dessert was simple and brilliant. A slice of vibrantly sharp, citrussy lemon tart, with a perfectly crisp and gossamer light shell, an inspired compote of fig and some pistachio ice cream, came together in a lovely and really rather unexpected harmony.

I have a feeling that Richmond is within a hair’s breadth of being very good indeed. The chef is ex Mulberry Garden and the late lamented La Mère Zou which augurs well. But I think it may need a little time to settle into a rhythm.

With two bottles of San Pellgrino mineral water, a bottle of Rioja and one macchiato, the bill came to just over €130.