SAN LORENZO'S

Unit 9 Castle House,
73-83 South Great George’s Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 478 9383

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One of the busiest places in the heart of Dublin’s restaurant quarter, producing very contemporary twists on Italian classics viewed through a kind of New York City prism.

“What kind of a restaurant is it?” is difficult question to answer in many instances. We can say that it’s cheap or dear or somewhere in between; or that it’s the kind of place that does starched linen tablecloths or has wipe-clean laminated menus; or that it does sushi or seafood. It might be “Indian” which very often means Pakistani in Ireland or “Italian” which means that it’s all about tomato sauce and may not have any genuine Italian food at all.

Otherwise, restaurants are hard to classify in terms of cooking. Good chefs don’t like to straitjacket themselves into particular cuisines. They take what’s good and cook with it.

San Lorenzo’s actually describes itself as modern Italian, New York style, which is very specific and also, as far as I can tell, pretty accurate. The menu here is certainly about Italy and Italian produce but it’s a free interpretation and certainly not a hidebound old-fashioned one.

It has also been through some mutations since it first opened almost four years ago. The menus have become more democratic, the wine list more compact and more in tune, perhaps, with the spending pattern of the largely young, metropolitan clientele. I raise the average age significantly when I eat here.

The immediate area here is Dublin’s golden square… er… quarter of a kilometre as far as restaurants are concerned. There’s a lot going on and new places seem to be opening all the time. It all goes to show that birds of a feather flock together and the best thing, from a consumer’s point of view, is that it pushes up the general quality. And San Lorenzo’s certainly does things properly.

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Temple Garner, formerly of Town Bar & Grill in its glory days, is a serious chef who favours the rustic; it’s not a common thing in Irish restaurants and when the combination is done well, as it is here, it’s quite seductive.
I love his variation on vitello tonnato. For a start, he dispensed with veal which is a very sound move given its absence of flavour. Instead the partners the tuna-flavoured mayonnaise, capers and lemon with moist, tender, faintly pink porchetta (seasoned and rolled pork, essentially) in a brilliantly simple dish that explodes with flavour.

It’s a place I go for potato gnocchi, sauced and whacked under a hot grill for a moment to melt the cheese. Or simple grilled lamb with a knockout peperonata. Or proper New York cheesecake. You get the idea.

And if that were not enough, the coffee is exceptional too and the wine list is that rare thing: one that has been matched to menu with a kind of effortless grace.

San Lorenzo’s could be lazily described under the heading of “casual dining”. Well, you can be casual but there’s nothing casual about the cooking.