SMS Luna
2-3 Drury Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 087 776 4230

Irish Daily Mail
25 July 2015

Fresh pasta with truffle. That handful of words is enough to have me rearing like an old war-horse getting a whiff of cordite. There are few combinations which are better geared to getting my gastric juices in full flow.

Foie gras leaves me unmoved. Caviar is all fine and dandy but, to be honest, I just don’t really get it, and I’ve had – I’m told – some of the best on the planet. But truffles are a different story, altogether.

Cutting to the chase, I can report that Luna, part of the Super Miss Sue premises by Drury Street car park, does both fresh pasta and truffles very well indeed.

Luna is a good place for such luxury, because Luna is a bit louche. And I mean that in a good way. It’s a restaurant that takes elements of the grander New York Italian restaurants of the 1950s, the sort of places where you were simply not dressed unless you had a vodka martini in one hand and a king size untipped Chesterfield in the other. And it puts these elements with a very contemporary wine list and some inventive cooking that depends on first class raw materials.

It’s dark, low-ceilinged, full of banquettes and booths, with a carpet that was specially commissioned for its retro design, salvaged green tiles of a shade that has not been made since around the time I was born and a back-lit bar that could have featured in Mad Men.

Passers-by can look in at the big window and gaze down upon this decadent scene; it’s almost like a big screen, seen from the street; and it makes people want to descend the steps, have a snifter at the bar and then adjourn to a table where they eat by the light of those little frilly lamps that go with champagne cocktails and cigarette smoke.

So, I think I’ve made it clear that this place is (a) carefully thought out and (b) unique, which is what we have come to expect of restaurateur John Farrell (think Dillinger’s, The Butcher Grill, 777).

Open only a fortnight when I put on the nosebag there, Declan Maxwell had just taken up the reins as manager, having left Chapter One a few months ago for a sabbatical. The kitchen is under the command of Karl Whelan who also worked at Chapter One and previously at Le Meurice in Paris; he is joined by Hugh Higgins whose experience includes Momofuku in New York and John Wyer’s outstanding Forest Avenue in Dublin.

The words “lardo toast” on the menu evoked from me a Pavlovian reaction. This is very thinly sliced cured pork fat, melting almost like butter, draped over crisped, hot sourdough bread. It’s hard to describe the pleasure of this, but it almost involved whimpers.

Baby artichokes, trimmed and cooked on the premises I’m guessing, were tender and yielding, well seasoned and lacking the citric acid tang that you get from the bottled versions.

And then the starters proper. In true New York Italian style my iced shrimp salad (actually jumbo prawns) came with a sharp tomato sauce liberally spiked with horseradish. It’s a very distinctive dish and this was a well executed and unpretentious version for €14. Shanahan’s charge €19.75 for theirs, by the way.

(Credit: Terry McDonagh)

Beef carpaccio was served with melting, warm bone marrow, shavings of Summer truffle and crisp little croutons to create a dish that I can still taste days afterwards. Such a delight: perfectly trimmed and sliced beef, wafer thin and melting on the tongue, fortified with the richness of the marrow, deepened by the truffle. It was one of those dishes in which the different flavours come together to create a new one.

Roast lobster tail was a fine example of its kind, clearly Irish and not one of the flavourless, frozen Canadian cousins that so many restaurants deliver to unsuspecting diners. Its saffron risotto was good, and a surprisingly effective companion. Courgette flowers were encased in a batter that was just too heavy and too oily.

I don’t know what exactly went into my spaghetti with truffle. A lot of truffle, clearly, and I imagine cream, butter and Parmesan. The pasta itself was perfect, delivering the al dente resistance that only fresh pasta, properly cooked, can do.

While it was fun to see a dessert trolley, and the lemon cheesecake was pleasantly lemony, the pudding end of things lags behind the rest of the menu at the time of writing.

With a cocktail each, a carafe of red and white house wine and excellent espressos, the bill came to €155.