THE GREEN HEN
33 Exchequer Street
Phone: 01 670 7238
Elegant, cosy and welcoming, The Green Hen has a splendid bar and a repertoire of excellent bistro cooking with a touch of finesse. And don’t forget the cocktails.
When I first ate in The Green Hen (and was rejoicing that it had replaced a Café Leon), it struck me that such a place, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a full bar, is what we were talking about when it was first mooted that Ireland become a “café society”. By which I mean, the suggestion that it’s much more civilised to see alcohol consumed, in moderation, rather than swilling pints in a pub where the only food is a packet of Tayto.
The Green Hen, you see, is an immensely civilised place, a refuge for the footsore and shopped-out in the heart of Dublin 2. Its lunch menu offers some of the best value in town and its style of cooking, distinctly French (bistro with attitude) with a touch of Irish sensibility and more than a touch of excellent Irish raw materials, is delightfully showcased at dinner time. The chef, Fiachra Kenny, came here from Pichet.
But let’s return, so to speak, to the bar. The Green Hen was one of the first restaurants in the city to grasp the significance of the cocktail renaissance and they are consistently good at hitting the nail on the head in this sphere of activity. On those occasions when I’m in the mood for a cocktail, it takes a lot to wrestle me away from the notion of a gin martini with a twist. The Green Hen’s outstandingly classical Old Fashioned has the power to do that. I rest my case.
The Green Hen was also one of the first restaurants to realise that offering lots of well-chosen wines by the glass is (a) a good and wholesome thing to do and (b) presumably quite good for business. They do ten red and ten whites by the glass, so if you’re eating alone you won’t be confined to house wine.
The décor is, again, Francophile, with French elegance enhanced by icons of the silver screen. There is proper panelling, a sense of substance, comfort and warmth. There are few cosier dining rooms on a winter’s evening.
My dear late friend and colleague, Paolo Tullio, was a big fan of The Green Hen’s coffee; it was one of the few places in town where he could be tempted to have a second espresso, which is quite an endorsement.
Favourites? It’s somewhere that serves oysters, and they serve them well. I like the ham hock terrine and what they do with goat’s cheese. Skinny chips, sorry frites with hollandaise always cheer me up. It’s also one of the few restaurants in which I feel obliged to eat steak. I don’t know why, apart from the quality of the meat and the ability to cook it exactly as I like it.
The Green Hen has slick but friendly service. It’s cosy. It’s elegant. The cooking is straightforward but gilded with a degree of finesse. And – this is a plus for someone like me who often eats tout seul – sitting at the bar for a main course and a glass of wine is a very civilised experience.