THE OLD SPOT
14 Bath Avenue
Phone: 01 660 5599
A fine establishment where proper pub meets exceptional restaurant. Add to this heady combination an impressive range of cocktails, lovely staff and a decent wine list. The result? Happiness. And jammers when there's a match in Lansdowne Road.
The Old Spot is doing pioneering work – a phrase that has a certain ironic resonance in the context of a pub, I suppose – in terms of Dublin food. And making a great success of it.
What do I mean? Well, consider this. According to the person responsible for the Michelin guides we in Ireland have never had it so good as far as pub food is concerned.“The standard of food being served in Irish pubs continues to reach new heights,” said Rebecca Burr in 2014, she being the person responsible for Michelin ratings in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Gastropubs may have been stalking the more sophisticated parts of urban England for many years at this stage, but Ireland was never going to prove fertile territory for such a concept. Pubs and food - proper food – even today don’t make comfortable bedfellows for each other in a country that has such a complicated relationship with the drink.
Well, there are scattered outbreaks of excellence, but anyone who knows the average Irish pub will choke on their pint laughing at Ms Burr’s assertion. But the thing is, there’s nothing average about The Old Spot. And it does, indeed, represent an outbreak of excellence.
I don’t know if it made it into the Michelin Guide 2016 (it was too young to be considered for the 2015) and I really can’t be bothered to look. This is because I know how good The Old Spot is. And because I know it’s a pub, i.e. a proper public house that would be recognisable to my granddad, that does excellent food. Indeed, the blurring of the lines between proper pub and proper restaurant – this is on a different planet from “pub food” – is one of The Old Spot’s commendable achievements.
The pedigree is first rate. Here we have the estimable people behind both Junior’s and Paulie’s Pizza venturing into the pub business, with the acquisition and transformation of what was originally a somewhat down at heel Dublin 4 boozer.
It is a place for oysters and steaks after a match at Lansdowne Road (as I still call it), preceded by pints of proper brews. It’s equally a place for a glass of decent wine and a sharing plate. It’s also a place in which to experience inventive yet disciplined food at a level that many so called “fine dining” restaurants would be hard put to emulate.
Seafood is handled very deftly, pasta made in house is silky yet al dente, there are carnivorous delights and there’s no formality. The cheeseburger is, in its own way, every bit as good as the côte de boeuf and the place, with its booths and chunky furniture, somewhat reminiscent of the better class of New York steakhouse where the clientele are members of the Knickerbocker.
There is an attractive emphasis on good cocktails and on craft beers, a warm welcome and brisk, friendly service. There’s even an upstairs room for private dining.
The last time I ate there, on my own, I was privy to conversation at the next table where a small group of American friends, well-heeled and mature travellers, were having their first meal in Ireland. They were having a ball. I just hope they didn’t go away thinking that pub food throughout Ireland had reached such dizzy heights.