4 St Andrew’s Street
Phone: 01 677 5545
Irish Daily Mail
27 February 2016
I see that the Troc, as most people affectionately call it, has won an award for being Dublin’s most atmospheric restaurant. Well, that can cover a multitude.
I know restaurants in the capital that are atmospheric in rather unpleasant ways, some featuring icy draughts, others the wafting aroma of lavatories that need attention. Worst of all, perhaps, are those that smell of what are eupehmistically called “air freshener”.
The Troc is warm, both in its welcome and in its cosseting, comforting familiarity. It also smells good; not just clean, but of proper food. It even has delightfully soft lighting and a sort of womb-like embrace that owes much to acres of dark red velvet, as if it had been upholestered with stuff salvaged from the Theatre Royal.
Actually the Troc, always a haunt of actors, was five years old when the Theatre Royal closed its doors for the last time in 1962. It’s one of Dublin’s oldest restaurants and one that has changed with the times, but only just. If someone dining there in, say, 1960, were transported to the same table in 2016, he or she would notice only modest differences.
This is what I like about the Troc, and when I repaired there on a very cold Monday evening I saw that a lot of people share my affection; it was almost full by 8 o’clock. And a refreshingly disproportionate number of diners, in a restaurant that has a reputation for being a bit middle-aged, were 12 or under, all immaculately behaved (just like their parents). I like restaurants that like children.
And before I get to the food – people do go there to eat, after all – I might just mention that there’s a great symbol of how the Troc looks after people - in the form of a box containing reading glasses of varying strengths. How about that?
There was a pleasantly simple but carefully judged starter of smoked salmon and beetroot cured salmon, both firm and not at all slimy; you might be surprised to know that this is something of a rarity. It came with a fine julienne of crisp apple and celeriac tossed with remoulade or possibly some mayo with a squeeze of lemon. It was good.
The word thermidor applied to crab and crayfish implies a rich, creamy, cheesey, mustardy sauce, or at least it does to me. What my starter ended up as, to be frank, was a bit of a disappointment. In a rather underdone filo pastry case (you need to brush it generously with butter so that it browns, dammit!) came a few crab claws and some sweet little crayfish, all bathed in a rather liquid sauce that suggested a hint of cream and maybe a suggestion of Parmesan. It was okay, I ate it. But it could have been so much better.
Oh but the main course! Faultless and, not only that, a proper treat. We had chateaubriand for two. This decadent thing – essentially the thick bit of the fillet of beef – is the kind of thing that was last seen, as a rule, in the grand hotel dining rooms of the 1960s. It’s the sort of dish out of which Robert Carrier made a living.
It came brilliantly rare (if it had had blood vessels they would have had to be clamped; but, of course, the cut was immaculately trimmed). It came with little roast tomatoes and little roast onions and splendid, proper, real chips. It even came with like cruets, if that’s the word, of real gravy and a 24 carat Béarnaise sauce, the sort that you can’t get in a packet.
This was a proper supper for the discrimating caveman-about-town. It could not have been better.
But, my goodness, the puddings (it’s the kind of place where I revert to this word for dessert) could have been so much better. A white chocolate mousse was, essentially, a vanilla cheesecake on a soggy base of crushed gingernuts. The lemon tart was tart and contained zest but it was not a tart. The lemon element sat on top of a damp soggy amalgamation of crumbs (or something).
It’s hard to believe that the same kitchen could be responsible for these and for the fine main course. However, we forgave the Troc because of the warmth, the comfort, the sense of timelessness. And there are very few places that can soothe my savage breast like that.
The bill with two enormous glasses of white wine and a bottle of red, came to just over €150 before service. Not cheap, but fun.