Lunch, dinner and a lost afternoon in Dublin

Ely wine bar

“You say Ely, I say Ely”   


The award winning Ely Wine Bar (pronounced Eli in Dublin, as in Eli Wallach, not Ely as in Ely Cathedral. Hope that helps). It’s on Ely Place, so it’s easy to find. The atmosphere in the basement is Gentlemens’ Club meets New York Steakhouse. (Note to self: did New York borrow the steakhouse from Dublin?).

It’s always evening here.

Downstairs at the Ely

The welcome is as friendly and good humoured as you might expect, and there’s a comprehensive wine list, especially strong on champagne and sherry. The soundtrack is 1980’s disco funk.

They’re justly proud of the provenance of their meat: “Beef and pork from our family farm in The Burren, Co Clare”.

We started with pulled ham hock and Tonsbridge Burrata from Irish buffalo milk, its richness balanced by bitter fruit flavours on the plate: jam, peach, orange.

The other starter was superb: picked white crabmeat with aioli, watercress, herring roe and anchovy, and a good, salty grilled focaccia.

Mains were Papardelle from the “daily specials”, with chestnut mushrooms, oxtail and spinach. Served with gremolata (parsley, garlic and lemon zest) rather than Parmesan, which lifted it – savoury not cheesy.

Fried cod fillet, another impressive special, came with beets, broad beans, samphire, parsnip (puree and crisps), anchovy.

Ely Wine Bar, 22 Ely Place, Dublin 2

Doheny & Nesbitts

After lunch seemed the appropriate moment for a quiet Guinness (a pint is “a Guinness”, a half is “a glass of Guinness”). We repaired to Doheny & Nesbitts, a deservedly famous Dublin institution. You sit in a booth and they bring the stout to your table. It’s always evening here too.

Doheny & Nesbitts at 4 o’clock in the afternoon – was the floor sloping, or was it just me?

Doheny & Nesbitts, 5 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2

Mamma Mia – Here I go again….

All the signs were wrong. The name, the red exterior, the red and white checked tablecloths, the pizza menu – from the outside you’d think this was what New Yorkers call “just another red sauce joint”.

Our friend is a regular, so we went later for dinner. It was buzzing and the food smelled great. There’s a photo on the wall of the owner with Ireland’s president “Little Michael” (or Michael D) Higgins, who lives round the corner and loves the place. It’s tiny, maybe 30 covers.

We shared garlic bruschetta and mixed Antipasti – salumi, Gorgonzola both creamy and piccante, Scamorza (a type of smoked mozzarella), good olives, juicy sweet chillis, balsamic onions.

Then Spaghetti Carbonara with deeply flavoured, smoky guanciale (cured pig cheek, essential in an authentic carbonara), and cheese; lots of cheese. Rigatoni Amatriciana: tick. No, make that double tick; wonderfully meaty depth of flavour. Seafood Linguine – no frozen mix here, the shellfish was fresh and tasted of the sea. Lovely.

All the ingredients at Mamma Mia are top quality, well chosen, authentic, and properly cooked. Their tomatoes are great. The wine list is simple and short; we drank a soft, rounded Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a juicy, golden Trebbiano / Grecchetto from Umbria.

You’d expect the husband and wife owners to be Italian, like our lovely waiter Filippo and all the staff, but according to our friend, they’re both “Dubs”.

“Mamma Mia, does it show again? My my, how can I resist ya?”

(Mercifully there is no Abba soundtrack)

2 Gratton Street, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2


Mamma Mia at night – did Edward Hopper eat here?

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