MIXING IT UP
After a makeover, Dillinger’s offers everything from cocktails to fish specials and barbecue ribs, says Lucinda O’sullivan, and it’s new diner-style food is great to dip into on a night out with friends
Dillinger’s hit the streets of Ranelagh in late 2009 and was such a success that the owners followed it up in rapid-fire succession, with The Butcher Grill, also in Ranelagh, and 777 on South Great George’s Street — all are popular with the young, unencumbered around-towners. I liked Dillinger’s back then, and I liked it this time around, following a major makeover, which has seen — as with its two siblings — the addition of a bar counter with high stools, and contemporary New York diner-style food.
When 777 opened, it caused a bit of a social media furore by charging €13 for some cocktails in the depth of a recession. At Dillinger’s, the cocktails are all a tenner — including the “777’s margarita” — which seems to have gained €1 for the D6 brigade, as it is listed on the 777 website as €9 in D2.
Cocktails were flying all around us to different tables, so it was an Urban Fox — Miller’s gin, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit and a froth of egg white — for my friend Rachel; and a Rhubarb Flip for me, which was certainly a new twist on granny’s rhubarb tart. Another frothy confection, it had vodka, house-made rhubarb rosemary syrup, and lemon and bitters, tweaked with a sprig of rosemary. You could down a few ‘tenners’ very quickly.
We were seated on a banquette facing the bar, the best seats in the house. I had been told when I called up I could only book the bar for two people, “all our small tables are sold”, but it seemed they played it by ear, as tables were vacant. The menu swings between starters/ small plates (€7-€11); mains (€12-€28); and sides/small plates (€4-€7). Choices included crispy lamb belly ribs, with sheep’s curd, chilli mint and oregano; three-cut Hereford cheeseburger and fries; and chargrilled sardines. There is a daily chargrilled whole fish special with a note that “heads will not be removed”, and a market fish special, which was lemon sole and sea bass with langoustines at around €26. Steaks included a grain-fed hanger steak at €25 and a bone-in Hereford rib-eye steak (no weight shown) at a hefty €28.
We decided that steaks were steaks and we would explore and share small plates and casual grub. Rare grilled tuna tacos (€11) with chipotle, avocado, cabbage and pico de gallo salsa were three in number, sitting in a retro-style ‘toast rack’, and were knock-out delicious, if messy to eat, as I crunched through the crispy taco and slobbered pureed avocado. Foie gras and chicken liver “smeared on brioche” (€11) was also the ticket. Set on a rectangular board, it had a tranche of pate on a thick slice of brioche, topped with a neo-foraging-style scatter and delicious green-tomato relish. A nod to a revival of offal and ox tongue was going on too, including a starter special of sweetbreads. Lamb’s tongue and cold sliced tongue were popular way back when, but a large piece of “caramelised” full-length tongue (€10) looked as if it might talk to us and didn’t benefit by being heavily seared on one side — it just toughened it and made it coarser. Two nibbles and it was abandoned.
Barbecue baby back ribs (€16) to follow, with crispy chicharrones (feather-light lacy puffballs of deep-fried fat), and onion rings in a crispy sage and cider batter (€5), proved successful for Rachel and, while not for me, these ribs were also being gnawed bare at other tables beside us. I had a classic pork hot dog with French’s mustard, ketchup and onions (€12) and a side dish of tasty macaroni cheese (€6).
We shared a panna cotta (€7) with berries and a scoop of rum and raisin ice cream (€1.50) for dessert. With Panna water (€2.50), three glasses of house Cimbron Rueda (€7 each), and an Americano (€2.50), our bill with service came to €138.
Open for dinner seven nights a week, Dillinger’s do brunch weekends, and ‘foot-long’ hot dogs with a whiskey sour at €15 from 5-7pm on Fridays.