The mu­sic and the menu are win­ners at the newly opened Tuck Box, says Lucinda O’Sul­li­van, who en­joyed the school-room style and fan­tas­tic food

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - TABLETALK -

‘Y ou were al­ways on my mind, you were al­ways on

my mind,” crooned Elvis Presley, fol­lowed in rapid suc­ces­sion by Diana Ross rolling up with Ain’t No Moun­tain High Enough. “Well, the mu­sic’s a win­ner any­way. Young rock­ers and old rock­ers are go­ing to love this place,” I said to Paul, my din­ing com­pan­ion. We were at the new Tuck Box in what is now ‘din­ing desti­na­tion Dalkey’, a vil­lage whose reper­toire is mul­ti­far­i­ous and in­ter­est­ing, but did not, un­til now, have what is known as an Amer­i­can-style diner.

Set in the for­mer Nosh premises on Coliemore Road, it is the lat­est ven­ture of Rachel Clancy who, a cou­ple of years ago, cre­ated The Mag­pie Inn, the hugely pop­u­lar gas­tropub just around the cor­ner.

Tuck Box feels like be­ing in an old-style school room, with its small, school-style chairs, wooden-topped ta­bles, black­board-sided walls, and a long ‘teach­ers’ com­mu­nal ta­ble — but no school room was ever this much fun. Wa­ter comes in a retro milk bot­tle, the ketchup bot­tles are on the ta­ble, and the drink­ing glasses and sun­dae dishes are a real throw­back.

Teacher is not go­ing to cry over the prices here, ei­ther, with a menu that in­cludes big home­made burg­ers — clas­sic; hot-spicy; or burger-in-abowl with all the trim­mings and no bun — all cost­ing €9 each, plus a great fish-and­crab burger with let­tuce and sauce gribiche at €10.

Clas­sic crispy, fried maize tor­tillas, gua­camole, hot tomato salsa, sour cream and chive, black olives and melted ched­dar are €8, while an open, grilled, mar­i­nated hanger steak sand­wich with Por­to­bello mush­rooms, tomato rel­ish and rus­tic sour­dough bread is €12.

Slow-roasted baby back ribs in a smoky bar­be­cue rub are €8; and a baked po­tato with spiced beef and chorizo, sour cream, grated ched­dar and spring onion is €9.

Pasta-lovers are not ig­nored, with tagli­atelle Al­fredo, fea­tur­ing roasted pine nuts, sun-dried toma­toes, arugula and goat’s cheese, at €12.

Paul kicked off with a Texan-style melange of ten­der pork belly pieces tossed with or­ganic quinoa, sweet pump­kin, pick­led red cab­bage, and pre­sented in en­dive leaves (€6.50). Very tasty in­deed. The tart en­dive leaves pro­vided that sharp, crisp, crunch con­trast with the al­most sweet pork mix.

I had the aptly named Fire­cracker Gam­bas (€14), which con­sisted of three large, chunky, spiced black tiger prawns; flash-grilled, and re­tain­ing a great bite, they were split and served with green­ery, and pineap­ple and lime salsa.

We fol­lowed up with Tuck Box South­ern-fried chicken for Paul, which had drum­sticks, thighs, leg and breast pieces, and a hot-spicy burger for me. The crisp, lightly coated chicken (€11) was moist and de­li­cious, while my big, hot-spicy burger (€9) was voted one of the best ever by both of us. Paul had a side of skinny chips (€2.50), while I had sweet po­tato fries with Parme­san (€3.50), which tasted even bet­ter mopped up with my fin­gers.

Sweets in­cluded New York baked Mal­te­sers cheese­cake; Mis­sis­sippi mud pie; fresh yo­gurt and crushed Amaretto bis­cuit, win­ter fruit com­pote and pis­ta­chio crust; or the won­der­ful Gathabawn Farm ice cream. We shared a slice of ad­dic­tive, gluten-free car­rot cake (€5), and a scoop of fab peanut ice cream (€2) — ab­so­lutely sin­ful.

The wine list is cho­sen with a nose for in­di­vid­u­al­ity, and in­cludes 500ml carafes of Cantina Frentana Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Cooc­ci­ola d’Abruzzo at €15. We en­joyed a bot­tle of Monte la Reina Naire Verdejo 2012 (€25), which brought our bill, with op­tional ser­vice, to €86.50.

The Tuck Box will be well-filled, no doubt, with lo­cal Dalkey celebs chow­ing down — af­ter all, who doesn’t love a good burger, and who doesn’t love a rock­ing, Amer­i­can-style diner?

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