With fabulous food and style, Johnnie Cooke has been dazzling Dublin diners for the last quarter of a century, says Lucinda O’Sullivan, and she finds his latest venture is no exception to his stellar standards
It’s almost 25 years since Johnnie Cooke first lit up the Dublin dining scene with his Cooke’s Cafe, on the corner of South William Street and Castle Market, which soon became the haunt for the rock ‘n’ roll who’s-who of Irish society. Over the years, South William Street changed from being a street of fashion wholesalers to a street of bars and hip eateries — which, today, are frequented by crowds of cool cats and hot dogs who were, as they say, but a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when Johnnie first hit the scene.
Cooke’s Cafe rocked on for 16 years until 2008, when the fat cats and high flyers turned to the value menus that were outdoing one another all over the city. He is now, however, back in the big smoke with The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke at Brown Thomas, where, no doubt, he’ll encounter much of his old clientele seeking refreshment, once they have trawled the store for the latest designer must-haves.
The menu is Johnnie’s traditional Cal-Ital style, which, given its instore location, now also caters for a broader church. There’s a breakfast menu incorporating porridge, with cinnamon, dates and honey; or with Irish Mist and farmhouse double cream; eggs Benedict; the full-Irish; as well as a bakery selection. A wide daytime menu runs up to 4pm, when a tapas menu swings in until closing time, and, of course, there’s a great bar, with cocktails to beat the band, which the Edinas and Patsys will absolutely adore.
Salads (€9.50-€18.95) include Nicoise; Cobb; Caesar; and crab; while a “sharing platters” section (€25-€36) covers Irish seafood; Spanish meat and cheeses; and an Italian plate with or without meats. A threesome of seafood (€10.50-€24.50) covers calamari, the ubiquitous hake and a San-Fran style fisherman’s stew; while meats (€15.95-€28.50) include a burger, and a dry-aged sirloin steak.
“Try the beef (€10.50) from “Cooke’s Specialita”. I reckon
Located In Waterford’s Viking Triangle, Trevor Prendergast’s Olive Tree is a tapas and wine bar, where chef Darren Collins has a passion for curing, pickling and fermentation, making all his own breads and sauces from scratch. Wines, many from Colm Carter’s Honest2Goodness wines, are carefully selected to complement the dishes. Price: €4-€13.25 Try: Spiced monkfish with polenta, and an apple and date dressing, €8.95 Drinks: Wine, beer Amanda and Stevie Lane’s incarnation of Brownes, an old family pub-cum-grocery, is getting ready to open its doors any day now. Stevie cheffed in L’Ecrivain, Mulberry Garden, and The Pig’s Ear, while Amanda worked in the Westbury Hotel. Have a drink in the revamped Grocery Bar, followed by some contemporary small plates in the restaurant. Price: €4-€11 Try: Beef cheek with potato mousse and crispy marrow, €11 Drinks: Craft beer, wine, spirits David Gallagher and Claire O’Boyle Gallagher worked in the wine business before setting up their own wine store, with a chic wine bar to the rear. It’s quite blissful looking at all those wines from which you can choose a bottle and pay a modest corkage to drink, while you are enjoying top-notch small plates from spicy chorizo to smoked duck magret Price: €4-€15 Try: Gambas served with lemon aioli, €13 Drinks: Artisan wines it will be good,” I said to my friend Paul. It was! Fine, fine slices of raw marinated beef, arranged like a flower, were lightly drizzled with truffle mayo, a dusting of black pepper, and centred with arugula (rocket), radicchio, shaved Parmesan, cherry tomatoes and grilled ciabatta.
Castletownbere Crab (€11.50), consisted of a tian of fresh crab and avocado puree, topped with mango cubes, surrounded by an honour guard of standing asparagus spears so fresh and colourful. Paul followed up with chicken Milanese (€16.75), a delicious lightly crumbed chicken breast accompanied by a bowl of summer salad and Romesco sauce, which he loved. I had spiced lamb (€26.95), which was a substantial dish of loin chargrilled and served in tranches interspersed with golden sultanas, peas, almonds, chermoula, orange-andcumin glazed baby carrots, and a tian of salad ( is wheat that is harvested early). Delicious, but you would need to be hungry.
Frankly, if I wasn’t reviewing, the and crab starters would have been perfect for a lovely light lunch of the ‘small plate’ genre, with perhaps a side of or salad. Having said that, it was good to see a lady, only short of licking her soup plate as she moved on, enthusiastically, to her main course.
The waiter did his best to tempt us with enticing desserts, but his efforts were in vain, as we were full. All of the wines were available by the glass (€7.50-€11.50), so, with two glasses of Cave de Berticot IGT Sauvignon Blanc for Paul (€7.50 each), two bottles of Acqua Panna for me (€5.95 each) and optional service, our bill came to €102.60.
freekah carpaccio toute seule,
The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 605-6666 brownthomas.com
lucindaosullivan.com freekah frites