Come­back Cooke

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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

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

ciop­pino, carpac­cio

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 brown­

lu­cin­dao­sul­li­ freekah frites

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