Feather in his Capo
Restaurateur Ronan Ryan has brought Cal-Ital-style food to his new Capo restaurant on Mercer Street Lr, says Lucinda O’Sullivan, where opening night was awash with cool cats, well-knowns and wannabes
Ronan Ryan is a guy who understands the art of hospitality. This was evident on the opening night of his new restaurant, Capo, which saw a solid turnout of oh-so-cool, mainly black-clad customers and friends — including a number of well-known faces. Striding the long, gallery-type room, Ryan was at the door to greet everyone warmly, have the little chat and make people feel welcome and comfortable. It’s something every meeter-greeter should aspire to, instead of the all-too-common, perfunctory grab of the menus and the silent march to the worst table in the house.
Ryan has had a long, muchwritten-about career in the restaurant industry, his most famous restaurant being Town Bar & Grill, a haunt of the political and media world, before it eventually ran aground during the recession. He and his wife, Pamela Flood, opened Counter Culture, with a focus on clean eating, a year or so ago, in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, and this has now moved to a larger venue on Mercer Street Lr. It operates as Counter Culture during the day, and, on Friday and Saturday evenings, morphs into Capo, which serves Cal-Ital-style food in a chic, citified atmosphere.
Sitting with my friend Mary, I mused about how many times I’d whizzed up Mercer Street — not the most attractive of streets — without ever dreaming that, under the Travelodge Hotel, was this amazing room. Long and narrow, with a high ceiling, it reminded me of an elegant art gallery.
There was something very cool about sipping a glass of chilled white wine, watching the lights of passing cars drift by the darkened plate-glass windows, while their pianist tickled the ivories.
Starters (€6-€11) included an Irish seafood chowder, an antipasti plate sporting San Daniele Parma ham; coppa; pancetta; fig chutney; and sourdough, available for one or two people at €11/€19. Chargrilled sardines marinated in lemon oil
140 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 676-6848 cirillos.ie This summer, James Cirillo hit the ground running with his chic, contemporary Italian eatery. Majoring in pasta and pizzas from a high-end wood-fired pizza oven imported from Naples, Cirillo’s also does a great antipasti sharing plate, as well as house-cured salmon with wild garlic dressing, crispy skin and bread wafers. Price: €8.50-€18 Try: Pizza Nealo — buffalo ricotta, onion, ’nduja, lardo and mozzarella, €14 Drinks: Cocktails, wine, beer The main room runs under a Dart tunnel, and this contemporary Italian eatery, under the baton of Ross Lewis and Luciano Tona, ticks all the right boxes when it comes to atmosphere and buzz, along with a taste of rustic Italy at good prices. Everything from pizza to pasta, and salumi to secondi is served with panache. Price: €5-€28 Try: Roasted whole quail with spring onion, roast potatoes, prosciutto and monk’s beard, €24 Drinks: Cocktails, wine Eileen Dunne Crescenzi and Stefano Crescenzi brought the concept of real Italian casual food to Ireland. The Sandymount branch of their chain of eateries is a warm, atmospheric haven — the perfect escape from the real world. From daytime breakfast dishes, paninis, antipasti and pasta dishes, they also do fab ‘ specialita della sera’. Price: €6.50-€26.50 Try: Tagliata di Manzo — beef fillet, chargrilled and sliced, with mushrooms and roast potatoes, €26.50 Drinks: Fabulous Italian wines are served with pickled beet; while ricotta is accompanied by carrot, beetroot and rocket. Mary had charred prawns with white wine, chillies and lemon (€10), which sat on crisp tranches of bruschetta, scattered with herbs.
I had a cocktail of full-flavoured soft-shell crab with Marie Rose sauce on shredded lettuce (€11), spiked with chive spears, which was a simple but effective update on the traditional prawn cocktail.
A number of the mains (€16€25) appealed to us both. Pastas included with sausage and red pesto, while surf clam linguine incorporated pancetta, chillies, garlic and white wine. A 10oz Irish Angus rib-eye with caramelised Marsala onions and fries was there for the steak lover; as was confit free-range Irish chicken supreme with cep risotto.
Mary’s pumpkin and sage ravioli (€17), with lemon and chestnut butter brown sauce, was the perfect autumnal choice. My choice of a large tranche of line-caught tuna (€23) was seared and served on zingy artichoke with rosemary roasted potatoes.
From a dessert menu which included a selection of ice cream and sorbet, and a rather novelsounding tiramisu bar, we shared a lovely little lemon tart, tweaked with a split strawberry, blackberry, and a scoop of (€6) of gorgeous rum-and-raisin ice cream.
The cheese selection (€11) featured two Italian and two Irish cheeses — Taleggio, Fontal, Daru and Knockdrinna.
With a bottle of delicious, strawyellow, dry but lightly aromatic, Venetian Pinot Bianco Garganega blend, La Cavea 2015 (€25) — also available by the glass at €7 — our bill, with two espressos (€2.75 each) and optional service, came to €119.35.
Capo Dublin, 3 Mercer Street Lr, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 679-9225 caporestaurant.ie
formaggio lucindaosullivan.com ’nduja