THE OLD SPOT
14 Bath Avenue, Dublin, 01-660 5599, theoldspot.ie ¤¤ There’s a trend in Dublin at the moment. Stand still long enough and someone will throw a splash of paint on you, buy some distressed furniture and boom, before you can say barista you’ve been turned into a coffee shop, pop-up café or gastro pub. The food, coffee and craft beer scene is thriving, and every spare nook and cranny is prime real estate. It’s surprising, so, that the old Lansdowne Bar on Bath Avenue – a great location, with loads of room – stood empty for more than a year before anyone started looking at Dulux colour charts.
It was finally given a new lease of life last Friday, when the McNerney brothers (of Junior’s and Paulie’s Pizza fame) opened The Old Spot.
The new mascot, a rather jolly Old Spot pig in a bath (geddit), greets you as you come under the Dart bridge – the frequent rumblings of passing trains will punctuate your visit – into the cosy front bar, with its dark wood panelling, soft leather banquettes and mismatched mahogany chairs. There’s a nod to the old, old spot too, with the original Lansdowne Bar frosted windows still out front.
Behind the bar it’s all whiskey, wine and weissbier, with a mid-sized wine list (we had a glass of Armigero Sangiovese Riserva, ¤7.75) and a decent selection of craft beers on tap and by the bottle (Belgians and IPAs make up a good portion of the list).
The bar snack menu is a surprise – it’s obvious they’re aiming for big things here – with soused herrings with rye, beetroot and horseradish (¤4,) an ambitious Italian dish of vitello tonnato, or slivered veal (¤4), and a very good pot of creamy chicken rilettes, dotted with capers, coriander and flat leaf parsley and served with shards of wafer-thin sourdough toast, micro leaves and tangy pickled red onion.
Out back, the Old Spot’s restaurant is reminiscent of a gentle- man’s study, with more dark wood, hunting pictures, Vanity Fair plates, plaid booths and a small bar.
As you’d expect from somewhere named after a porker, the menu is heavy on big meat dishes (house ground burgers, baby back ribs, an enormous New York striploin, Iberico pork flank) with prices from ¤15 to ¤28. But there are smaller, lighter plates too. We tried the melt-in-the-mouth San Daniele prosciutto with crispy, spring roll-like cylinders of mustardy celeriac, and a syrupy, not too sweet agrodolce sauce (¤9). Brill with clams (¤22) turned out to be brill with prawns and mussels (no harm done), but the spiced tomato sauce needed more of a kick to take on a creamy fennel yoghurt on top.
Tuna tartare (¤10) was the best of the lot; fat cubes of tuna served with crispy yukka, chunks of avocado on generous smears of lime and chipotle mayo... plate-licking was a serious temptation.
It’s taken a while for this old spot to become a new trough, but it was worth the wait.