THE EXCHEQUER WINE BAR
19 Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Tel: (01) 421 5780 theexchequerwinebar.ie.
In keeping with the prevailing #BeKind mood I’m not going to name and shame, but I was aghast and indeed agape to see ‘Traditional
Irish Lasagne’ on the menu in one of Dublin’s alleged ‘Spanish’ restaurants recently.
While you’re processing how many types of wrong that is, let me tell you that there’s none of this tomfoolery going on in the Exchequer Wine Bar in Ranelagh where the tapas and raciones are cooked with much love by a gentleman from Santander (José) and brought to the table by a charming fella from Madrid (Javier).
The new Iberian menu has only been in place for a few weeks but they’ve hit the, er, plate running with a short, sharp selection of tapa, which includes such classics as Chorizo A La Sidra, Deep Fried Calimari with Ali-Oli and Albondigas En Salsa, which is meatballs to you.
Wanting to leave room for the main course delights that await, my companion and I show admirable restraint by confining ourselves to the Pollo Al Ajillo and the Pimentos Al Padron (both €6) tapa, which hail respectively from Andalusia and Galicia.
The former translates as Chicken in Garlic, Brandy, White Wine & Vinegar Sauce and comes with a slice of sourdough to help mop up its bold flavours, all of which José has managed to keep distinct. It really is a fabulous dish.
Known as the Russian roulette of peppers as occasionally you get one that shoots off the Scoville Scale, the latter are plump, juicy, blackened and seasoned to perfection and not this time too hot to handle.
While tempted by the Catch of the Day, which tonight is Monkfish, it’s the house specialty paella we’ve come to try as our mains.
My companion being a pesky pescatarian the Paella Valenciana with chicken, rabbit, peppers, green beans, peas and butterbeans is offlimits – as Sly says, “I’ll be back!” – but the Paella Del Cantabrico (€50) laden with mussels, clams, prawns and squid is fair game.
It turns out to be the real Spanish deal with an exotic waft of saffron, some welcome heat from the paprika and rice that’s firm, but not too firm to the bite. With a generous dollop of homemade ali-oli mixed in, it’s a dish that will linger long in the memory. NB: The Exchequer Wine Bar’s paellas are for two and must be ordered when making your booking.
Restraint is now completely out the window as we opt to finish with a classic Crema Catalana (€6), which is topped with a blowtorched sugar crust that requires a good thwack with the spoon in order to get to the lemony, cinnamon-y deliciousness below.
I should have mentioned earlier that all of this has been washed down with a bottle of the Cadalso, a very cheeky red Garnacha, which is unusual in that it hails from Madrid rather than the region normally associated with this grape variety, Catalunya.
We roll out into the Ranelagh night fat, but oh so happy!