Dublin City has always been short on authentic Mexican food - not Tex-Mex joint, but real south-of-the-border, traditional rustic Mexican cooking. 777 is a welcome newcomer, taking the best from this vast cuisine, and replicating it with real attention to detail.
The low-key black facade seems uninviting and easy to miss, yet step inside and you find a lively restaurant and bar, that’s part Mexican cantina, part New York cool. Smooth cream tiles, large mirrors and distressed ceiling tiles sit happily with an orange bar, low lighting, upbeat tunes and brightly monickered Formica tables in booths.
Reservations are only taken for groups of six plus, so you may have to perch on a stool and dine at the bar at peak times. This is no hardship as you’ll have a bird’s eye view of staff fixing margaritas and tequilas, serving coffees and engaging with customers in this very chilled out place.
Plastic baskets containing fiery chilli sauces and paper napkins dress each table, lending an authentic cantina touch, and allowing you to raise the heat if you feel the need. The menu is broad, if a little confusing, although the friendly and obliging staff do a good job of explaining things. Unusually, a trip to the toilets practically passes through the kitchen, where diners are afforded an intimate view of the kitchen crew at work.
This Dublin restaurants starters range from tostados – crisp tortillas filled with the likes of yellow fin tuna sashimi, slow stewed chicken, or lump crabmeat – to taquitos (mini tacos), excellent ceviche (citrus-marinated fish) and traditional soups like spicy pasilla broth with chicken. Many of these dishes are ideal for sharing and a great introduction to real Mexican food.
A wood-burning grill is put to good use for the main courses, which include tasty dishes like costillas (spicy guava pork ribs with fried plantains and pickled red onions) or fish of the day, priced daily, with traditional accompaniments.
Consider the thoughtful side dishes too, like street-style corn on the cob and sautéed spinach with garlic and poblanos. Desserts are novel and authentic too, with sorbets (think horchata, made from rice water, cinnamon and condensed milk, or mango-chilli) a house speciality.
Drink is a big part of the 777 concept, with a special menu offering over 80 kinds of tequila and mescal. The shorter cocktail menu offers several Mexican-inspired drinks and there’s a short wine list, including two Mexican beers and fresh juices. Surprisingly they only serve filter coffee. The food is good but expensive and it would be easy to run up a significant bill here.
Savvy owner John Farrell already runs the fashionable and fun Dillingers and Butcher Grill in Ranelagh, and before opening 777 he made a reconnaissance trip to Mexico with his head chef to unearth the very best of this Central American cuisine. With a few tweaks, and a little more seasoning, this exciting place should be bang on Peso.