Following the closure of the exquisite Mint, fans of the celebrated chef Dylan McGrath rushed to taste his latest offerings when Rustic Stone opened in 2010. A far cry from the starry cuisine and plush surroundings of Mint, Rustic Stone is a more affordable, more accessible concept with a great city centre location - and, hitting the right note with a cash-strapped and health-conscious public, it has stayed the course well.
This buzzy corner Dublin restaurants over two floors tricked out in a mix of wooden surfaces, atmospheric lighting and smart chairs that could be a little more comfortable. Downstairs boasts extra seating and a stylish bar area that serves up genuinely creative cocktails.
Hailed as one of Ireland’s most talented chefs, Dylan has left behind his fine dining roots (at least for the time being), instead using his exceptional talents to create a broad menu of tasty, affordable food with an emphasis on healthy eating.
The menu is packed with coloured symbols denoting whether meals are wheat-, gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free, low in saturated fat, vegetarian, or contain a superfood. It’s a thoughtful concept although some may feel it is overworked, making the menu overly long and exhausting to read.
Diners can start off with a choice of bites or starters, making a tapas style meal an attractive option. Signature dishes like the house chicken wings are delicious, featuring sticky soya, roasted sesame seeds, lime zest and coriander. Other memorable choices include outstanding crab mayonnaise on toast, zinging with exceptional flavour and freshness.
The Rustic Stone name alludes to the large slabs of hot volcanic stone that most of the main courses are served on, allowing guests to cook their meat or fish themselves. Choose from several cuts of beef, each individually dressed (perhaps rib eye with prawn glaze or fillet with mushrooms and tarragon), tuna steak or halibut.
The stone cooking may feel a little gimmicky, but it isn’t tricky to master. Side orders are extra, but needed to complete the meal and staff are well trained for helping with recommendations. Chips with truffle mayonnaise and Parmesan are luxurious and delicious, while an inspired salad menu offers lighter choices that can also be ordered as mains.
Creative combinations include a zesty rocket, fennel and baby spinach salad with orange, pickled carrot, cucumber and caramelised pecans in a coriander seed and orange dressing.
Surprisingly all the desserts are sugar-free, sweetened with unusual natural sweeteners like agave syrup. They claim to be low in calories but the delicious chocolate soup with chocolate mousse tastes reassuringly indulgent.
Almost all of the 23 wines can be ordered by glass, half and full bottle, and there are plenty of affordable choices.
The staff are charming and well trained and Rustic Stone is refreshingly different; with a lively atmosphere, it's a fun spot for a group, ordering perhaps a tableful of bites and starters alongside the tasty cocktails.