Despite its popularity Dax manages to feel delightfully exclusive, like a well-kept secret amongst foodie friends. Its low-key basement setting on the quieter end of Pembroke Street doesn’t attract passers-by after dark, so the regularly packed restaurant is the result of its cooking repertoire and impeccable hospitality.
Named for the Gallic hometown of proprietor Olivier Meissonave, Dax is renowned for its delicious food, consistency, atmosphere and warm welcome. The little wine bar inside the door is a cosy spot for aperitifs and the unapologetically French wine list is superb, ensuring vast choice to accompany the high end cooking.
The old iron fireplace and stone floor slabs suggest a rustic experience but the large tables, starched white linen cloths and generous glasses are all the hallmarks of a fine dining establishment. Compact and cosy, the space is divided to work well for both groups and couples.
Menus are studded with luxurious ingredients like Irish partridge, West Cork scallops, Carlingford oysters and fillet of Irish Charolais beef, all paired with clever and imaginative accompaniments. From the very outset, perhaps an amuse bouche of fig jelly with cauliflower mousse and parmesan snow, you’ll sense the pride, expertise and care taken in the kitchen, which new head chef, Conor O'Dowd, took over in May 2014.
Atlantic yellow fin tuna might star alongside tomato fondue, garden pea puree, preserved lemon and red wine jus to deliver a contemporary dish backed up by classic French techniques. Carnivores will be equally impressed, with a menu that showcases Ireland’s rich fauna. Achill Island Blackface lamb might be given a Moroccan twist, with cumin spinach, chickpea fritter and Medjoul dates, resulting in a creative and beautiful dish. Presentation is always exquisite and the service both charming and attentive.
Portions are generous, and while prices are high the food is some of the best in the city. Desserts, such as a classic vanilla pannacotta with raspberry soufflé, and pretty petit fours, celebrate the very best of French culinary tradition.
Dax’s lunchtime service sees a popular two-course menu served up in double-quick time, ensuring you’ll get back to your desk in time. In the evening the surprise tasting menu, served by table only, costs €85, and is the perfect way to sample the skill on offer in this atmospheric and well loved little spot.
This Dublin restaurants wine list is a real treat, unapologetically French in content. Knowledgeable staff will help with recommendations; from the 14 wines by the glass or 12 half bottles to match each course, to the vast cellar of grand cru bottles and Bordeaux classics. While Francophiles are especially well catered for, there’s a nod to other major European growers too.
*** 2014 marked a decade in business for Dax Restaurant and, having been touched by the plight of the homeless on RTE’s Prime Time in December 2013, Olivier Meisonnave decided to commit his restaurant to raise funds for the Dublin Simon Community by donating €2 from each table dining in Dax Restaurant during the following year.