Opened by Michael Lowe in 1999, Michael's is set in a row of shops in the suburb of Mount Merrion. The location is a little off the beaten track, but its attractive and well-maintained exterior is easily spotted once you are on the street - and, once inside, it's like an old-school Italian wine shop with wooden tables and chairs.
Michael's recently became part of the Kinara restaurant group and gained a new chef in Gareth Smith ('Gaz'), who is serving up the real deal in terms of authentic Italian cuisine, some of the best in the capital. Portions are generous, the mood is relaxed, and the wine flows easily.
The menu covers everything from antipasta plates to pastas and pizzas, seafood and steaks and, as it has been from the start at Michael's, the emphasis is on quality ingredients, be it the fresh local produce - including seafood from Wicklow, rose veal from local butcher John O'Neill and eggs for the homemade pasta from Lispole Free Range, Co Kerry - or the best of Italian speciality ingredients for Italicatessen.
The cooking is excellent and food is attractively presented in rustic style, with big flavours the order of the day.
Standout starter dishes include the wild mushroom and duck arancini (the portion consists of three hockey-ball sized arancini) and osso bucco: slow-braised rose veal shank, with plenty of marrow waiting to be sucked out of the bone, and handmade goat's cheese ravioli. It’s a dish with extraordinary depth and concentration of flavour.
From the main courses, expect dishes such as mussels and prawns in a white wine, tomato, lemon and cream sauce and impeccable steaks aged in Maurice Kettyle's Salt and Moss Cave in Lisnaskea in Co Fermanagh for a minimum of 31 days.
If you have room left for dessert, you can look forward to indulgences such as Vanilla and Orange Panna Cotta, Tiramisu and various ice creams, all made on the premises.
The wine shop offers a range of about 80 wines, carefully selected from specialist suppliers; the restaurant selection changes monthly, starting from about €25 (glass €6.25). A 33% discount applies on wines to take away.
Gluten free pasta, pizza and sauces are offered, and the value offered is outstanding fo the quality of food, especially on Tuesday (Pizza night, all €10) and also a Steak Club on Wednesday, when you can have a dry-aged sirloin/fillet steak with a glass of the wine of the week for about €22.95/26.95.
Well worth a detour.