Three to Try - Restaurant Standards for Home Dining

As more restaurants gear up towards reopening this summer, Aoife Carrigy highlights three very different Dublin eating places where they’re testing the waters and keeping regulars happy with call and collect options  

All across the land, restaurant owners are puzzling over how they can adapt to the new normal. For some, an early step has been to keep themselves and a skeleton staff busy by offering take-home options for collection by loyal regulars who want to continue to support their local restaurants – and take a break from the endless home-cooking while they're at it. Judging from a small but diverse sampling from my local area, the results that these resourceful professionals are achieving are extremely impressive, managing to maintain in-house standards to be enjoyed at home while keeping things safe for all involved.

Just off the canal at Portobello, Richmond is doing a busy weekend trade for lucky locals (Thu–Sat evenings, collection 5pm–8.30pm). It's currently a two-man operation, with owner-manager Russell Wilde fielding phone orders and handing out bags for collection at allocated times across a two-top table wedged into the doorway, and head chef David O'Byrne executing each week's pared back menu. A choice of one starter (€5), two mains (€12 each), one or two sides (€4) and a dessert (€5) means that you can go all out and order one of everything to share between two people for just €22 a head. leaving a bit of change to pick up a bottle of wine from their selection, such as an excellent Picpoul de Pinet (sold pre-chilled, of course). Peter is a talented chef who draws on classic European techniques to extract maximum flavour from well-sourced ingredients. Everything that we ate could have been served with pride by Russell and his front-of-house team. Arancini balls in a crunchy rice coating yielded to a moreish interior of subtly spiced lamb shoulder, foregrounded by a text-book almond-enriched romesco sauce of sweet red pepper. Main courses held up well in the transportation and while keeping warm in the oven: pressed duck leg dressed in a perfectly pitched date sauce and served with vibrant spring greens (broad beans and tender stem broccoli) and fat nuggets of fregola pasta; and a beautiful piece of sea trout with plump mussels, sweet peas, shaved fennel and the kind of bisque sauce that takes time, patience and a professional touch. Sides were typical of O'Byrne's creative attention to detail (in this case cauliflower in cheese custard, and baby potatoes in a tomato pesto) while dessert was a clever combo of rich chocolate brownie, crunchy honeycomb and zingy blackberry sauce. This is food to bring comfort and pleasure during times that warrant both, and a reminder of why restaurants like Richmond are so worth supporting and protecting.

Meanwhile, at Leonard's Corner, Dublin 8 locals are spoilt with the combination of Gaillot et Gray for take-home pizzas by night and breads and pastries by day and the neighbouring 57 The Headline which managed a swift pivot from craft beer pub to take-home and deliveries of everything from Aperol spritz kits to local brews to wine and cheese boards. Chef-owner Giles Gaillot is an excellent baker and his rustic bread is worth putting a call in for (available to order Wed-Sat from 9am along with home-baked pastries, Imbibe coffee from local roasters and other locally produced treats such as White Mausu peanut rayu and cashew-miso crunch). It's a morning-only offer, with last orders dispatched by noon to give the crew a break before they reopen from 4pm to take call-ahead orders for pizza, available up until 9pm. And what singular pizzas these are: more biscuit-like in base than their Italian counterparts, as is the French style; served nicely charred from their Four Grand-Mère wood-fired oven; and topped with a Provencal-style tomato sauce scented with fragrant marjoram, punchy Emmenthal cheese and your choice from about eight menu options. We went for one of their classics – a combo of juicy merguez sausage, mushrooms and onion – and their superb special of asparagus, wild garlic pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, which is about as complex as their cleverly simple flavour pairings get. Even with transportation home on the back of a bicycle, a short blast in the preheated oven was all that was needed to return each pizza to its just-cooked glory.

If the worry of keeping food hot while getting it home is off-putting, some operations are offering a choice of cooked or chilled versions of certain dishes. The Cliff Townhouse on Stephen's Green is taking full advantage of head chef Sean Smith's skill with seafood to offer top-notch dishes such as their Family Fish Pie to enjoy at home. We tried the chilled option, which came with clear cooking instructions that produced hunks of perfectly cooked white fish and generous prawns in an elegantly creamy leek sauce subtly bolstered by some smoked fish. Designed to sate four hungry souls, the pie comes with a spanking fresh salad and dressing and a bottle of smart house white wine for €57. The fish pie can also be collected cooked, alongside other cooked dishes from the takeaway menu like fish croquettes (€6) or tempura prawns with an avocado, lime and black pepper dressing (€14) – or alternatively you could opt for their CLIFF Heat at Home meal kits (€32.50 per person for three courses) that promise to be as elegant as they are easy to assemble. As with most call and collect offers, you can pre-book in advance to secure your time slot. Then it's as simple as parking outside and having your dinner delivered by gloved-up staff who will wipe down your car boot afterwards – which, in these strangest of times, is the new-normal equivalent to attentive service details like keeping water topped up and linen crumb-free.

It's so impressive to see how these businesses are adapting, and heartening to know that we can support our favourite restaurants and help boost their morale and their coffers as they face into this unprecedented challenge for their industry and for our food culture.

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