Town Bar and Grill, 21 Kildare Street, Dublin

There was a time, a dozen years ago, when the only place you'd find a decent meal in Dublin was in a hotel. You could traipse through Grafton Street, Dame Street, O'Connell Street and their lateral offshoots, looking in vain for an eating house that wasn't part of a burger chain. Now, after more than a decade in the jaws of the Celtic Tiger economy, the Irish capital has been transformed by oodles of cash, imagination and confidence. Around St Stephen's Green, along the quays, even on the still-grotty north side off Parnell Street, classy restaurants are busting out all over.

The Town Bar and Grill has got itself a reputation as one of the grooviest. This is the place, everyone tells you, where Bono and The Edge from U2 took Bruce Springsteen for supper after a gig. The Irish Parliament is across the road, and this is where Irish TDs take each other to scheme and connive in the semi-darkness. Its owners, Temple Garner and Ronan Ryan, have converted the cellar of Mitchell's the wine merchant's into a dining-room, whose crepuscular gloom may be the last word in Dublin chic but is a little lowering to the spirits. The walls are all exposed brickwork or whitewashed, the banquettes dark grey, the ambient lighting is spartan, and the overhead lamp is the Stasi Interrogation model.

But after a minute or two, none of this mattered a row of buttons. The service in Town is wholly disarming. The front-of-house lady, Fiona, was chatty and amazingly beautiful. Our sweet Australian waitress, Emily, collapsed in giggles when trying to recommend the Alpha Zeta Garganega white wine in her Melbourne accent. The wine list is mainly Italian and rather pricey. The food is "Contemporary Italian cooking, NY style" but, apart from the cannelloni and a zuppa di pesce, it seemed to feature mostly Irish ingredients (Connemara salmon, Galway crab, Slaney Valley kidneys) cooked with small admixtures of ravioli, pappardelle, gnocchi and tortellini.

My ham hock soup was so beltingly hammy, and so gorgeously crammed with beans, carrots, celery and herbs, it fair took my breath away. It was a very Springsteen-y dish: the soup for a working man, tuckered out after a long day in the recording studio. My date's crab salad combined a meaty crab claw and white crabmeat, alongside baby beets with avocado and a Bloody Mary sorbet. It was delicious, "though I don't think you're supposed to put crab and sorbet in your mouth at the same time". The salad was so infantile – a tiny lettuce leaf, a smear of avocado and the baby beets – it was practically in rompers. Something crispy was needed to balance the crab, I thought. Bruce wouldn't have cared tuppence. He was born to run. He's not the kinda guy to order crab salad.

Emily-from-Melbourne brought a mid-courses raspberry sorbet. It was too creamy to be a refreshing palate-cleanser. "If I eat all this," observed my companion, "I'll have to go straight to the coffee." She had a point. And we'd have been mad to miss the main courses, their combination of generosity, style and flavour. The halibut was stunning. Four gigantic tranches, each as fat as a Frette pillow, surrounded by an adoring chorus of tiny shallots, green beans, sugar snaps and red pepper. The fish was so light it could have been whipped out of the sea half an hour earlier; what Dublin fishwives used to call "leppin' fresh".

My roast Slaney Valley rack of lamb with sun-dried-tomato-stuffed shoulder, pan-fried sweetbreads and baby carrots in a mint jus, was a delirium of sheepish bliss, cooked three ways. The two racks of lamb had such a delicate texture, it hardly seemed possible they'd been subjected to anything as vulgar as flames. The roundel of sliced lamb shoulder, stuffed with tomato, was a pungent country cousin, while a lump of pan-fried sweetbread offered a further contrast in texture. This was an inspired dish, into which a lot of creative thinking had gone.

We were too stuffed to eat another thing, but ordered a preserved-ginger crème brûlée for the hell of it. It came with almond biscotti and a lump of crystallised ginger and was yummy, the ginger bringing a touch of exotic to an over-familiar pudding.

Not everything is right about Town: the cellar is glum, the exposed wires off-putting and the sorbet needs a rethink. But I left feeling nothing but admiration for Mssrs Garner and Ryan. I expect Mr Springsteen is writing a song about them ("Eating in the Dark"?) even as I speak.

Town Bar and Grill, 21 Kildare Street, Dublin, Republic of Ireland (00 353 1 662 4724)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 5 stars

About €150 (£120) for two, with wine

Tipping policy

"Service charge is 12.5 per cent for tables of 5 people and over; for tables of 4 and under there is no service charge. 100 per cent of the service charge and tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Dublin delights

By Madeleine Lim

L'Gueuleton

Expect to have to queue at this fashionable French bistro; main courses include chargrilled cornfed chicken, with shallot tarte tatin, rocket and Parmesan (€18.50).

No 1 Fade Street, South Dublin Centre (00 353 1 675 3708)

The Saddle Room

The Irish-American chef John Mooney serves impeccable steaks alongside oyster and seafood platters at the luxurious and now newly refurbished Shelbourne Hotel.

27 St Stephen's Green (00 353 1 663 4500)

The Winding Stair

This bookshop and café recently won a Michelin Bib Gourmand for good value; main courses include corned beef with crispy cabbage, horseradish mash and mustard sauce (costs €21.95).

40 Ormond Quay (00 353 1 872 7320)

Bentley's Town House

Try a glass of champagne with a tempura of oysters in honey and black pepper at the acclaimed chef Richard Corrigan's new brasserie in a Georgian terrace.

22 St Stephen's Green (00 353 1 638 3939)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea