After years of getting into taxis and experiencing dialogue that was more depressing than a minute of “Talk to Joe”, it was refreshing to have an upbeat conversation with a cabbie who was talking about “green shoots”. Yes, “green shoots” I tell you.
We were heading into Drury Street, which is the latest new frontier of Georges Street cool. On the corner is the shiny, new Super Miss Sue restaurant from the 777 and Dillinger’s stable; and further down on the opposite side of the street is Drury Buildings, with self conscious graffiti on the walls outside and a cool buzzy bar inside.
Surprise… no subway tiles!
After the in-your-face graffiti, the room is remarkably restrained, with not a subway tile in sight or line of industrial lights trailing down from the ceiling. There is a low key atmosphere to the place; a comfortable- in-its-own-skin, pre-Celtic tiger kind of feeling. Except for the cocktail list that is, and these are superb. So superb that everybody wanted them, and the mixologist was backed up to the point that we waited half an hour for a Tom Collins with a hint of wasabi (yes, an inspired touch) and an Old Fashioned. The manager immediately picked up on my frisson of impatience at the delay, and quietly removed the two cocktails from the bill, not the table. Which was extremely decent and not expected.
And so, what about the food? Well the chef is Warren Massey who had previously run the kitchen in L’Gueuleton (a sister restaurant); and with 8 starters, 10 mains and 4 desserts and cheese, it is kept fairly tight and has the flexibility to change frequently. Its roots are Italian without the constraint of a mama. We started with a rabbit terrine (€10.50), terrines being a staple of L’Gueuleton, and a winter vegetable and cannellini bean broth with Pecorino and parsley pesto (€7.90). Both were good, not standout, and in need of a little seasoning. But with a bowl of sea salt on the table that was easily fixed.
Calamarata pasta, a new one on me
Although tempted by dishes like osso bucco, wood pigeon and wild pheasant for main course, we sprung for a pasta dish which was described as “guanciale di Montagna” cured Italian pork cheek with calamarata pasta and Pecorino (19.50). Purists will know that guanciale and not pancetta is what should be used for the cured pork element in carbonara, but the calamarata pasta was a new one on me. All was revealed when a large, white bistro dish with rings of pasta of mouth-watering proportions arrived. With that amount of pasta, it was a carb fest, but a particularly rewarding one. The creamy sauce with onions and little nuggets of guanciale was extremely good and the portion was so generous, I couldn’t even finish it. You could easily share it between two people.
Now for the awesome bit…
Our other main course, fritto misto with squid ink aioli is a simple dish, so very dependent on high quality ingredients, which here consisted of whitebait, Dublin Bay prawns and squid. It was also exceptionally good. Once again, it was a very generous portion; the fish was deliciously fresh and the batter was skilfully light. This is a dish I will definitely be back in to eat again. And, we were also served a generous side of vegetables – beetroot, broccoli, kale and sautéed potatoes – which wasn’t even mentioned on the menu and carries no additional charge.
We shared a dessert because we were quite full at this stage. I was tempted by the rum and raisin affogato, which is ice cream doused in hot espresso and is very reasonably priced at €5; but as I wanted to try something a little different for reviewing purposes, I opted for the blood orange and Campari cake with chocolate and orange ice cream (€8) and was rewarded with a very good dessert. The cake was moist with ground almonds and the ice cream was a perfect match.
There is something very nice about Drury Buildings which goes beyond the very good food. With not a small plate in sight, the flow of service is smooth and friendly. Most of the diners were in groups, and with no pressure to turn tables the atmosphere was buzzy without being annoyingly noisy. It has that illusive good vibe, which is as hard to get right as it is to quantify. It’s not just green shoots; Drury Buildings is a breath of fresh air.
Drury Buildings, 52-55 Drury Street, 01 960 2095