Monday December 9, 2019

In Stepaside, everybody needs good neighbours

Gillian Nelis

Managing Editor

@gnelis
24th November, 2019

Woodruff, Unit 7 The Village,

Stepaside, Dublin 18

01-5581362, woodruff.ie

Chef: Simon Williams

Another week, another meal in a neighbourhood restaurant going above and beyond when it comes to sourcing great Irish produce. After last week's excellent showing by Riba in Stillorgan, which has been open for five years, it was time to try a new kid on the block in the shape of Woodruff in Stepaside.

I'd eaten chef Simon Williams' food before, when he was cooking at The Gables in Foxrock, and I'd been impressed not only with that food, but with the producers he was using.

There are even more of them namechecked on the menu at Woodruff, a simply-decorated room in the centre of the village that's open for lunch and dinner, as well as brunch at weekends. Mooncoin beetroot, Andarl Farm pork, Ballymakenny broccoli, Young Buck cheese - they're all here, as are Moinier blackberry wine and the gorgeous apple ice wine made by Killahora in Cork, a wonderful drink to end a meal with.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The dinner menu offers half a dozen snacks, five starters and five main courses, with starters from €8 to €12, and mains from €16 to €26. I was tempted by the venison carpaccio with juniper and port syrup (€9), but in the interest of keeping things light, plumped instead for the gambas with avocado and chipotle mayo (€12).

Plumped is a good word, because that's exactly what these beauties were; they were chargrilled to perfection, the mayo was unctuously lovely, and the leaves from Gold River Farm were top class.

A little less successful was the kitchen's take on an Irish game risotto: pheasant and smoked pigeon with barley and wild mushrooms (€9). The flavours were there, but the meat, especially the pigeon, was a little on the tough side, and the barley 'rice' could have taken a bit more seasoning.

Fresh from my interview with the food writer and broadcaster Nigel Slater about his gradual move to a more plant-based diet, I went for the veggie main course of roasted squash with gnocchi, ricotta and a salt-based celeriac puree (€16).

It was faultless: the gnocchi perfectly made, the ricotta - which had been made in-house - beautifully creamy, and those chunks of buttery squash more than making up for the absence of meat. A herby hazelnut dressing brought the whole dish together wonderfully.

Across the table, an Andarl farm pork cutlet (€18) was disappearing fast, but that won't surprise you if you've eaten it before. You don't need to do much to a piece of meat this good except serve it with stuff that's equally as good, and that's exactly what happened here, with the cutlet coming with cavolo nero, a parsnip puree, pink fir potatoes and a slice of crackling so crisp I'd say my mother heard me bite into it from 100 miles away.

Four desserts, all priced at €6.50, and an Irish cheeseboard for €14 were on offer for afters. I suppose I should really have ordered the woodruff creme brulee with shortbread biscuits, but it had been so long since I'd seen a bread and butter pudding on a menu that I had to have it.

This was my kind of dessert - small but rich - with the bread, which I think was brioche, liberally covered in chocolate sauce and pistachios, and topped with a generous dollop of vanilla mascarpone.

Good as it was - and it really was very good - it was bettered by the white chocolate mousse with beetroot meringue, a little doughnut, and some wild blackberry jam. This was a mousse less ordinary, thanks to the inspired decision to roast the chocolate first, which gave it a malty, toasty flavour that was really exceptional.

Happy faces all round, then, as we exited Woodruff already planning a return visit. Dinner for two, with one glass of cava, three glasses of wine and a juice came to just over €110.

BREAKING THE BANK

Starter: grilled gambas with avocado and chipotle mayo and Gold River Farm leaves €12

Main course: chargrilled dry-aged 10oz black angus striploin with bearnaise, watercress and chips €26

Afters: Irish cheese selection of Cooleeney, Hegarty's, Rockfield and Young Buck, served with grapes, chutney, walnuts and crackers €14

Wine: Lismore Cape South Coast Syrah, South Africa 2017, €90

Dinner for two: €194

WATCHING THE PENNIES

Starter: beetroot-cured sea trout with kohlrabi tacos, house ricotta and a chilli and lime dressing €8

Main course: Atlantic cod with Ballymakenny broccoli and almonds, salt cod croquette and a Lissadell cockle sauce €18

Dessert: whipped vanilla cheesecake with blackberries and toasted hazelnuts €6.50

Wine: Cantine Paolini Grillo, Sicily 2018, €26

Dinner for two: €91

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