39 Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Chef: Raouf Djeffal
‘Please remove shoes before getting into coffin. Tag Blackrock Market in your photos!”
The word ‘eclectic’ doesn’t go anywhere near describing the place I am strolling around on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in Dublin.
If you grew up in these parts you’ll already know all about Blackrock Market, but for those of you who didn’t, it’s a narrow, winding collection of stalls and shops selling everything from secondhand clothes to superhero comics, and Lego figures to paintings.
It also, on this particular weekend, has an open coffin that you can climb into for photographic purposes. You wouldn’t get that in the Dundrum Town Centre, let me tell you.
This place has been in the news lately thanks to Andrew Heron and Damien Grey, whose eponymous restaurant won a Michelin star last month. The win has had an incredible effect on their business (their tiny restaurant is now booked out until well into 2017), and I’d imagine it has also helped raise the profile of the market, and the area, as a whole.
Certainly, the market itself seems to have more food options than ever before. There’s 3 Leaves, for example, an Indian restaurant that Grey has been championing on his social media channels (they were sold out of food before their closing time the day we were there; always a good sign).
There’s also a Lebanese place with a great-sounding menu that we definitely would have tried had the small person not been with us; and a tapas bar, El Celler, with a very tempting wine list and a menu featuring the likes of fried padron peppers, salted cod fritters, and churros.
On the main street itself, you can grab a coffee at Bear Market (you can also order their superb coffee online at bearmarket.ie), and – as we did now – eat some great seafood at Ouzos.
Owner Padraic Hanley opened it in the old Mad Hatter pub in 2010; it was a brave move, to say the least, as even city centre restaurants were struggling to cope with the nosediving economy at that stage. Six years on, it’s still there, and will be getting a facelift in January (Hanley has just done up his other Ouzos in Dalkey).
We were eating off the lunch menu, which offers two courses for €19.95 and three courses for €23.95. Given that Hanley has his own boat fishing out of Dún Laoghaire, and great connections with other fishermen, the sea provides many of the main ingredients here, with choices like potted shrimp and crab, seafood chowder, scampi, and calamari.
My starter of fried Dalkey crab claws was generous in terms of proportion and flavour, with the pile of perfectly-cooked claws sitting in a lovely caper chilli lime butter dotted with shrimps, shallots and spring onion. Two slices of good sourdough made this a particularly filling first course.
The seared king scallops in other other starter (€3 supplement) had been ever so slightly overcooked, but the other elements of the dish – a celeriac purée, some black pudding and tiny little bits of crispy fried Serrano ham – were spot on.
So too was my cheeseburger, with the well-seasoned, juicy patty topped with a nice mature cheddar and served with a spicy mayo with paprika and little pieces of caper. I was the only one eating meat for the main course, with one of my companions having the special of halibut with a herb sauce, mashed potato and veg (€7 supplement), and the other the children’s portion of fish and chips.
The latter comprised a haddock fillet in a great tempura batter and excellent skin-on chips; it was demolished, as was the Oreos ice-cream that came afterwards (children’s menu €12 including drink and dessert). It’s exactly the same as the adults fish and chips, our server told us, just a smaller portion.
We were too full to contemplate dessert, but made a mental note to leave space the next time we visit for what sounded like a great cheeseboard – it includes Mileeens, Durrus, Cashel Blue, Cooleeney and Hegerty Cheddar, all for a tenner.
With his policy of providing simple, well-cooked dishes and great service, I’d wager Hanley will win a whole new tranche of fans when his new, revamped Ouzos Blackrock is unveiled next year. With a large bottle of sparkling water and two gin and tonics, lunch for two adults and one child came to €81.40. �
Menu quick peek
BREAKING THE BANK
Starter: pot of Galway mussels steamed with white wine, shallots and garlic €9.95
Main course: surf ’n’ turf: Irish Hereford fillet with either pan-fried crab claws or sautéed prawns €34.95
Dessert: strawberry sundae with cream, crushed meringue and vanilla ice-cream €6.50
Wine: Gevrey Chambertin Livera, Burgundy 2011, €85
Dinner for two:€187.80
WATCHING THE PENNIES
Starter: soup of the day with homemade bread €4.95
Main course: fish and chips €15.95
Dessert: vanilla crème brûlée with shortbread biscuit €6
Wine: Belfiore Pinot Grigio, Italy 2015, €26
Dinner for two:€79.80
Tomás Clancy Rates The Wine List
The wine list here is thoroughly enjoyable, well-priced and offers every single wine on their main list, including all the sparkling, ports and desert by the glass. Indeed, all of the red, white and rosé wines on the main list are also available by the half-litre carafe as well. The pricing is well-focused too, and Ouzos offers house carafe wines only by the carafe or glass, and these start from €15 for a carafe or €6 for a glass of Ouzos Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz. They have a fine wine side list which offers very sensibly chosen, special event wines from €47 to €85 rather than never-to-be-sold €1,000 icons. Pick of the fine wine offering is probably Château de Tracy, AC Pouilly Fume 2013 at a very competitive €55. Value abounds with their Prosecco Frizzante NV at €6 a glass or €27 a bottle. Our white wine value for the quality pick would be the Domaine de Cabrol, Picpoul de Pinet 2015 at €8 a glass, €21 a half-litre carafe or €31 a bottle, while the red pick would be the Bodegas Lurton Malbec, Argentina 2015 at €9 a glass, €23 a carafe and €33 a bottle.