Go Fork Yourself: Carluccio’s, Dawson St, Dublin 2
Pros:An impressive array of Italian favourites done well. Lovely setting. Starter, Pasta and Dessert for €20 during Dine in Dublin 2013
Cons:On a regular day prices veer too far north of €10 for main courses.
A handsome city centre restaurant makes a virtue of the simplicity of Italian food.
Cooking lentils, buying ripe avocados and meat-free Monday: these are simple aspirations towards a better life that hasn’t yet materialised. In my failed attempts to succeed at even one of the three, there is, and has been, two bags of uncooked and unopened lentils in my kitchen press for near 2 years now. Even in the great kitchen clear-out of January 2013 they were returned to their resting place, still with the grand ideal that someday, somehow, I’d do something with them.
Why there are two bags I do not know. I can only presume that I have been deluded at least twice while standing in a shop.
The lentil seems to traverse chique, rustic and moreish all at once. My calling card, clearly. Or maybe more appropriately the calling card of Italian food, the cuisine on offer in Carluccio’s on Dawson Street, Dublin 2. The restaurant has a diner feel; maybe it’s modeled on Italian eateries. The room is bright with a deli counter and shelves laden with goodness. The seated area to the back is comfortably full of mismatched wooden and laminate tables, plainly set with paper napkins and wine glasses. The room smells of Parmesan There are tins of bread and olives in lavender-scented herbs to start with; a variety of salads and pastas all served in wide, shallow white bowls for mains and classic Italian desserts to finish. With Dine in Dublin encouraging me to go the whole 3 course hog (don’t judge), I felt lentils for the main would balance out the bread and ice-cream that otherwise featured.
Fool. The near coma I fell into the following afternoon told me otherwise. I can only assume that someone who buys avocados in winter, someone unable to organise one meat-free meal a week, and someone who spends money on things that are never used cannot be relied upon to get through the day without doing something to fall into a stupor.
The lentils came as part of what TV chefs tell me is a traditional Italian dish: lentils with Italian sausage. They tasted damn good though. The sausage, three rounds of juicy sweet meat, were bread-free and lighter for it. They sat atop lentils braised with carrot and celery to a near soup effect. Finished with crisp curls of Savoy cabbage, the dish was a perfect stand-alone bowl of food. There was a whiff of over-salting, but this is gutsy food and there is of course San Pellegrino on supply to keep you hydrated. Russell Crowe thinks people drink the stuff as a status symbol, so surely I couldn’t consider a lunch without it.
All respect to Carluccio’s and the quality of what they put out, but a €12 lunch would not normally be feasible – the food on offer is the Italian food we so respect, but it is ultimately the food of people rather than chefs and such menu prices could otherwise be prohibitive. Their Dine in Dublin promotion offers 3 courses for €20, and finds you propped down in a well-run restaurant with a busy menu, but the bustling crowd gives you confidence they’ll produce each dish equally well.
Italian food is necessarily familiar but should not be so manageable that you could have made it at home. Carluccio’s offers tasty food, and however authentically Italian it may be, it is certainly authentically well made. We have to wonder if on another week the prices might have drawn more ire.