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Go Fork Yourself: Tiesan Café

Posted March 27, 2013 by Seán Earley in Bistro


Ramp Rating


Type: ,
Cuisine: ,
Where?: Harrington St, Portobelo, Dublin 8
Value: Three course dinner for two, two drinks = €50
Choice: Refined menu of specialities


Exciting and tasty menu, enthusiastic staff, hidden gem.


Lacking in atmosphere, little off the beaten track.

You’re not going to experience food like this anywhere else in Dublin.

by Seán Earley
Full Article

With Tiesan Café having only launched their new weekend dinner menu a month ago, Head Chef Johan van der Merwe invited us along to sample the delights.

Nestled away in the heart of Portobello, Tiesan Café has a distinctly continental feel with its covered outside area to the front. While this serves as a nice feature, it also hides the unassuming eatery behind it, lost on the none-too-observant hungermonkey. Tiesan has previously only ever been in the lunch and brunch market, but recently took Johan on board to give them the steer with fine evening dining. Hailing from South Africa and working in restaurants worldwide from Vancouver to Cork’s well known Café Paradiso, van der Merwe brings a wealth of experience, style and international inspiration to Tiesan menu that is sure to have diners’ interests piqued.

Enter (or fall, as we did from the bastard rain!) into Tiesan and you are greeted with a café façade familiar to daytime patrons; however, turn a corner and you enter a minimalist, yet inviting dining room. The tables are white; the walls are white with one adorned in a cool chalkboard design and the other three playing host to a gallery of local artists’ work for sale, which gives the place a nice art community feel.

Spiced Soft Shell with Samphire Tempura

Johan skillfully guided us through our courses, aperitifs and vino. To begin, we sampled the fish and chip rolls (which are more gourmet than they sound) and the spiced soft shell crab and tempura samphire. The fish and chip rolls were tempura haddock with finely shredded potato, topped with flying fish roe and wrapped in soya sheets, comparable to sushi. The samphire and crab tempura was light and delicious with tones of Indian spices, plenty of succulent crab flesh and complimented with a refreshing tzatziki dip.

For mains we went with the Hereford meatballs with giant truffled spaghetti and barbecued Old Spot pork belly with sweetcorn fritters. These were matched with two glasses of the house red, a Rioja, at €6 per glass . The meatballs were flavoursome and sturdy, the truffle spaghetti was rich and delicious, a modern twist on a traditional favourite. The highlight for myself and my good lady was definitely the pork belly. Atop three sweetcorn fritters, prepared in a flash by Johan on his BBQ griddle, the chimichurri garnishing the pork was an explosion of flavour. The meat, pure melt in the mouth. Accompanied with some simple chargrilled spring onion and dill spiced potatoes, the entire meal was an assault on the senses: brilliant flashes of green and sticky black sauce with rich meaty chunks.

The Pork Belly with Sweetcorn Fritters

After the mains we were brought two glasses of dessert wine. I am no dessert wine aficionado, but this concoction, Nivasco Piemonte, was delicious. A pink-red sparking elixir which a light body of peaches and raspberries. This had us in top form for the sweets.

Johan then presented us with what he told us was his proudest achievement on the menu, the rose geranium poached rhubarb with rose labne and almonds with flash stewed rhubarb and roasted almonds. Sweet and smooth with a definitive rose aroma to the taste and scent., yet also crunchy and nutty, it represented perfect balance for a dessert. Johan was proud to showcase this one, an original adapted from a recipe he picked up during his days at Ballymaloe under Darina Allen and a must for anyone dining at Tiesan in his opinion: ‘You’re not going to experience food like this anywhere else in Dublin’.

Sweet geranium poached rhubarb with rose labne and almonds

Tiesan is quite the impressive dining experience, that’s for sure, and a night out in itself. If we could nominate one area for improvement, it would be the buzz. It’s a restaurant that deserves to be so much busier than it is and when that happens the atmosphere will surely improve. That aside, Tiesan is definitely on our ‘recommend list’!

About the Author

Seán Earley

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