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Restaurant Review - Loretta's

Restaurant Review - Loretta's

Wednesday 16 January 2019

The nee–naw of sirens and flashing lights whizzed by as we departed the new Loretta’s at Doyle's Corner in Phibsborough. It felt more like a New York or London as the traffic streamed by. “You should've seen them on Saturday night”, said our meeter greeter. "Down the road is the Mater Hospital and Mountjoy Jail." So close to town, D7 is now a hip hot vibrant place to live, and like D8 south of the river, hipster cafes and vintage stores are opening apace.

Phibsborough was always a colourful place, it even had two cinemas at one stage, the Bohemian, which opened in 1914, and the State Theatre. St. Peter’s Church with its impressive spire has splendid Harry Clarke stained glass windows, while further up the North Circular Road was the Cattle Market and fine red brick 3-story houses which were home to wealthy cattle dealers. The cinemas may be gone, but the landmark Doyle's pub is still there opposite the imposing Gotham City style building that was once a bank and our destination. 

A seasoned chef
Perhaps it is the style of this building that appealed to American chef Jimmy Wiley. He’s not a newcomer to the area, living nearby with his family, and having worked on the restaurant scene for 18 years, including with Stephen McAllister of The Pig's Ear and Mr. Fox. More recently, he was at John Farrell’s hot Mexican 777 on George’s Street. So, you can take it Mr. Wiley knows his onions.
The new venture focuses on eclectic American comfort food, of which we don't have many great examples here. Ensconcing ourselves in a plush leather semi-circular booth, we were able to see the bar and keep a weather eye down to the kitchen, where the guys transformed what sounded like casual grub into beautifully presented contemporary plates.

Shellfish sharing
Starters (€8-€12) had chicken liver mousse with white port-soaked golden raisins, warm brioche and candied walnuts, while chopped steak tartare was with a blue cheese toastie and pickled red onion. When we tasted Bayveen’s oyster mushrooms (€8), tossed in a Parmesan fondu, with aubergine relish, and my stunning salad of thinly sliced pink Skeaghnore duck (€11) with ember roasted beet and violette mustard beet ash, they were so good, we couldn't not try the trio of Nashville hot oysters (€9). Sitting on a bone marrow mayo, crunchy on the outside, they delivered on the knockout taste combo of a silky seawater oyster with the kick of  hot habanero sauce.
Mains (€18-€28) had dry-aged Angus beef striploin with burnt onion, house-made chips and carrot top chimichurri, while beef & pork ragu was on pappardelle with aged Parmesan and basil. Slow-roast aubergine was with mushroom ragu, shaved fennel and Parmesan, while a pork hock dish with pickles hot mustard and steamed buns was for two people at €30. Bayveen loved her wood-grilled yellowfin tuna (€21) with crushed potatoes, avocado and fiery cucumber pickles.

Breaking the rules
There’s a sort of unwritten rule, that a critic shouldn't order steak or chicken while reviewing, but, I had to give Jimmy Wiley’s fried chook (€20) a go – and, I think he could patent it. I could suddenly see why they love it across the pond. It was like eating two warm soft and seductive pillows, lightly crisped on the outside and soft on the inside. It came with corn salad, and, oh my God, the buttermilk biscuit (like a scone) with sweet pickled jalapeno honey butter on the inside was a joyous thing.

We passed on puds – a chocolate tart, and bread and butter pudding – and likewise, we virtuously passed on cocktails (€12), including my fave Negroni, as well as the classic Whiskey Sour, Margarita and White Russian. The entry level for wines was €26, with four each red and white available by the glass from €6.50. I was on the wagon, or behind the wheel to be more precise, so it was a large bottle of Aqua Panna (€4.50) for me, while Bayveen had two glasses of Les Vignes de L’Eglise (€7.50), bringing our bill, with service, to €98.50.

Only a stone's throw from the Aras, Michael D and Sabina might even make it down too...
163/165 Phibsborough Road,
Dublin 7.
Tel: (01) 830-9737

First Published In The Sunday Independent