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Restaurant Review - Casper & Giumbini's

Restaurant Review - Casper & Giumbini's

Wednesday 16 October 2019

For what is a top coastal town in South Co Dublin, Dun Laoghaire has been abysmally short of good restaurants, apart from takeaways and very casual eateries.

It's a beautiful place, but the main street has been allowed to deteriorate dreadfully over the years, with vacant shops and a general air of down-and-out.

It's hard to understand how Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council could justify spending €37m in the depths of recession to build a massive library on the seafront, without doing more to encourage or revive the main trading area.

And so, to Casper & Giumbini, a big new brasserie at the Pavilion Centre on Dun Laoghaire's seafront, which is a very welcome addition. Set in what was the Hen House restaurant and, way back, Roly@ThePavilion, it's the venture of brother-and-sister team David and Kim O'Driscoll, who also have DeVille's in Dalkey.

Their father, Murph O'Driscoll, had the popular casual Murph's restaurants in Dublin in the 1970s/1980s, before opening the original Casper & Giumbini's on Wicklow Street, which has long since departed. Its gimmick was dial telephones on each table to order drinks - or, more to the point, to flirt with diners at other tables. Oh, the innocence of it!

Anyway, there are no phones on the tables in the new C&G's - everyone is too busy taking selfies - but it's a big space with a huge bar and lots of traditional, comfortable, French-style red leather banquettes and booths.
The menu, broken into a number of headings, offers something for everyone. Appetisers (€7-€13) included French onion soup at the bottom of the ladder, moving up through Caesar salad; calamari and tuna tartare; to the classic favourites of Dublin Bay prawn cocktail, and dressed crab at the top.

Well-priced traditional 'Brasserie Mains' (€16-€20) had boeuf bourguignon; a burger; and fillets of plaice, if you wanted to keep it tight. Stepping up a bit, 'Main Courses and Chargrilled Steaks' (€17-€33) included Dublin Bay scampi & frites; 6/8oz fillets; 10oz sirloins and 12oz rib-eyes; while, if you wanted to go the whole hog, there's Cote de Boeuf (€65) or Chateaubriand (€69), both for two people.

A fine sole
They'd had a few soft openings but I'd hung on for their official opening night, when any problems should be ironed out. However, while a prawn cocktail (€13) looked well, it was a pity to see expensive Dublin Bay prawns being served mushy, watery and overcooked, not to mention the draped-over, dreary Marie Rose sauce.

Classic dressed crab (€13) is usually a real treat. It involves both the white and brown crab meat being removed from the body and claws, seasoned and replaced in the shell, in which it is served; each colour of meat separated meticulously by finely chopped hard-boiled egg and parsley, and accompanied by mayonnaise, and a half lemon wrapped in gauze.

It is a thing of joy, of which Richard Corrigan serves the ultimate example, not the misnomer of two quenelles of a flavourless crabmeat mix sitting on toasted sourdough which faced us.

It was onwards and upwards after that, with a beautifully cooked Dover sole on the bone (€33) served with new potatoes, spinach, and lemon butter - a real treat, and a good price for this king of fish. My Francophile companion's steak frites (€20) from the Brasserie Mains was also excellent; it was a good 8oz sirloin, served rare, with fries and bearnaise sauce.

Desserts included creme brulee; chocolate mousse with cherry sorbet; peach crumble; and a lemon curd raspberry sorbet and pink peppercorn meringue arrangement (€7) - which was really lovely.

We passed on their French & Irish cheese plate of Cashel blue, Brie, and Comte, with all the accoutrements, at €16, which was the only thing we felt was too pricey. A small cheese plate at half the price would be a lot better, especially for anyone at the table who's not into desserts. I've since received a message to say it should have been priced at €12.

From an extensive wine list, we had a bottle of Castellari Bergaglio Gavi Salluvii Cortese (€36) and, with two coffees (€6), bottled water (€3.50) and excellent service, our bill came to €145.

Casper & Giumbini's
8 The Pavilion, Marine Road,
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Tel: (01) 443-2699

First Published In The Sunday Independent