112d Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2,
Telephone: +353 (0)661-9000
Lighting is all important in any biz, so the experts keep telling us, so why I wonder am I finding myself more frequently having to hold a candle, or use the iPhone torch, ...
How to get there
In basement at junction of Lower Baggot Street and Upper Fitzwilliam Street.
Good to know
Monday - Friday
Lunch 12.00 - 15.00
Dinner - Tuesday - Saturday
18.00 - Late
17.30 - Late (Friday)
Cuisine: Modern Irish with European Influence.
A La Carte:
Dinner Mains €19-€24
Grazing plates, Charcuterie plates, Salads, €4 - €18
Tues - Fri
2/3 Courses €23/€27
Soup, Gourmet Sandwiches, Salads, Charcuterie and Cheese €6 - €18
Sunday Lunch: No
Children’s Menu: No
Number of Covers: 35 + 20 Outside
Wheelchair Facilities: No
Credit Cards: Yes
Private Dining Facilities: No
About The Restaurant
Lighting is all important in any biz, so the experts keep telling us, so why I wonder am I finding myself more frequently having to hold a candle, or use the iPhone torch, to read the menu and wine list in restaurants. Many are possessed with lighting more suited to a grope in a dark corner of a night club than showing off the colours and confections of their food. Ok, turn the lighting down as the evening progresses and the punters have had their fill from the trough and thoughts turn to the other joys of life but I have been in places recently when I wanted to throw myself up on the banquette seating and await the masseuse cum waiter to anoint me with the olive oil rather than toss it over my salad!
More and more people are heading into restaurants with the Early Bird menus in mind and we too being in town shopping headed in at 6.30 to the new Isabel’s Wine Bar in a basement in Baggot Street. The lighting here too required the iTorch and the assistance of the waitress who tried helpfully to ignite some tea lights on a shelf above us but knocked it down on top of us instead. Perhaps the low lighting was to enhance the mood of a brace of men, including a well known writer, who appeared to be finishing up on a long lunch as they sat back comfortably discussing a female friend not apparently possessed of their rapier wit! Oh the indiscretions of love in a mist!
Isabel’s is in fact a bijou in a bijoux less world these days. Tiny and classy, it is located in the basement that first housed Derry Clarke’s L’Ecrivain many years ago and also saw off the start of Conrad Gallagher’s Peacock Alley. Since then it has had a few not so prominent lives. It is the brainchild of Ian Keegan, who is in the wine business owning the internet company ‘Booze.ie’ and he has called the Wine Bar after his 5 year old daughter. I guess I kind of associate city winebars with the high times and certainly there was a copious amount of Champagne on display which had a rather reassuring and nostalgic feel!
The room basically consists of a lavish bar counter, bottle lined walls, two smart hide covered banquettes facing one another, and a couple of little tables in between them. The entrance hall has also been utilised with bar stools and shelf counters if you are just there for the booze or a nibble. There is also a great outside space perfect for al fresco dining or sipping on warm balmy evenings or during the long summer days. One thing that makes this spot stand out from the crowd is that the food is cracking and not of the level one associates with wine bars. With Head Chef being Niall O’Sullivan, the Dinner Menu “to graze or to start” offered four items, a trio of salads, Charcuterie & Cheese, and, a brace of carniverous mains and a daily fish special. Not quite sure how far we were going food wise, we ordered three ‘small salads “ to kick off charged each. Pickled pear was artfully presented with Blue Cheese, chicory and scattered crushed candied walnuts, whilst a heavenly light confection of crabmeat with daubs of pea mousse had lines of wasabi flying fish roe, and green tea and basil salt. Organic carrots, quinoa, harrisa and carrot yogurt again was stunning and we could only think how vegetarians would love this, as we did. We proceeded on, eschewing oxtail and morrow gnocchi with parmesan, in favour of confit of duck leg which also had a duck croquette ball, a daube of carrot mousse and braised red cabbage, and an excellent tranch of grilled hake on an artichoke puree topped with.salsa verde. We kept going! A rectangle of mango parfait was topped and tailed with whirls of chocolate and sprinkled with crushed honeycomb whilst long pastry Churros ‘cigars’ had a cup of chocolate sauce.
At lunchtime Isabel's do superb soups such as butternut squash with Iberico chorizo and Parmesan mousse. They also do great gourmet sandwiches which come with triple cooked fries. When I say gourmet sandwiches these really are meticulous in their content and presentation so think of pulled pork belly with apple, fennel and cabbage coleslaw or maybe Brie with mesclun leaves, Balsamic onions, walnuts and Pommery mustard, or Serrano ham with rocket, Manchego cheese and sherry vinaigrette. They also do lovely salads such as a superfood sale with radishes, sumac and labne - and in two sizes. You can also have charcuteries and cheese platters or something more substantial such as slow cooked lamb shoulder with white onion puree, sauté samphire, wild garlic and broad beans.
Isabel’s is a shining light………it is a really special little place……
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