Tostados, tortillas & addictive margaritas
What’s the story?
777 is no new kid on the block. Part of John Farrell's restaurant group, which also includes Dillinger's, The Butcher Grill, the contemporary Mexican opened in 2012 without a trace of Tex-Mex, which prior to this was pretty much all Dublin had experience of. Goodbye burritos and refried beans, hello tostados, tacos and carnitas.
Like everything else that John Farrell touches, the interior design is first rate (not that you'd know from the unassuming outside), and they opened to some very good reviews, but like everything the buzz eventually dies down. In the past few months however, we feel like we're constantly being told to go there, that the kitchen's turning out fantastic food and the margaritas are worth a trip alone. So we took it upon ourselves to see if the rumours were true.
Where should we go for a drink first?
If you don't want to come straight here for a margarita (you're crazy, or on a mission), you could go to Loose Canon on Drury Street for a glass of natural wine, the soon to be open (any day now) Bar Giuseppe on Castle Market for an aperitivo, or any of the great pubs in the surrounding streets for a pint - Grogan's, The Foggy Dew or The Stag's Head to name a few.
Where should we sit?
The bar is good for singles or couples, and there are booth-style tables for big groups, although even fitting four is cosy. There are also a couple of bigger tables at the front if you have a group, but they don't take reservations for under six people, so you might have to wing it (or get more friends).
What's good to eat?
Honestly there wasn't a dud dish, and this was the closest we've found to Mexico City cooking in Dublin. The kitchen has the flavours and textures down, and there was really no comparison with our last Mexican experience here. Standouts for us were yellowfin tuna tostados with crispy shallots, chipotle mayo and habanero, and Mezcal marinated soft shell crab tortillas with chipotle, pickled onion and avocado, both of which we wanted more of.
Chorizo tortillas were equally good, if very rich, as were the portobello mushroom ones with chipotle pesto, crema and pumpkin seeds, and an oyster shot with tomato and hananero citrus broth would be a great intro to oysters for the uninitiated.
We tried one larger dish of Lamb Tlayuda, which is a Oaxacan dish that's like a Mexican pizza, and it came with BBQ lamb, pickled mushroom, chimichurri, wild garlic and feta fondue on a chargrilled flatbread. The meat was exceptional - we would happily go veggie six days a week if we got to eat this on the seventh - and the flavours were stunning. We were struggling to fit more in at this point but we powered on and finished the lot because it was so good. We would only get to share in a group as it's so large and filling, and if you had it on your own you probably wouldn't be able to manage much else.
We also tried sides of elotes and papas fritas, both of which were good, but the crispy potatoes with garlic and manchego knocked patatas bravas out of the park for us. We imagine leaving any in the bowl would be a feat of Olympic proportions.
Desserts are limited to bread and butter pudding with dulce de leche and vanilla ice-cream, and a selection of sorbets and ice-cream. We tried the former (purely in the name of research), and it was the type that's soaked and blow-torched, meaning the inside was cold and was left uneaten, but the flavour was good and the dulce de leche a nice addition.
What about the drinks?
Go margaritas or go home. Mondays the house ones are two for €14 (usual price €12) so that's the night to go if you're feeling thirsty, but we've heard the Margarita Especial is even better than the house (unfortunately we only heard this after we'd been). Neither the beer or the wine list are particularly inspiring, but that's not really the point of the place. Cocktails are where it's at. There are also some lovely sounding mocktails, like the Pinky Tuscadero with cranberry juice, jalapeno & rosemary syrup, lime and rhubarb.
And the service?
Functional. They got the job done but we wouldn't say there was an abundance of hospitality. Some of them looked like they had better places to be and we were holding them up. Others were more helpful.
For our money, this is the best place to eat real Mexican food (like in Mexico) in the city right now. You can keep your burrito chains and mediocre tacos. These guys have it down. It is very loud, so only go if you're happy with a side of ear-bursting hiphop, and we've lost count of how many stories we've heard about people getting carried away with food and drinks and getting a shocker of a bill, but if you choose carefully and keep a tab you should be able to get out while holding onto next month's rent. On Sunday all dishes are €7.77, Mondays are two margaritas for €14 and on Tuesday tacos are two for €6, so these are the days to go if money's tight, but we can't see you being disappointed whatever day you go.
7 Castle House, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2