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Amy Austin

More Michelin-star than city centre wine bar, with prices and portions to match


5 Mar 2024


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What's the story with Amy Austin?

Amy Austin, or "the wine bar in the carpark" was a long time coming. Teasers started in April 2019, and it was a full 10 months before the door swung open in February 2020 (excellent timing eh?) with some eye-raising marketing and Note owner/head chef Essa Fakhry in the kitchen. As with all businesses in 2020 trading was stop start, so it took a while to build up an audience, but they soon got a name for wine on tap, interesting small plates and being a good place to drop into when you didn't have a booking.

(Amy Austin)

We tried it in summer 2022 and liked the vibe without finding the food overly memorable, but the buzz has been building ever since, with diners and critics seeming to think that head chef Victor Lara has come into his own when it comes to flavour on his plates. Michelin came, went, and agreed, as they awarded them a much coveted Bib Gourmand in the 2024 guide (joining restaurants like Uno Mas and Spitalfields). It felt like time for a revisit.

Where should we sit?

It's a compact space with the choice between a couple of tables in the middle of the room (for two + people, the set up can be changed depending on bookings) or counter seating around the outside.

(Amy Austin)

We love a good window street, staring out all the Drury Street passers by, but you could go closer to the open kitchen too for some live fire action.

What's the menu like?

This is a small plates only zone, and boy are those plates small. We wouldn't advise bringing anyone here who's looking for "a feed", but if you just want a few bites without feeling stuffed, are more interested in drinks, or are going with with people who don't like being rolled out after dinner, head on in.

Bear in mind though that there's a minimum order. This is not currently on their website, but when we got there saw the red small print on the bottom of our menus: "we'd like to remind you that for dinner service there's a minimum order of one snack and two mains per person." That equates to a minimum of €40 a head on food.

Snacks are priced from €8-9 (bread and black garlic butter is €6), and you get exactly two bites in each.

A shimeji mushroom tartlet with mushroom mousse came in a crisp, buttery shell. with snipped chives to lift the rich, savory flavours. Shimeji is tying with enoki for our favourite mushroom right now, and if you feel the same you can walk one minute away to Asia Market and pick up some to try at home (shimeji fried in butter on the side of scrambled eggs is a game changer).

We tried their black cod fritters on our last visit, but these ones were a different creature. While the last were unpleasantly gloopy and lacking in flavour, these had a crisp shell and a fish-filled interior, and a zippy pink pickled ginger dip that we've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about ever since. The only issue was that there weren't enough of them, and €9 for two small bites may hurt, but black cod (or sablefish) is a lot more expensive than white cod (and no relation), so you can presume that's the reason why.

Amy Austin's langoustine tail is the most beautiful thing we've eaten in 2024, and while €15 for a single prawn might have you feeling weak, we'll go out on a limb and say this one's worth it. It came barely charred, lying on a mignonette-meets XO base, with ikura (salmon caviar) on top. Our server poured a watery dressing over the plate, along with some saffron oil from a dropper, and while there's a lot going on, every flavour popped and danced together. Except the grapes. We didn't get the grapes.

Torched scallops is another dish we're happy to get behind (€16). They come in a light but creamy chestnut velouté, with little cubes of apples throughout. It's topped with Champagne foam and lumpfish caviar, and tasted more like something from a (very good) Michelin-starred restaurant than a city centre wine bar. You get six pieces of scallop, but it felt like three sliced across the middle - more thin than chunky.

You don't see the ultra complex, ultra time-consuming mole negro on menus here very often (take a deep dive here), so we had to order it here with beef cheek. A small mound of beef no larger than the palm of a (small) hand came in a puddle of mole, with four unadvertised, homemade corn tortillas on the side. It's another great dish, the mole deep with flavour, the meat melting from a long, slow cook, but for €20 we expected more of it - there wasn't nearly enough meat and mole to even lightly fill all four tacos.

Black bean tamales (€14) is another dish we reckon helped bag them that Bib Gourmand, and a magically different take on the Mexican corn-based dough, traditionally steamed in corn husks. Here three chewy little corn cakes come with chilli oil in their centre on top, scattered with coriander all around. Dig a spoon in and you'll uncover a cheesy corn and black bean filling underneath. Whoever came up with this one can deservedly gloat about it.

For dessert we almost swayed away from the burnt cheesecake (€9), expecting a hulking big slice of the Basque variety, but not to worry. The usual portion size applies, and the little sliver we got would be difficult to share between more than two, even if you just wanted a bite. The good news is it's another kitchen victory, with a light blue cheese base (we couldn't taste the blue), a bright, intense guava sauce, and 'lera cream', which doesn't seem to exist outside Amy Austin, but is a smoked cream which tastes like it was done the proper way (there's no liquid smoke drops in this kitchen).

What about drinks?

When Amy Austin opened it was all about the wine on tap, with 16 options including a few aperitifs by the glass. That's been very scaled back now, and we were disappointed to find that half of the wines on their big yellow light box weren't available anymore.

There were just three whites and three reds by the glass, none earth shattering, but the Casa Monte Pio Albariño and the Château Pesquié were pleasant and worked well with the majority of the food. There are a further 25 wines by the bottle, with some top producers like Suertes del Marques, Domaine Gramenon, and Steve Matthiasson.

There are also seven signature cocktails, priced from €11-€13, which feels like decent value for Dublin right now. We tried the Amy Cherry Sgroppino, with morello cherry, Campari, saffron and sparkling wine, and it was tart and nicely sour, with a ball of cherry sorbet slowing melting within. An ideal first drink of the day and a nice appetite sharpener.

How was the service?

Pleasant but could have been more energetic. There was no major hospitality, and a few times we were left without cutlery and drinks, having to wave for service - is there anything to make you feel like more of a tool? We also could have done without a very loud food processor on high for several minutes in the middle of the open kitchen. There's a time and place to drown out room conversation and it's pre and post-service.

What was the damage?

€125 for two with three drinks, before tip, and you can't add a tip onto the bill if paying by card. You can either leave cash, or pay one via a QR code which takes you to a Stripe website, and you have to pay a small fee for the privilege. It's clunky, and will be a bit of a pain for anyone who's entertaining and expensing the bill, and just wants one receipt.

What's the verdict?

We're not sure many people entering the wine bar in the carpark (with the barely dressed model in a cowgirl hat on the bathroom wall) will be expecting the food to be at this high a level. The thought, execution and presentation of some of these dishes is more akin to Michelin-starred dining than wine bar sharing plates.

That's why the prices and portion sizes might come as a shock, but if you can reframe your brain about what to expect before entering (and maybe bulk up your order with some cheese, charcuterie and bread), you'll probably leave thinking this is some of the most interesting food in the city right now.

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