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Disco nights, vintage wine and Spanish/Asian small plates shake up Drury Street


20 Feb 2024


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Written by:

Ronan Doyle

What should we know about Bootleg?

“Drink, dance, dine” is the motto-slash-mantra (if not the likely running order) of this new Drury Street arrival, a joint venture from the four people who’ve between them brought us Big Fan, Sprezzatura, and Bow Lane. That they’re bringing us Bootleg in a space that was previously a Starbucks is reason enough for us to darken their door – in a city where tenancies all too rarely change hands in that direction, this feels like a turning of the tide we need to support.


If the thumping music and an all-day offering that looks set to lean heavily into brunch probably make Bow Lane the best proxy among its owners’ prior ventures for what to expect at Bootleg, the upmarket drinks selection and a more focused plancha menu signpost a more mature iteration is the general vibe.

Where should we sit?

That’ll depend on which combination of drinking, dancing and dining you want to indulge in. The large rectangular bar, fitted out with upcycled panels from the previous tenant in a nice hat-tip to prising back a piece of the city, has plenty of plastic seating for a quick drink and a snack; the right side of the room is studded with booths inviting you in for a slow evening of wine and small plates; the left has high tables temptingly close to the DJ booth. We have to assume the three unoccupied low tables also sharing this space on the midweek night we visited are cleared off to make way for a dancefloor, but it’s hard to imagine a full house with this layout wouldn’t seem a little cramped.

What’s on the menu?

Big Fan’s Alex Zhang is among the four owners here and has taken on an executive chef role, with his colleague Wei Cai parachuted in to head up the kitchen. The loosely Spanish-style menu makes room for a whole variety of Mediterranean and Asian influences across its sections of small plates and sides, and there's a whole menu dedicated to gildas (even though the name gilda can only be applied to the classic version - the rest is poetic licence).

We started with a generous wedge of thick-crusted sourdough, its flavourful near-black crust making up for a disappointingly dense crumb; a little more time to develop the dough might add an airiness to better balance the accompanying chicken skin butter’s salty richness. That the spread’s been whipped to a creamy consistency helped even things out, though more would be welcome – we found ourselves scanning the table for something to coat our final chunks of unbuttered bread in.


Lucky then that we’d gone all-in with the flatbread snack plate too. Not least for the strand of rosemary perched atop, this crisp disc has a little of the touch of a focaccia about it, perfect for mopping up the trio of dips it’s served alongside. The best is muhummarah, the Middle Eastern red pepper and walnut paste that’s rarely done this well in Dublin – our leftover bread gratefully lapped the last of it up. Garlic scape chimichurri had an enjoyably intense flavour, while the tapenade ticked the box solidly if unspectacularly.


Menus online had not been updated, and at least half the expected plates from the plancha section were not on when we got there - we’ll put it down to early days trying-and-testing. An addition that caught our eye was swordfish skewers, and this is one that ought to stay put - three neat cubes of grilled meat planted on a mojito yogurt and drizzled with harissa oil. The fish is superb with a charred surface yielding to soft flesh inside, smartly complemented but never upstaged by the contrast of cool yogurt and sharp harissa. A slightly too-thin yogurt is all that's holding this plate back from perfection.


A duo of land and sea sliders with Wagyu beef smash and crispy prawn makes for a nice sharing pair, with standard but solid brioche buns largely letting the main events speak for themselves. The beef, oozing melted cheese and meat juice, makes for a satisfying mouthful, with the assertion of piquant pickles buried beneath the patties, while the prawn’s sweetness works well with the light tang of shiso leaf. These are nice bites, but we can't say the execution felt like it justified €17 for two tiny burgers. Wagyu doesn't tend to come cheap though.


On the on-site but not online menu was a solitary concession to vegan diners, and was effectively a mushroom spice bag - albeit with no ordinary mushrooms. Garryhinch is one of three suppliers name-checked on the menu, and their lion’s mane has gone into this inventive offering – we’re sorry to say they deserve better. Not even these prime specimens, well-seasoned and served up in a light crispy batter, are enough to overcome the one-note spice of sliced chilies and bizarre blandness of an oat milk and sourdough purée.


The picanha plate also sadly went down as a dud. This beef cut is having a bit of a moment about the city, thanks not least to a growing Brazilian influence, and for good reason – when given the right treatment it’s one of our favourite steaks. Here it was underdone, with none of the charring that brings out its best. Together with a just-done egg that quickly cooled, this added up to a dish that was unpleasant to eat.


Kimchi rosti off the sides menu brought things back on track - these crispy, croquette shaped slabs of grated potato are a deceptively light feat of deep-frying, somehow held together despite the pockets of air throughout. In a menu not without its missteps, they’re a reminder of what the kitchen is capable of.


What are the drinks like?

A bit confusing. While the twelve negroni variations (you can add a gilda for €2 in a nice touch) and ten spritzes join in with the bassy soundtrack as a statement of intent, the €120 to €460 vintage wine menu had us wondering who’s looking to drink like that in a place like this - maybe there's a gap for Chambolle-Musigny and Italo-Disco nights that we didn't know about.

There's plenty of regularly priced wine too, all from WineLab, and Whiplash is all that’s on tap, while we salute the very fair pricing of their solid non-alcoholic options – more of this, please.

We kicked off with a classic Aperol spritz and white negroni – both passed muster without tempting us any deeper into their variations. Once the food arrived, we plumbed the slim BTG list and went with a chilled red in the form of Succès’ La Cuca de Llum. Earthy, dry and decidedly light-bodied, it played well off the majority of plates.


How was the service?

After getting in a round of drinks to survey the menu over, we had to put a little work in to get our order taken – the informal drink-dance-dine vibe means you need to make it known you’re here to eat. Staff are attentive and quick off the mark once you do flag them down though, and the quick pace of service left nothing to be desired.


And the damage?

Our full spread with two rounds of drinks came in at €125, with two of us satisfied but far from stuffed. The sliders are the clearest sense of where individual items can come in a little overpriced, but we’re all too aware of the cost pressures bearing down on city centre restaurants – nothing here is out of whack with what you’ll get anywhere else nearby.

What’s the verdict on Bootleg?

We left Bootleg not totally sure what kind of place it’s trying to be, and we could tell the mixed crowd of middle-aged couples in for a bite, and younger groups who tried it for a drink before heading off elsewhere felt much the same. Those excited to share in swordfish might find it a bit too lively; those who get peckish while in for a dance may find the food too fancy. Maybe it finds its groove in the wee hours.

There are some ruthless calls to be made here to tighten up the concept, and a way to go yet on fine-tuning the menu, but both show ambition and a promise of more to come, and we'd expect no less from the team behind it.

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