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Cellar 22

Homemade charcuterie and 40 wines by the glass at Dublin's newest wine bar


23 Jan 2024


St Stephen's Green


Saint Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland


Restaurant Info

Written by:

Lisa Cope

What's the story with Cellar 22?

Since The Cliff Townhouse closed its doors mid-pandemic at the end of 2021, number 22 St Stephen's Green has sat empty, crying out for a shrewd operator to move in and level up the space into somewhere with the potential to draw in all of those five-star tourists passing the doors each day - and the rest of us if they got the offering right.

Last November, it was announced that the basement space (formerly The Cliff's seafood bar Urchin) was reopening as Cellar 22, with whispers about a more formal restaurant to follow upstairs. The new owners (who also own The Fitzwilliam Hotel and The Bailey) were obviously intent on making this more than just a tourist trap, because they brought in Delahunt's head chef Chris Maguire (as well as some of his colleagues) to run the kitchen. Victor Nedelea (ex-Sole) was brought in on wine, and teaser posts dropped on social looked like they meant business.

Where should we sit?

It's a quirky, cosy room, with a lot of dark wood and cavernous corners to sink into. There are low tables at the front, high tables in the middle, and booths to the right, as well as a semi-private room towards the back.

There's also four counter seats in the back of the restaurant facing into the kitchen, so if live-action is your thing be sure to request them. As you'd expect with a basement restaurant, snug and intimate take precedence over bright and spacious, but that's just what we're looking for in these cooler months. We imagine indoor seating in a venue like this might suffer when the sun shines, but there are seats for 8-10 out front too.

What should we eat?

Cellar 22 has set out its niche as having a dedicated charcuterie menu, with the even more impressive declaration that 80% of it is made in house - that's enough to get us off the couch and onto a bus. If you're a meat eater, you're probably coming here for this, but first, bread.

A 'selection of breads' - sourdough, focaccia and brown - will set you back €9, and comes with smoked butter (incredible), Parmesan fondue (forgettable), and beetroot and dill (questionable - why is this here without some kind of ricotta/similarly milky salve). Breads are very good - sourdough light and chewy, brown dense and crumbly, but the focaccia was a little too dry for our liking - unleash the oil.

Croquettes get a bad rap for being on every menu in every combination, but sometimes you get one that reminds you WHY they're everywhere - because they're bloody delicious. Cellar 22's shortrib ones fit the bill, with crispy shells hiding sweet, melting hunks of beef, although the chive mayo could have been a bit more assertive.

We were verrrrrry excited at the prospect of a brand new beef tartare in town, but this version with too tough meat and far more mayonnaise than has any business being in a tartare was disappointing. The crispy onions would have been a lovely addition if everything else worked, but we'd pare this one right back to basics. The pomme paillasson (straw potato cake) on the other hand could (should) be a dish on its own, with the tartare actually managing to distract from it. Pile em high and send em out.

Then onto the main draw, the charcuterie board, which comes in small (€16) or large (€28). In the large you get all eight options, in the small a selection chosen that day by the chef. Of course we went large (this isn't a half once over), and at first glance were slightly disappointed with the portion sizes. It took a few minutes to realise why - the board photographed for their Irish Times review was noticeably larger, with an extra piece of all three cured meats, a pâté en croûte that was double the size, and twice the amount of (delicious) deep-fried crackers. In a world where over-delivering is tantamount to a great experience, under-delivering from promo photos is an odd move.

But what about the actual charcuterie. Coming out on top was the Venison rillette (cured venison leg, slowly cooked in chicken fat for an immensely deep flavour), the Pâté en croûte (pork, foie gras and smoked lardo in the most perfect savoury short crust pastry), and the chicken liver pâté (seasoned with brandy and silky smooth). The pâté de campagne was enjoyable as a more rustic terrine but not quite as wow, the ham hock terrine was pleasant but needed a flavour oomph, and the smoked pig's head definitely won't be for everyone - slices were mostly fat, with a gelatinous texture. There were delicious cucumber pickles too, and an apple butter which felt superfluous - another pickle or cornichons would have provided some more welcome acidity to cut through all that meat.

The only two that are bought in, the Salchichón Ibérico de bellota and Coppa Piacentina, are excellent quality, and perfect nibbles alongside a glass of tangy red. There's lots to like here, but some of it could be that bit more exciting.

A final small plate of Southern-fried maitake mushrooms with Boyne Valley blue ranch (served in half a roasted garlic bulb) was what deep-fried vegetarian dreams are made off, and once we popped it was hard to stop, but a couple of the mushrooms were more batter than 'shroom. When fully filled with fungi they were a crunchy delight - the batter is perfection, the dip inspired.

They're keeping it simple for afters with cheese, affogato or 'variations of chocolate, banana and pecan'. For the latter we were expecting something thrown together in typical wine bar "we're too busy to care about dessert" style, but not so - someone in here knows their way around a pastry section. A chocolate mousse comes encased in more chocolate, with what tasted like meringue along with banana underneath a pecan bicsuit and banana ice-cream. A perfect sweet note to end on, particularly with a glass of Port.

What about drinks?

When we read through the wine list online it all felt a bit classic, with plenty of big names and commercial producers - more Sole than Fish Shop. However when we got in there was an additional short list of smaller, more natural producers, which our waitress told us will change regularly. It's a smart move to keep wine loving regulars coming back to see what's new, and brings the number of wines by the glass up to an impressive 40. If you've got cash to splash (entertaining clients perhaps) you won't struggle for showy bottles, with the most expensive wine a €750 Premier Cru Bordeaux from Château Figeac in Saint-Émilion.

We mostly drank off the specials list, with Albert di Conti's brilliant pet nat on for sparkling, a beautiful dry palomino from Hacienda la Parrilla for white, and Catina Rallo's Ciello Rosso falling surprisngly flat on this occasion, but the Etna Rosso from Torre Mora on the main list is exactly what you want with charcuterie - all dark fruits and zippy acidity.

A fino to start from Williams & Humbert Col was a poor example, lacking in those salty, oxidative flavours that make it such a great aperitif, but a 2016 Sauternes from Château Suduiraut is worth the €15 price tag for a special sweet to end on. Try it with Boyne Valley Blue on the cheese board for the dream French/Irish pairing.

How was the service?

Our waitress couldn't have been nicer or more helpful, bringing the wine bottles over to the table so we could see the labels, and offering helpful recommendations with no hint of an upsell. Another young waiter who came on the floor later to cover her break was equally as attentive, and made us feel very well looked after. They seem to have hired very well, because you can't train for that kind of genuine pleasantness.

What was the damage?

€150 for two before tip with three glasses of wine each. You could just as easily come in at lunch for a plate of pasta and a single glass and be down €25 for a lovely hour's pitstop.

What's the verdict on Cellar 22?

Cellar 22 has all the ingredients to join Dublin's wine bar hit list along with Note, Bar Pez, Loose Canon, Piglet, Frank's and a few more, but we'd love to see the food kicked up a gear, and more of a focus on cutting edge wines than commercial operators. For now it's a great place to share some charcuterie, cheese and picky bits over a few glasses of wine in a very cosy setting - basically the antidote to January - but with a few tweaks these could be some of the most sought after seats in town.

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