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A big, buzzy new arrival, but is it as accessible as it claims?


28 Nov 2023


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Written by:

Ronan Doyle

What's the story with Kicky’s?

You’re not likely to have missed the pre-opening buzz about Kicky’s since it was announced back in July by co-owners Eric Matthews (former head chef at the previous incarnation of Chapter One), and Richie Barrett (previously general manager at Bang, aswell as roles as Etto and Uno Mas). The pair’s shared concept for a casual, accessible Mediterranean-esque eatery at the heart of the city has found its home on George’s Street, and arrives with the modest self-stated aim of being a laidback space people can return to again and again.

Where should we sit?

The bespoke mural that flanks the kitchen pass, directly opposite the entrance, invariably draws you toward the heart of this warm, welcoming space – those who love watching a chef at work will be very happy at the bar. Otherwise there’s not much variation to the long and narrow room’s host of low two-tops lining the walls, though the pair of wraparound booths towards the windows onto George’s street lack in lighting and ambience what they make up in added comfort.

What’s on the menu?

(*Two of ATF's staff writers ended up in here the same week, so we're including thoughts from Maggie as well as Ronan who wrote the review*)

The dish you’ll almost certainly have seen on social already is the 72-hour potato focaccia, though you’ll likely have seen a more alluringly crusty corner slab than the tall, twee square we were served. While there’s nothing to fault in the airy texture and fermented flavour of the bread, the absence of crust leaves little scope for the kind of carbonara butter scooping we were promised. The thick spread is closer to buttercream in texture, and for all we admired the deranged decadence of this perorino, parmesan and guanciale-sprinkled serving, the intensity of highly-salted fat upon fat upon fat gave us mild jitters for what might be to come.

Taleggio, leek and nduja croquettes brought us at least temporarily back from the brink: these crisp-coated morsels of spicy sausage and sharp, melted cheese are a brilliant burst of flavour, an inventive introductory bite we wished we’d gone for first. Menus both online and on-site list it as a serving of three, but we found four on the plate; if they’ve honed the serving size to more and slightly smaller in their opening weeks they’ve made the right choice – these are perfect.

(Croquettes had comforting and indulgent cheese with a bit of spice from the nduja. The leek was a good flavor cutter and the crisp on top was great - Maggie)

The ”to share” section has some of the menu’s most interesting options, heavy on the house pastas that have been touted from the get-go as one of Kicky’s core appeals. On paper an egg yolk raviolo with autumn truffle butter would have been one to make a beeline for, but it’s truffle oil instead of the genuine article – always a shame.

We went with cacio e pepe, the cheese and pepper classic that first showed up on the menu with Lambay crab, but perhaps in response to unreceptive early reviews, looks to have lost it (though just €2's been knocked off the price - it's now €14). This kind of seemingly-simple plate that’s deceptively difficult to do just-right, should land as a solid crowd-pleaser, even if some stray, stringy lumps nestled among our (very good) pici suggested this went a few sprinkles of cheese wide of the perfect balance.

(This is a heavy dish that we only manage to get through half of. It's similar in flavour to the butter so maybe get one or the other. Those traditional worm-shaped noodles were good quality and cooked well - Maggie)


You don't come across a rabbit bolognese all too often in Dublin, and who are we to refuse a novelty. It’s a fine plate, a charred slab of sourdough toast spread with flavourful ragu, piled with chanterelles and sprinkled with a chives and Cais na Tire. There's a lovely interplay of flavour between the gaminess of the meat and earthy umami of the mushrooms, and while we might have liked a slightly sharper cheese to seal the deal, but this is a dish those disposed to rabbit should devour.

(Nice for a novelty but we found this dish quite heavy and salty. It had very good flavours, but with the rest of the food we'd ordered it felt a bit laborious - Maggie)

(We also tried the Jerusalem artichoke with raddichio, hazelnut and Young Buck. Again we found it oily and heavy for a veggie dish, couldn’t get the taste of the Young Buck cheese, and walnuts were used instead of the hazelnuts listed on the menu. We weren't sure if this one was supposed to be served hot or cold as everything came at once and we attacked it towards the end, but think it would have been more palatable warm - Maggie)

(We ordered the steamed and chopped Roaring Bay Water mussels with kohlrabi, smoked eel, taramasalata and chopped eel thinking it might be a lighter reprieve, but not so much. It's a fresh, nicely citrusy plate, but pretty heavy for a fish dish, with lots of thick, salty taramaslata - Maggie)

Mains are more of a stumbling block than sharing plates, not for any issue with the food but for the shock of the price: you're knocking on the door of €40 for the cheapest of the charcoal-grilled mains at Kicky’s before adding sides at €6 a pop, and that will be a bridge too far for many a diner. We stuck to one, a hunk of bone-in monkfish swimming in lemon butter with Lissadell cockles and Castletownbere shrimp. The moist, meaty fish comes beautifully to life with the acidic intensity of the sauce and sprinklings of pickled red dulse, while the shellfish duo add welcome sweetness and texture. Absent something to soak up that very buttery sauce though, the finished and flooded plate can’t help feel short of something.

Sides are sensational, happily, with the Ballymakenny potatoes the most direct delivery on Kicky’s self-stated aim to just give people good food: quality ingredients unfussily elevated by confident cooking. The gloriously crispy skins and fluffy flesh work wonders with the mounds of confit garlic, slivered spring onions and pecorino shavings. We didn't think to ask who Mrs H is, but the dressing that bears her name served over the house salad should be sold by the bucket. Its mouth-puckeringly tangy taste is a lesson in how vinaigrette ought to be done.


We were sorry to find the gorgeous looking éclair with chestnut and quince wasn't on the menu the night we visited. In its place was a brioche-based take on a tarte tatin, introduced at the table by its creator, egged on by Matthews – it’s a nice touch to see other chefs given creative space and, crucially, credit. The crusty, sweet brioche worked well to balance out the intense tartness of the concentrated apple, though the crème fraiche felt like a poor substitute for the tonka bean ice cream the menu promised.

The ‘Irish coffee’ twist on a tiramisu is another of the items Kicky’s seems intent on turning into a thing, and the presentation certainly speaks to Instagrammable ambitions. Though the sole macaron shell at its base might not have the absorbency factor to match the Italian dessert this creation tips its hat toward, there’s a lot to like here, from the richness of the butterscotch toffee sauce base, to the double-caffeine kick of a coffee-chocolate crumb and coffee ice cream.

(A really nice dessert. The home made meringue at the bottom was a great texture contrast with the " chocolate soil", and the coffee ice cream. We were too full to finish it, but it was yum - Maggie)

What are the drinks like?

Cocktails are one of the purported allures at Kicky’s, but as laid out on the menu they seem closer to a modest tweak on classic formula than anything really unique, so we stuck with the wine. The list is a mixed bag with just a few worthwhile by-the-glass options scattered among the more commercial pours. Casa Belfi Rosso made for an offbeat sparkling intro to things that added to the intrigue of those excellent croquettes. Chateau Pajzos Tokaji is dry and sharp, a happy balance to the rich excess of the monkfish’s sauce. There's more of interest for serious wine lovers by the bottle.

(We tried two cocktails. The avocado one was well balanced, with an interesting texture from the avocado. Loved the tajin rim. The Tropical Sour was very heavy on the passionfruit and overall too sweet. It looked good though - Maggie)

How was the service?

Just about all you could want in terms of friendliness and knowledge – staff here seem very invested in the menu and the mood, with a good sense of camaraderie obvious among the team as they move around the floor. Food comes promptly with plenty of time left to linger and languish if needed before ordering dessert or more drinks to cap off the night.

(Agreed. We sat at the bar and staff were great. Our only issue was that we ordered all the small plates and they ALL came at the same time, so we ended up eating cold dishes. We mentioned this to the staff and they apologised and gave us a cocktail on the house which was nice - Maggie)


And the damage?

So here’s the rub: we clocked up a €150 bill with two glasses of wine and a volume of food (including one shared main) that could hardly be called excessive. That’s not an appalling amount for the general trend in Dublin these days, but many might want a main apiece and more sharing plates and snacks, plus a bottle of wine or round of cocktails, and that will quickly take you well north of €100 a head (maybe €150 depending on the drinks) before tip. For a great many Dubliners that will be a far cry from the kind of accessible, come-time-and-again vibe Kicky’s has been keen to pitch itself as.

The arrival since our visit of a €72 set menu for the Christmas season is another jump in price, with supplements for steak and cheese, but to be fair to Kicky's, it's what many of the city's restaurants do for December - which is why we keep eating out around Christmas to a minimum.


What’s the verdict on Kicky’s?

We loved the look and the lively atmosphere at Kicky's, but comparing what’s on the plates and the bill to what's on the social feeds trying to draw people in, seems to tell a different story about the kind of place Kicky’s wants to be.

When prices which come in steeper for the same volume of food than nearby highlights like Uno Mas and Library Street - and not lagging all too far behind somewhere like Variety Jones – are presented as accessible, we can only ask… accessible to who? Costs are crazy right now, and Kicky’s staff and suppliers deserve to be paid a fair wage, but no less than punters, drawn in here and told they’ll want to return again and again, will need decent value to make them want to come back.

Despite some superb standouts we'll be thinking about for a while, most of the food is very, very rich – often drowning in butter and dripping with cheese. Those aren’t things we ever expected to announce as an issue, but when it’s plate after plate of such servings, well, is it any wonder we went so wild for that salad.

(We really liked the look and vibe at Kicky's, but found the food very heavy with little respite - I still felt sluggish the next morning. We're no strangers to indulgence, but the addition of some lighter dishes would help to balance things out - Maggie)

Despite our qualms, Kicky's is clearly off to a flying start, with the Christmas buzz well underway and barely a table to be had. If they can take the indulgence levels down a notch, and offer a little more value for our euros, we're sure they can continue it well into 2024 and beyond.

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