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So much to love about Lottie's, so it was a shame about the ending


27 Jun 2023


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Written by:

Lisa Cope

What's the story with Lottie's?

Lottie's opened in Rathmines at the start of March in the former site of the ill-fated Lenehan's, which went big on style but lacked the all important substance. When we heard that the site was going to be reopened by Domini Kemp (known for Itsa Bagel, museum cafés and the restaurant in BTs) and Brian Montague (of The Winding Stair group) we were expecting a another attempt at a please-all exercise, but then we heard they'd nabbed Tudorel Ostache, formerly head chef at Mister S to lead the food. Now they had our attention.

Better known as Ted, we've had Ostache's food several times (most recently at our Mister S takeover), and knew there was no way this was going to be a beef, chicken or salmon situation. Early reviews, both from critics and our readers were coming in very positive, and when we gave ATF Insiders the chance last week to pick where our next review would be, Lottie's was the runaway favourite.

Where should we sit?

It's a big space with loads of seating options. We always veer towards natural light so the front at the windows appeals most, but we found it strange that the blinds were fully down and shut, with mere chinks of light straining to get through - we actually panicked outside thinking it was closed and that we'd gotten the wrong night. Maybe the sun was too bright, but we'd have thought a partial closure would have done the job.

Seating is either via mustard banquettes or on sleek black and rattan set ups in the middle of the room, with a longer high table set up for groups.

Head for the kitchen and there's counter seating to get a good view of your dinner being cooked, or some of the cutest two-tops in town, that loudly scream date night.

Head to the back and there's a smaller room, which would be perfect for a small gathering, or if you just feel like hiding away.

The courtyard outside is currently (sadly) only being used for drinks, but we're told that work is in the pipeline to get a space ready for outdoor dining (either here or on the rooftop terrace which isn't open right now).

How was the food?

This is our favourite type of menu - no filler, all killer - and choosing is so tough that we also let ATF Insiders pick in advance what they wanted us to eat. Unfortunately the menu we were handed had quite a few changes to the one online, so we couldn't follow our orders to the letter, but we stuck within the realms of what the people wanted.

The people wanted Hegarty's cheddar croquettes with fermented chilli sauce, and we've rarely met a croquette we didn't like, but we can't say the sharp, earthy flavour from the cheddar came through as much as we would have liked. It was likely muffled by the very hot chilli sauce - the tiniest drop is enough,

A second snack of foie gras parfait (like meat flavoured butter) came on chargrilled sourdough with fermented walnuts (the best type of walnuts) and a sweet, fruity Port jus. A great pre-dinner bite or lighter starter.

Charred prawn saganaki with Ardsallagh feta cheese and toasted sourdough came without the regulation saganaki mini frying pan, but we didn't care because the Mediterranean flavours were bright and brilliant. Four juicy, charred, plump prawns sat on a vivid looking and tasting cherry tomato sauce with basil oil and a crumbling of salty feta, all waiting to be scooped up onto the crispy bread and devoured.

There's been quite a bit of chatter about the octopus at Lottie's probably because so much of it comes out resembling a rubber tyre thread, but the soft, barely charred tentacles here were meaty and tender, with a knife slipping through with little resistance. We loved the pairing of gochujang, samphire and crispy potato for some necessary crunch amongst all the softness, and the only gripe was with the cornflour-like, slightly gloopy consistency of the sauce. There were no gripes with the flavours.

A third starter (one of two vegetarian options) was tagliatelle with courgette, St Tola goat's curd and pickled chilli, and we picked over this for quite a while trying to figure out how courgette and pasta could possibly be so delicious (lemon is one part of the puzzle). The generous mound of goat's curd on top made every spoonful rich and lactic, and the only misstep was that the pickled chillis weren't very pickled (but were very hot). If they'd seen a vinegar solution it was the briefest of introductions.

For mains the one everyone wanted to hear about was the bavette, which came with mojo rojo (a Canarian sauce made from red peppers, chilli and garlic) and charred broccoli. They didn't ask us how we wanted it cooked which is a dicey tactic, but it came medium/rare, which was perfect, however this won't be done enough for some people so if in doubt ask for more time on the grill. The sauce had the lip-smacking acidity of red wine vinegar, heat from the chilli, and sweet smoothness from the roasted peppers, and it's as good an example as we've had. The charred broccoli makes it hard to go back to eating broccoli any other way.

Something we were surprised so many of you wanted the lowdown on was the jerk chicken thigh, with charred corn, nduja and herb yoghurt (chicken usually being seen as a safe/boring bet). The chicken was nicely seasoned but we weren't getting much jerk flavour. The meat had also lost a lot of moistness and was tougher than we'd like. The other components saved the day though, the just spiced nduja wrapped up in the corn, the herb yoghurt bringing everything to life, and the pickled onions on top adding another level of freshness.

A note on chicken: We usually don't order chicken somewhere like this unless it's free-range, and the menu didn't state if it was, so we asked a server about its provenance. He went to check with the kitchen before coming back and telling us it was free-range, but when pressed didn't know where it was from. He returned to the kitchen to ask again, but then went from there to the general manager to have a whispered conversation. He came back telling us it was from JJ Young (listed on the menu) and that it was free-range, but we found it odd that the kitchen, who accept food deliveries each day, didn't appear to be able to answer a basic question.

A side of beef-dripping chips (which we were told are cut in house) were a mixed bag, some nicely crisp, some more akin to cardboard, but the smoked onion aioli was reminiscent of Mister S in all the right ways.

Another of fennel, kumquat and pecan in an apple cider vinaigrette was glistening and crisp, but the combination felt more apt for winter than a sunny June evening.

A sharp, creamy lemon posset came beautifully topped with bright pink, just cooked rhubarb, and a crunchy oat and nut crumble topping, although we thought the presentation could have been improved.

If you only have one dessert, make it the îles flottantes (floating islands), the rarely seen (and ever more rarely done right) French dessert of floating soft meringue in a light, creamy custard. The one at Lottie's ups the ante with almonds and Clementine zest, and this was better than the last few we've had in France.

What should we drink?

The signature cocktail menu might tempt you on arrival, and a Bakewell Sour had all the tart, cherry, almondy flavours we wanted. The mocktails, featuring Lyres N/A spirits were all €9, which is more than we wanted to pay for a driver's special, so asked a member of staff if there were any other N/A options other than juice or fizzy drinks. She said she could do something with elderflower and cucumer for the same price as a juice, so we gave her the green light. It was refreshing but very sweet, and later led to the unravelling of what had been a lovely meal - more on that to come.

The wine list has a lot more of interest by the bottle than by the glass, with the latter feeling perfunctory and quite safe. Things get considerably more interesting by the bottle, with some star picks including Luis Seabra's Xisto Ilimitado Branco, Viña Gravonia from Lopez de Heredia, and Giulia Negri's Langhe Nebbiolo.

How was the service?

Service throughout was pleasant if not overly attentive. Courses were perfectly spaced and delivered with a smile, but we were never asked how the food was when clearing plates, and had to wave down a manager several times when we needed something, like more water. Things then unravelled with the bill.

The previously mentioned elderflower and cucumber soft had been put through as €7, not the €4 juice price we were told on ordering. We told the server who brought the bill, who brought it to the general manager, who then came over. We explained the previous conversation multiple times, while he continued to insist that it was the correct price, while we continued to (exasperatedly) explain the previous conversation multiple times (that staff member had now left).

It felt like being on a dizzying waltzer that we couldn't get off, and only on pointing out our disbelief that he would argue this strongly with a customer over €3 did he whip back angrily to the till and correct the price. It was such an inhospitable ending to what had been a really lovely meal, and we went from "we'll definitely be back here" to "there's no way we're stepping foot in there again", in the space of five minutes and a very draining argument. In a world where Google reviews can make or break a restaurant, to send someone off into the night after an altercation like that would be unthinkable for most hospitality professionals, and it left us reeling our way through Rathmines.

And the damage?

€138 for a mishmash of food to feed three, but only one cocktail and two softs. It felt like very good value for what we had in comparison to average prices around town right now.

What's the verdict?

We were mega impressed with Lottie's. How many places can balance food that's genuinely exciting, with prices that don't hurt your heart, and the type of room and menu that makes it ideal for so many occasions - even those family and friends getogethers with so many varying palates and wallets that inevitably end in booking somewhere that ticks all the boring boxes.

The big glitch in service at the end was so unfortunate (and could just as easily not have happened), and while some other things signified issues in that department, most of the staff were warm and welcoming and the timing of the food was faultless, with everything arriving just as we wanted it. There's no argument that the kitchen here is the strong point, along with the spacious, modern room, and its ability to please a wide group of diners without being a "please-all" restaurant. Just don't question the bill and you should be fine.


7-9, Rathgar Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6

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