This new wine & music bar is serving heady food in a striking space
What should we know about Row Wines?
When Coppinger Row closed at the end of 2021, after their landlord decided to develop the building and put the lease on the open market, the Mediterranean-style bistro's regulars were devo.com. Owners Marc and Conor Bereen were already deep in plans for their next restaurant Orwell Road in Rathgar, which opened the following March, but they had unfinished business with this pedestrianised alleyway off South William Street.
It took another year, but in April 2023 they revealed that they had secured the lease for the site next door, and were opening a "natural wine and music bar", with snacks and small plates from 23-year old Head Chef Paddy Maher, who had been sous chef at Orwell Road under Daniel Hannigan (he's also across things here as Executive Chef). If you know us you'll know we think Dublin needs more wine bars - places you can show up to without a reservation, that don't make you order three courses including a main, where the focal point is as much on the by the glass list as the food, so this was very good news.
Where should we sit?
The space looks incredible from every angle. This was not a cheap fit out, designed to feel like a wine bar in Barcelona or San Francisco, and from the green leather to the gold accents, the built-in decks in front of the kitchen to the striking art work covering the walls, there's nowhere else in the city we can compare it to. If you want to sit indoors we'd settle in at a banquette against the wall, giving you full view of the striking space.
Over at the bar you'll find counter seating (one to add to our where to eat solo guide) and some high tables, and there's a good amount of seating outside if it's a rare sunny day in Dublin. The outside seating is not as comfortable though if you're settling in for a few hours, with chair backs slouchy and tables slanted on the uneven ground below. They're also all tables for two meaning you'll have to pull a couple together if there's more of you - all or any of this may or may not bother you.
What should we drink?
The wine list is more accessible (read: affordable) than places like Fish Shop, Bar Pez or Note, with glasses starting at €8. While they may not have every wine producer with a cult-like following on there, it's fun, full of interest, and both a Portugese pet nat from Vigno and a Chenin Blanc from Domaines de Baumard in the Loire were exactly the light-touch, lively wines we wanted to drink on a sunny Saturday in the city.
The more we looked at the list the more we wanted to drink from it, and we didn't even get a chance to try their cocktails, which favour Irish drinks producers and low ABVs. There's a few softs too, including that refreshing kefir from The King.
What about food?
Their menu of 8-10 small plates changes regularly, and it would have been easy to stick to the same old wine bar classics, but there's nothing dull or carbon-copied about the food in here. A group of three or four could easily get through the whole menu - which is our pretty much our goal for every meal. Is there anything worse than food envy while looking at another table, or food regret for the one you didn't order...
As we established a couple of weeks ago, Row's gilda (€5 for 2) is on the cheaper end of the Dublin scale for the Spanish bar snack, but it's also smaller than the ones at Fish Shop, Uno Mas and La Gordita, with an unexpected hit of chilli. Depending on your spice appreciation levels you may or may not enjoy this - we prefer to get the heat from the pickled green chilli and didn't think it was needed, but we'd still start our next meal with one of these salty, spicy mouthfuls.
Marinated olives (green with stone in, black with stone out) were very good quality, juicy, mild and sweet, and a more generous portion than a lot of other places (they are €5 though).
Something that's been on the menu from the start (and will hopefully stay on there as long as supply makes it possible) is the Kilkee crab rosti. Thinly sliced layers of waxy potato are deep-fried to a cripsy, chewy finish, served warm and topped with beautifully seasoned Kilkee crab. They're €16 for 5 so work out at just over €3 a bite, but this is a premium product showcased masterfully.
There always seems to be a flatbread on, and ours was with nduja, anchovy and fresh basil (€12). The immaculate base was topped with a flavour bomb of spice and salt, but it was very oily and ended up all down our hands after a few bites. A little less nduja would have solved the problem (but it wasn't that big of a problem).
Unusually large padron peppers (€8) came with zatar instead of the usual heavy hand with flaky sea salt, and needed a few more minutes in the pan to get the sweet, melting flavours and textures we love. We did see other people's which looked more like it, so we may have just gotten unlucky, and we would have preferred salt, but they were still finished off.
Row has an admirable selection of vegetarian dishes (veggies and friends of veggies take note), and another menu success was the baby gem with caesar and Kilnahlan reserve - a Parmesan-style cheese from Kylemore Farmhouse (€10). The fresh, crispy lettuce halves are spread with a cheesey caesar dressing which starts to submerge down through the leaves, then are topped with breadcrumbs and more finely grated cheese. Lettuce has never had it so good.
Burrata (€13) came with ripe, roasted peach, basil and mint, and more breadcrumbs, this time laced with zatar (they like zatar in these parts, and this was a very clever addition), We would eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and every flavour and texture was a paragon of summer - get in and eat it while you can.
Our last savoury dish of mixed Garryhinch mushrooms (from Offaly) came with shallot xo, shiso leaves and an egg yolk (€14), and while flavours were good (particularly in the sauce), this is one for fungi fanatics. Some of the larger oyster mushrooms were jaw-pain-inducingly chewy, while the smaller ones like shiitake worked much better popped into your mouth with a spoonful of sauce and a drizzle of egg yolk.
There's one dessert and one cheese plate (when we visited there was a triple cream from Ballylisk, an 'Irish camembert' and a blue, but details were scant). Dessert was an olive oil cake that Maher learnt how to make while cooking in Spain, with maceated strawberries and whipped mascarpone. There are few better pairings in life than strawberries and vinegar (get involved), and the rich, finely crumbed cake and light mascarpone made for an elegant, summer fruit-laced end to an excellent lunch.
How was the service?
Full of warmth with lots of big smiles meeting every request. There did seem to be a slight gap in knowledge when it came to the menu, with one (delightful) server unable to answer some questions about the menu, and having to check several things with the kitchen, so a bit more training on what the kitchen is using and serving would be welcomed.
What was the damage?
€113.50 with two glasses of wine and a kefir, which felt like decent value for what we had.
What's the verdict?
Although Row Wines is where Coppinger Row was and has the same owners, it's a very distant relative. While Coppinger was a cosy jumper that you've worn a hundred times and knew exactly what to pair it with, Row is like the 'investment' jacket you've bought in All Saints across the road - thrilling, unusual, ripe for eye-widening and compliments from anyone who comes across it. The space feels like nowhere else in Dublin, the drinks are made for diving into, and for a chef in his early twenties to be turning out food this heady and distinctive, we're marking him as one to watch.
Coppinger Row, Dublin 2