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Seaside sharing plates show big ambition at this natural wine café in Blackrock


9 Jul 2024


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Written by:

Ronan Doyle

What should we know about September?

Now finally taking bookings after opening on a walk-in only basis back in April, September quickly slid into the space previously occupied for 14 years by Blackrock institution The Wooden Spoon café. A sit-down spin-off sister venture to Ballsbridge coffee truck Leroy’s – which just this week announced its closure – it’s a café-by-day, natural-wine-bar-by-night space, whose wide-reaching sea views and candlelit distressed interiors caught our eye as much as their impeccably pretty plating.


Where should we sit?

It's a space to savour. Arrive as the evening breaks over Dublin Bay and the fading light hitting September’s carefully-curated vintage furniture feels more Riviera than ‘rock. A large communal table anchors the room with a smaller trio set against the seafront window. We’re guessing the delay in rolling out a pre-book option was down to figuring out how to divvy up the seating. If you nab a place – you'll need to be quick – you’re almost certainly sharing a table.


While the seating works well with the warm decor for casual intimacy from the go, the forced proximity and lack of soft furnishings mean that the space can get pretty loud – expect to be inching your chair forward and turning your ear towards your dinner companion when it's at its buzziest. A few stools along the bar are kept free for walk-ins, while the smaller tables on the little outside terrace are the ideal spot for a summer evening sip.


What’s on the menu?

There’s fierce competition on the Gilda index these days, and September comes in on par with best-in-class Row Wines and Yves at two for €5, even if the menu confusingly prices them solo at €3.50 a pop. They tick all the boxes with a mouth-puckering pop of pickled pepper, olive and anchovy - an essential intro over a first glass.


The fennel salami with sour-sweet cornichons serves the same function - big flavours for appetite-whetting as the bigger plates are prepped. Corndale Farm have won a rake of prizes for this one and you won’t be left wondering why - the sharp seasoning and light, air-dried texture make for a snack you won't tired of, and some of the best Irish-made charcuterie on the market.


Whether it’s the contrast with that peak pork produce that made the ham hock arancini pale a little in comparison, or just their oversaturation on the city’s menus we’re not sure - these staple Sicilian snacks are (sadly not literally) a dime a dozen in Dublin these days so it takes a lot to stand out from the increasingly packed crowd. For all the crisp crunch of the fried breadcrumb exterior and flavour kick of the smoked paprika aioli, there’s nothing here to pull ahead of the competition.


This kitchen crew is well capable of leaving others in the dust though, and shows it off with a pair of small plates. The burrata and peach belongs on our list of the city’s best summer dishes, a rich symphony of creamy cheese and subdued sweet fruit flavours teased out by well-deployed dollops and drizzles of chilli jam and basil oil.


Those same stronger notes tie together mackerel and pickled fennel in a sea of creamy ajo blanco. If those gildas suggest a San Sebastian influence, this dish makes it clear with a superb quality riff on a classic dish at Arzak – those without the budget for a flight to a three-star table will find a Dart ticket a steal in comparison for these bright bursts of flavour.

Pasta plates are stauncher stuff, if a little less exciting. There clear craft in the home-rolled tortellini stuffed with ricotta, nestled in squash purée and bathed in sage butter, with plenty of well-balanced flavour, it does feel odd to enjoy such an autumnal combo over the smell of a summer sea breeze.


Gnocchi studded through an nduja sauce pass the texture test, adding body and working with fast-dissolving dollops of stracciatella to moderate the sharp spice. Like the tortellini (indeed like almost everything that came before it), this is a showcase in confident cooking, putting quality produce to the fore without pretence or excess.


We’ll blame the ease we took things in that we were too late to try any dessert, though a quick word of warning in our ear before the kitchen closed up wouldn’t have gone astray. The tiramisu looked terrific.

What are the drinks like?

The wine list, big on natural and organic producers has some really excellent choices, though those less thirsty might find the one-of-each-kind BTG options very lacking. Go in with a plan to share by the bottle and you’ll have your pick of producers like Claus Preisinger and Christian Tschida, with very well-invested staff on hand to help you pick. We struck a balance with the Koppitsch Rozsa rosé and found its light, versatile cherry and cranberry notes a great match for a range of flavours.


How was the service?

The lovely casual vibe of September is all down to the staff, wide smiles and quick check-ins putting everyone at immediate ease. In helping spec out and whittle down the menu options they are superb, offering to tee up the flow of food however you’d like. We weren’t remotely hurried as we neared the end of our allotted two hours, though it was the last seating so don’t bank on the same treatment if you’re in first thing.


And the damage?

All that and two small bottles of water – why they didn’t have bigger sharing sizes we can’t fathom – came to €150. If you skipped the pasta and stuck to one glass you could have a lovely light supper for a very solid €40. On a blow-out occasion you could pop a fancier bottle and not miss out on dessert for about €120 a head.


What’s the verdict on September?

There’s a touch of the previous tenant’s community café vibe to September, which does a good daytime business slinging coffee and Leroy’s-style sandwiches to passing commuter trade and locals alike. Its evening incarnation preserves that neighbourhood air while serving a menu worth travelling for.

It has the few small hiccups and holdbacks any restaurant still finding its feet generally will, but we saw in that Arzak-esque mackerel dish a small glimpse of the future. There's huge ambition and ability in this little kitchen, and with time and more of the innovation and originality it allows for, we might come to have something very special here.

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