What’s the story?
When it comes to capturing the Dublin zeitgeist, not many business owners are as adept at it as the guys who opened Meet Me In The Morning, Reference Coffee, Loose Canon, Benedict's Egg Shop, and now, Table Wine.
They've evolved as needed over the years, recently closing Benedict's (which seemed less to do with its success and more to do with logistics/staff issues and/or the ability to make a decent living from egg sandwiches), and while there were tears shed across the city when they announced they were getting out of the brunch game and closing MMITM, the nooooos slowly turned to ohhhhs when it transpired they were opening a wine bar on the same site. Formerly named Reference Coffee next door is now "The Morning", and MMITM is now "Table Wine". Loose Canon is sill Loose Canon. Up to speed?
In truth these guys have always wanted to bring more to the Dublin wine scene (Loose Canon was pretty ground-breaking when it came to natural wine in the capital), and Table Wine has been in their heads for a long time. Co-owner Brian O'Keeffe used to live in Paris and came home with his head spinning about why Dublin didn't have more dimly lit, caves à vins, serving interesting small plates in casual surroundings alongside the best natural wines around - even if it meant importing them direct.
The pandemic put a halt to their plans (them and everyone else), but at the end of November they quietly opened the doors on Pleasants Street with only those in the know clued in enough to visit - which obviously includes us, and you if you're reading this.
Where should we sit?
It's the same set up as MMITM, with wooden tables and chairs on the lower and upper floors. Tables are well spaced out, but this means they have less seats than before, so we imagine it might be challenging to get a table at peak times if not booked in advance. Downstairs there's a nice bird's eye view into the kitchen, as well as the perfect people watching perch inside the door. Upstairs would be better for more intimate dinner dates or when you've got all the goss to spill.
What's the food like?
Sharing plates, i.e. our favourite, each one sounding more appetising than the last. Nothing really constitutes a "main", so even the rogue friend who doesn't like to share will be forced to - *evil laugh*.
We started with perfect plates to pick at over that first glass of wine - pink pickled eggs with mayo, soy pickled mushrooms, and they brought sourdough, because everything's better with sourdough. The mushrooms in particular deserve singling out for their especially complex, floral flavours with the mildest bite of acidity. We would fling these in a toastie, risotto, on a cheese board - you name it, we'll try it.
There's a nice amount of vegetable/cheese based dishes for any veggies in your life, and spuds are a highlight here. The firmer, pink fir apple variety are cooked beautifully, then tossed in garlic butter topped with chives - the new chips.
Another dish everyone seems to be loving (us included) is the Crown Prince pumpkin (McNally Farm's finest) with Cais na Tire cheese sauce. The Tipperary sheep's cheese can do no wrong in our eyes, and we would eat it on practically anything, so how could you not love this dish, although it would have been nice to have an element of crunch, so maybe save some sourdough crust if you have the willpower.
You're probably sick of us bemoaning the lack of ceviche in the city, so we jumped to order the one here, but it didn't quite have the bracing, slap around the face we like when it comes to citrus cured fish. Ours was made with seabream (we'd also love to see a move to lesser known fish or by-catch), lime leaf oil, chilli and kombucha, and while flavours were pleasant, it was too mild for our Peruvian-loving tastes.
You're going to be seeing Table Wine's crab sandwich everywhere, and while you may initially think, "€20 for a sandwich?", this is no ordinary sandwich. It's a triple decker, Lambay crab stuffed, Hegarty's cheddar covered masterstroke, with deep-fried Jerusalem artichoke crisps the icing on the cheesy-crab cake.
A warning however - it's as heavy as it sounds, and even one between two will make much of the rest of the menu moot - one between 3 or four would be perfect if you've come to work your way through their offering. Saying that there would be worse ways to slip into a food coma than popping in here for one of these and a glass of wine after a hard day.
We love flower sprouts, or kalettes as they've now been renamed as apparently that causes sales to go up, but didn't think they worked here in a simple tempura batter. They needed something to be dipped into, and the kitchen brought a fantastic tomatillo relish on request which rescued things.
That tomatillo relish was destined for our dish of the night - the unmissable veal salami, red chilli and poblano pepper croquettes. If we'd had these first, a second (and maybe third) order would have gone into the kitchen, but sadly we were too stuffed full of crab to consider it for more than 5-6 minutes tops. Perfect bites of endless flavour, and that tangy relish underneath just gave them added pizazz.
Dessert currently consists of sorbet and ice-cream, and we ordered one of each. Crown Prince pumpkin ice-cream was full of spice and all things nice, brown butter ice-cream literally takes browned butter and churns it in there (how could that not taste good), but the one that disappeared fastest was the yoghurt sorbet with elderflower, whiskey and brandy snaps. A simple but effective ending to a meal full of different flavours.
What about the drinks?
This is a natural wine bar first and foremost, so if you're not into it, one of the major cornerstones of this place will be lost on you. If you are, you'll be in funk-filled heaven, and there's loads of unusual bottles to work your way through. There's currently only five wines by the glass - hopefully that will expand over time - and bottles start at around €40.
We drank a really beautiful gamay from Alexandre Bain in the Loire Valley, and a simpler but still very enjoyable Langhe Nebbiolo from Trediberri, which is an entry level wine on the list. Staff will be delighted to make recommendations for you.
And the service?
Happy, welcoming and confidently relaxed. Staff seemed like they'd been there years, and everything was very smooth. The chef brought out most of the dishes himself, which gave us a chance to quiz him on their contents and cooking methods. It wasn't full, which always makes thing easier, but the whole places gives off a very chilled out vibe, and it's hard to imagine that changing, even with more bodies in the place.
And the damage? €70 a head, which felt like decent value for what we had.
The verdict? A UK-based food writer visited here a few weeks ago and whilst in the food planning stage mentioned that she would like to visit several of the best restaurants in the city, "to try a few plates" in each. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but had to break it to her that there are very few places here that you can realistically include on a bone fide restaurant crawl, and not be expected to book weeks in advance - we're not in London any more Toto. This Pleasants Street retreat is exactly what she was looking for, and we hope they can maintain the laid back, formula-free, continental Europe feel of it all. God knows we all need a bit more spontaneity in life right now, and being able to pop in here for delicious, dynamic, ever-changing small plates and great wine at short notice would turn the worst day on its head. Here's hoping this is the start of a new wave of casual, food-focused wine bars, because post (mid?)-pandemic we need all the joy we can get our hands on.
Table Wine 50 Pleasants Street, Dublin 8 www.tablewine.ie