Few crops better showcase all-in-one the impact of weather conditions than the pumpkin in 2023: the mild summer made for ideal growing, leading to plenty of bigger-than-usual specimens in shops and markets across the country, but aggressive autumn rain left much of this bumper bounty turned to mush before the time to harvest - as nature giveth, so she taketh away. Luckily Dublin’s chefs have had no problem getting their hands on some of these giant gourds, and they're still dominating late autumn menus. Here’s the best plates around the city right now to see out the season with...
Pork belly with sweet potato purée, Urbanity
Nothing brings out the flavour of pork quite like autumn ingredients, and Urbanity are nailing it with this combo. The earthiness of sweet potato purée is the perfect complement to rich meat and gravy, while the fresh tartness of an apple and chilli slaw is there to cut through the fattiness. Bok choy adds a dash of colour while peanut rayu brings the crunch. Does seasonal lunch come much better?
Portobello mushroom toast, Legit Coffee Co
You can practically hear the rustling of fallen leaves underfoot just looking at this one. Legit Coffee Co have taken the stalwart autumn flavours of portobello mushroom and butternut squash and kicked them into high gear with broccoli bechamel (!) and a poached egg. This creamy, earthy, crunchy treat is everything we want as the nights close in.
Apple pastry, Library Street
“Apple pastry” hardly does this one much justice, but sometimes words aren’t good enough. Except maybe “wow”. Library Street are no stranger to knockout seasonal inventions, but this dessert takes the biscuit. Two varietals of autumnal apple have gone into this tarte tatin-style pastry, with calamansi and a sorbet of the ever-delicious Killahora apple ice wine among the other hat-tips to the season. No, you can't look away.
Roast crown prince pumpkin, As One
You might think we’d have run out of roast pumpkin and sage combos at this stage, but you’d be very, very wrong: we could savour the contrast of crispy leaves and softened flesh every day of autumn. As One have our latest favourite twist with lovely little touches like skin-on crown prince, homemade ricotta, chilli and onion preserve, and miso pumpkin seeds.
Roast pumpkin and cavolo nero, Root
In the very unlikely event we do ever sour on sage and pumpkin, there are plenty of other green partners to turn to instead. New opening Root in Skerries have gone for one of the best bitter-sweet pairings around with this cavolo nero knock up, adding ricotta and pumpkin seeds for a classic comfort dish that ticks all the autumnal boxes.
Pear mille feuille, Lottie’s
We are always here for seeing pear get some love and attention at this time of year, lest we forget even this always-present fruit has a peak season. Lottie’s have gone and poached them in a spiced syrup with anise and cinnamon, before sandwiching slices with vanilla cream between layers of mille feuille pastry and drizzling with chocolate cream.
Pea and pumpkin fritter, Tir Deli
Just look at the deep-fried crisp of that. We can’t get ever how crunchy-delicious these spiced fritters from Tir Deli look, made from mashed pea and organic pumpkin batter, and served over hazelnut-pumpkin paté with a healthy dose of pickled veg. The pink aioli and bright seasonal greens only add to the autumn-appropriate burst of colour.
Hen of the woods with roast celeriac, Note
We said in our early autumn dish dispatch a few weeks back that we were just a touch disappointed at Dublin’s mushroom game this year. Here comes Note riding to the rescue with the help of hen of the woods, one of the great autumn mushrooms. They’ve sandwiched them between a healthy slab of roast celeriac and a generous serve of house pepper sauce. We want it now.
Pumpkin spice cheesecake, Cloud Picker
You might rightly say pumpkin spice has been done to death these last few years, but here’s a cake to bring it back from the brink. Cloud Picker are stocking a seasonal special from Coconut and Moo Moo, made from roasted crown prince and a seven spice mix to give burnt Basque cheesecake style an autumnal kick. We’re convinced.
Autumn salad, Oliveto
It’s squash and sage over at Dun Laoghaire’s Oliveto rather than pumpkin: their seasonal salad amps up the bitterness with a handful of chicory and radicchio leaves to cut through the sweetness of the Delica squash and the creaminess of a burrata ball in the centre. A sprinkle of crunchy seeds finishes off this tempting mish-mash of textures.
Squash and mushroom pizza, Bambino
It’s not only their sizeable slices that have seen Bambino make a fast-track for the affections of Dublin diners since opening last year, it’s also the host of regular specials that keep people coming back for more. A kuri squash puree base and a mix of wild mushrooms look like a winning combo here, with garlic, rosemary and a duo of cheese rounding it off.
Venison chop, Variety Jones
If you can make it through this video without putting your coat on and making for the Liberties, you’re made of stronger stuff than us. Variety Jones’ tilt into game season sees a barbecued venison chop served alongside greens-on turnips, cabbage, gnocchi, and chanterelles with a glorious, glistening finale of pepper sauce. It has us wishing autumn would never end.