Lucinda O'Sullivan: 'The greasy taste of lamb belly lingered with me that night, as I counted sheep and cursed'

In July 1997, as I sat with my better half in a converted convent on Camden Street, we were told that this was the up-and-coming spot after Temple Bar.

That information was a bit previous, as they say, but, fast forward 22 years, and I’ve just visited three hot new restaurants there within 10 days. It seems Camden Street is finally the des-res of the restaurant industry, having become the destination for many restaurateurs, squeezed out to the fringes by the purchasing power of major groups.

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However, like all city locales burgeoning with cool, kitsch restaurants, bars and clubs – attracting the arty folk – the big boys eventually creep in, and, before long, the hip crowd moves on, declaring it ‘played out’.

And so, it seemed ironic that I was sitting in Press Up’s vast new Doolally Indian eatery a couple of hundred yards up on Richmond Street, taking pics of the enormous cranes in the skyline behind the Bernard Shaw pub across the road, the night before the pub’s closure was announced.

The big boys are moving in fast, with the massive new Wetherspoon’s Hotel and Bar being located in that former convent; the Mercantile Group opening The Crafty Fox on Camden Row, recreating a classic Irish pub with cosy snugs; while the Press Up Group are to open a sizeable Chinese Restaurant, the food of which will hopefully be better than what I had at Doolally!

And so to Mister S, situated beside the big Age Action shop. It’s the second restaurant by Paul McVeigh and Jamie O’Toole, of Featherblade on Dawson Street. The head chef is Daniel Hannigan, formerly of Richmond, who’s also one of eight finalists in the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year Competition 2019, which is taking place on November 10. The sous chef is Tim Geeves, who’s fresh from the fires of London’s popular barbeque restaurant Smokestak.

Boys will be boys, and we all know how they love huge hunks of barbecued meat. But, while Mister S has the de rigueur burly Texan oven blazing in the kitchen, and hard wooden seating offering an intense workout for your bum, don’t expect the hoedowners or vibes of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry – think Farrow & Ball Sulking Room-pink walls, cool music and Aperol Spritzes.

Apart from the meat feast, the food was as refined and elegant as any high-end fancy-pants spot, and came served on beautiful plates from the V&A Museum and Portmeirion – treasures from Granny’s china cabinet, or a trawl of the charity shops by a sharp eye.

The bisque of both worlds

We overindulged on the great value ‘Nibbles’ section, not expecting them to be the starter-sized plates they proved to be. Gambas (€8) consisted of two of the plumptious crustaceans on flatbread, thoroughly drenched with ‘bisque butter’ – real lick-the-plate-clean stuff. Chunks of crispy courgette varieties (€6) were bathed in black garlic yoghurt; while lightly charred mackerel (€7) was served in a herb oil.

We regretted our brace of lamb skewers three ways (€8), which, working from head to toe, featured neck, belly and sweetbreads. And, while I wasn’t nuts about the sweetbreads, it was the heavy, greasy taste of lamb belly that lingered with me later that night, as I counted sheep and cursed.

Most of the ‘Mains’ were €12-€17, including carrot, freekeh and salsa verde; as well as marinated pork tomahawk. Whole brill and langoustine was €34, while a daily sharing steak averaging 700g came in at €49/€63 for Angus or Wagyu respectively.

Bayveen enjoyed a tender smoked Angus short-rib, pictured below left (€17), laid in chunks beside the bone, while I loved my skate (€16) – or long ray, as they say in the chipper – drenched in a delicious dashi beurre blanc.

With our mains, we had a selection of veg at €4.50 each – crispy brown butter and miso roasties; crisp green beans with almonds; and a good wedge of Hispi cabbage topped with grated feta, and layered with Majorcan sobrasada, a soft-cured sausage, oozing its rich paprika flavoured juices between the leaves. I’m still dreaming of that.

We passed on ‘Sweets’ – bread-and-butter bubble pudding with salted caramel and banana (€10); or strawberries and elderflower (€7), and so, with a bottle of South African Adi’s House Roussanne/Chenin Blanc (€34), our bill, with service, came to €120.45.

Mister S

32 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2.

Tel: (01) 683-5555

misters.ie

lucindaosullivan.com

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