Usually Sinéad Deegan likes service to be prompt, but there’s such a thing as too much, as she discovers in Dublin’s Darwin’s Restaurant.
The White Witch took a rain check, so it was the gay and I for Friday night dinner alone. South William Street was the destination but with a certain Diner not taking reservations our plans were scuppered (waiting patiently for a table is not something we do well). After a scan of where we have been/haven’t been/aren’t allowed back to, we settled on Darwin’s on Aungier Street. It’s been there for over a decade and neither of us has crossed the threshold.
The décor is caveman meets Greek taverna, with evolutionary wall murals, kitsch curios and larger-than-life statues. The place was buzzy with a mixed crowd of mainly larger groups – tourists, an office night out and a couple of birthdays. The waitress was pleasant but businesslike, eager to take our order.
The menu has something for everyone, except vegetarians. Darwin’s own in-house butcher (Smyth’s, with a retail shop around the corner) supplies and sources all the meat on this collection for carnivores.
After a disappointing steak in Tribeca the night before, I opted for the lamb (forgoing starters to keep room for desert). The gay liked the sound of the Sea Bass Fillet in Coconut Broth with Noodles. The wine list is extensive with something for all noses. A bottle of Sicilian Pinot Grigio (fresh orange and pear aromas, ripe fruit with a lip-smacking dry finish) sounded perfect to kickstart a weekend!
The food arrived in what seemed like less than five minutes – not even a thimbleful of wine had been quaffed. My lamb was Prime Roasted Rump served medium with Buttered Mash and a Mint Jus. The lamb looked more like a chump of well-done beef than a rump of pink lamb. It was sinewy and chewy. The jus was more red wine than mint. The sumptuous sounding buttered mash was a smooth quenelle of waxy spuds with not a knob of Kerrygold in sight.
The gay was more complimentary about the sea bass, which was served with prawns, asparagus spears and rice noodles, in a coconut broth. There was more drinking than eating in the dish, but he would have it again.
Half an hour into our night out, dinner was done. We still had a full bottle of wine to drink and the waitress brought us the desert menu. If there was an award for the quickest table turnaround, Darwin’s would win it hands down.
We ordered the Eton Mess and the Rhubarb Fool, only realising the price after the order had been placed – €9.00 and €8.50, respectively. The Eton Mess – berries, lemon meringue and raspberry ice cream topped with vanilla cream – was suitably messy and would have been relatively satisfying had it not been for the price tag. The Rhubarb Fool – slow-cooked rhubarb compote mixed with a crème fraiche, mascarpone cream and homemade honeycomb may have sounded delectable, but it looked like it had been made by one of the drunken tourists. No layers, no topping – just a Martini glass of Gloop that remotely tasted of rhubarb.
The bill came to €100 including tip and our dinner was done in 65 minutes. Next time you will find us patiently waiting for a table at the no-reservation diner on South William Street.
Darwin’s, 80 Aungier St, Dublin 2, (01) 475 7511, www.darwins.ie
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