The Big Dish: Zaragoza

Dublin Zaragoza

Sinéad Deegan has been put off eating at Zaragoza on Dublin’s South William Street because of the way it looks on the outside. But, as she discovers, you should never judge a book by its cover.

I’ve passed Zaragoza nearly every day since it opened but have never been drawn inside. The shiny newness, corporate brand quality and vastness of the space were off-putting. However a chance meeting with an old acquaintance on South William Street found us there for lunch.

The shininess isn’t so bad on the inside. The design is contemporary, which is not my style, but the open-plan dining room is sparkling and the parquet floor looks like it has never been stepped on. (I want their cleaner’s number!) A charming Maître D got us settled in a window seat and gave us menus to peruse – two lunch specials and the regular menu, all featuring Spanish tapas.

I’m not a fan of extensive menus. I wish there were more restaurants like Le Relaise de Venise l’Entrecote. The Gay and I stumbled upon it on a trip to London. It was perfect for the very hungover, indecisive Sunday we were having, since there is no menu. It only serves steak, frites and green salad. Anyway, I digress. I guess a tapas restaurant is all about choice.

The lunch specials at either 10 or 12.95 were good value and the choice was excellent. The main menu was well composed and the layout (meats, fishes, rice, veggie, sides) made it easy reading. We ordered one Tapas Lunch Special, two dishes from the main menu and sparkling water. My date went to wash his hands. As he walked back from the bathroom, his face was alight with excitement. I thought he’d met the aforementioned Maître D in the WC! Alas, it was just a Dyson Air-blade tap and hand dryer combo. The best hand washing experience ever (which I can verify).

The food arrived all at the same time – Calamares Fritos, Ham Platter and Patatas Bravas (the lunch special), and our choices from the main menu, Gambas and Arroz con Calabaza. The portions were very generous, much larger than I have shared in other tapas joints.

The Calamari was crispy and fresh with a lovely lobster mayo. The Serano Ham platter looked bland with just ham and bread, but the meat was really good. We have had better Patatas Bravas – they were slightly under-cooked. If we had more time to spare they would have been sent back to the kitchen.

The Gambas were meaty and moist, cooked in a garlic and chilli oil – the chilli overpowered the dish, which was a pity. The Arroz con Calabaza was a meal in itself – risotto rice with roasted pumpkin, soft cheese, crispy Parmesan and an organic poached egg. It was gooey, runny and full of flavour, and would have made a perfectly filling main dinner course.

We didn’t have time to stay for desert, just for another quick play with the Dyson Air-blade tap. The lunch came to a most reasonable 31.85, and this reviewer learned (yet again!) that appearances can be deceptive, and not to give new restaurants the cold-shoulder just because I don’t like the branding. I have reprimanded myself suitably.

Zaragoza, 18-19 South William Street, Dublin 2, (01) 679 4020,

© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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