So, no recession in Camden Street then? Anseo was stuffed to the gills with young ones on a midweek night, inhaling an excess of scent and aftershave and grooving to the (extremely) loud music while phoning a friend. Up the road, Cassidy’s was crammed full of footy fans, swivelling between two TVs as Chelsea sought to subdue Juventus and Liverpool down Real Madrid simultaneously. Meanwhile, in Green Nineteen, Sibella and me were trying to blag a table in an already packed restaurant, having been too damn lazy to ring and book.
After brief negotiation we reached a compromise position where they would ring us if a table came up in the next fifteen minutes, as they estimated it would. Accordingly, we strolled back up to Cassidy’s for a drink we didn’t really need or want. The moment I had brought it to the table Sibs’ phone rang.
The pleasant young receptionist gave us what I perceive to be the best table in the house. Sibs faced the kitchen where, through the large hatch, she could watch the young chefs going about their business while I enjoyed wall-to-wall eye candy. Not the habitual poseurs who infest the weekend magazines’ social pages but sweet young Dublin damsels, all glammed up for a night out. If there were two other guys in the room, that was it.
I’d heard Green Nineteen enjoys a reputation for its cocktails and had I not been at a wine tasting most of the day I’d have subsided into a Mojito or three. Instead we drank wine by the glass, Sauvignon Blanc for Sibella and Pinot Noir for me, both from New Zealand producer Sileni. Neither are wines with any ‘Wow!’ factor but both are, to borrow the old legal phrase, “of merchantable quality”. Which is more than you can say for the Shiraz I had to follow. I think it was called ‘Charming’, one of those words where the meaning can vary with the emphasis as in “Charming vase of flowers” or (on being told that an acquaintance had farted in the confessional box) “Charming.” Here, the second meaning was more appropriate; they should dump this wine forthwith. I did and collared another glass of the workaday Pinot. And yes, I am being picky – not sure I have any right to expect nirvana for a fiver a throw but there you go. It’s called ‘criticism’ which is what I’m paid to do.
Sib’s starter, a melange of goat cheese, honey roasted pears and good leaves, anointed with a really well-executed oil-and-vinegar dressing was an absolute delight. Not that I was jealous because I was sat in front of my own generous portion of pastrami, prosciutto and chorizo sausage and a tower of really fine bread and toast.
I think I may have said it before. There are some people who should be working in the hospitality industry and many more who shouldn’t. Miranda, our waitress, was definitely in Category A. Pleasant manner, deft hands and that keen observation of what’s-needed-and-where worth more than gold to an employer, she whizzed about all night, a cheerfully at the death as at the beginning.
Sibella summed up the charms of Green Nineteen in one pithy sentence – “Of the dishes coming out of that kitchen there’s nothing you wouldn’t want to eat”. The menu is indeed concise but I fancied every item on it. I’d have loved the battered fish and chips but, alas, they had sold out. Sibs grabbed the rump of lamb while I was still deliberating. I opted for the burger. “It’s filling” said Miranda and that clinched it.
The food police have ensured that you can’t play Russian roulette with your burger any more. These days they all come medium-to-well done. I know the Times’ Tom Doorley regards rare burgers with the same fear and loathing that Count Dracula has for a hundredweight of garlic but I’ve never been that discomfited. In umpteen years of reviewing, all the instances of food poisoning I’ve suffered (and there have been quite a few) have stemmed from either chicken or shellfish, usually the latter.
Green Nineteen’s organic burger sat so high you practically needed oxygen to eat it. A good inch-thick patty, topped by a goodly layer of cheese, tailed by gherkins, wedged amid slices of thick tasty bun, top properly crisped. It came with a generous portion of what were at least a contender for the title of Dublin’s Best Chips. I didn’t envy Sibs her succulent, falling-apart rump of lamb and creamy mash at all. Well, maybe just a teeny bit.
I got my Mojito in the end. In the shape of three scoops of ‘Mojito ice cream’, all I could manage for dessert. Tangy and exhilarating, I might have a crack at making this at home. Sibs had a smaller portion with a tasty apple crumble. Finally, wonder of wonders, an absolutely textbook espresso.
A special mention for the original paintings on the walls and the comfy padded seats, wide enough to cope should John Daly or The Remaining Fat Lady drop in for a bite. Though tables are close together, privacy is somewhat safeguarded by the wall of sound erected by a full house having a monster time.
Ps I just found out the duff Shiraz is called ‘Climbing’ not ‘Charming’ but the point still stands.
Verdict: Food’s great, I wanted to go back for lunch next day. Prices, with mains at a tenner a throw, utterly credit-crunchery. Ambience-wise, a lot going for it.
Green Nineteen, 19 Camden Street Dublin 2, Tel: 01 478 9626