The Wild Goose Grill

Why am I so crap at complaining? I have my own theories, chief among which is that it’s all down to my working-class origins. Try this scenario: you have a leaky tap; unconvinced of your ability as a DIY expert, you phone the plumbing company; some hours later, a blue boiler suited guy turns up, gets out an assortment of spanners and wrenches and mends the leak, everything’s fine. Next morning you get up and the selfsame tap is doing an impression of the Powerscourt waterfall. Do you ring the plumbing company and complain? Yes, of course you do. But not until you’ve had a go at stemming the flow yourself. This time you don’t admit defeat until there’s a good 6 inches of water swirling around your ankles. Why do you think this is? I’ll tell you. It’s because you are afraid that your fellow worker will get it in the neck from his boss. You are breaking the credo of class solidarity if you land him in the deep doo-doo.

To further prove the point, the best complainer I’ve ever known is my ex-wife (and just in case you think I’m on a sour grapes rant, let me point out that we’re the best of friends). This daughter of a chartered accountant, granddaughter of a Justice of the peace is to complaining what Valentino Rossi is to motor bike racing. Many a time and oft the kids and I shuffled shamefaced around the supermarket while she beat up the manager with an outdated box of cornflakes. The local butcher, if he got wind that she was on her way in to return a hooky chicken, was prone to take the day off or at least hide in the freezer room until her rage was spent.

All of which is why, last Wednesday, I found myself stoically chewing a mega-resilient slab of veal. Imagine munching on a wellington boot with the Duke’s muscular leg still inside. Eating the damn thing took so long I felt like that guy who was condemned in the old legend to push a bloody great rock uphill for eternity, whassisname, Sisyphus?

Ossobuco is not exactly rocket science. The name means “bone with a hole” or maybe “hole with a bone”. You simply take a slice of shin of veal an inch or more thick with the bone and marrow in place, surround it with wine, tomatoes and other aromatics and stew it to death. The meat falls away from the bone and the sauce is sticky and delicious. It takes time, that’s all. Ossobuco is one of my favourite things but I knew, deep down, that I shouldn’t really have ordered this rustic, bucolic dish, an aberration in a restaurant where everything else is in the quickly-cooked, prettily-arranged, loads-of-white space, modern bistro idiom.

The Wild Goose Grill, which opened last year, occupies two rooms above McSorley’s pub in Ranelagh, a space formerly occupied by a restaurant called Ouzo, chiefly notable for selling cut-price lobster. The central heating is cunningly designed to give you a blast of warm air as you trek up the stairs, an instant welcome on a wet Wednesday in February. Once through the door the welcome was amplified by proprietor Kevin McMahon, one of the best of the younger generation of meeters’n’greeters.

The room is delightful. Stylish charcoal-and-white décor that will wear well. Comfortable chairs. Sparkling glassware and linen. A reassuringly mixed clientele, too. A girlie table of five; two young guys, dining with their mum; and a sprinkling of my contemporaries, guys with ‘bought-and-paid-for’ bellies occupied our half of the dining space.

The wine list is a thing of beauty, as well as length. A kaleidoscopic collection of interesting bottles coupled with a short but skilful selection of wines by the glass. Sibella was driving and I’d had a heavy week of it so we took a bottle of the great Max Ferd Richter’s magnificent 2006 Riesling Kabinett, trocken Graacher Dompropst, a sumptuous, elegant sipping wine, rather than a quaffer. It particularly suited our starters, my fillet of sweet red mullet and Sibs’ seared scallops, both of which got the meal away to a good start.

Jaws aching, I gazed with envy at Sibella’s sea bass, tender and succulent. She mentioned that it could have done with some potatoes and, hey presto, the waiter appeared out of nowhere with a bowl of good mash. In fact the service throughout was exemplary; it’s a long time since I’ve seen such good pacing by a wine waiter – usually in suburban restaurants there are only two options. One, the Chinese restaurant gambit where they have the wine out of the bottle and into your glass before the starters have arrived, so you just have to order more. Two, the “I’ll just plonk it in the ice bucket (usually out of reach) and see you at the end of the evening” approach.

We took dessert – a cracking crème brulée and a nicely tangy lemon tart, hardly imaginative but serviceable, reflecting more the innate conservatism of the Irish diner than the chef’s predilections, I suspect. Espresso was good, too. All-in-all The Wild Goose is probably a better restaurant than the first half of this review might have you believe. Mayhap I devoted too many column centimetres to the deficiencies of the ossobuco but, hey, that’s showbiz.

So, did I complain? Yes, actually, although very, very diffidently. And, know what, they had no hesitation in striking the ‘buco off the bill.

The damage: €132.90, ex-service for 2 x starters, mains, desserts, 1 coffee and a better-than-average bottle of wine. Less €24.

Verdict: Welcoming, stylish Ranelagh restaurant. Lovely décor and ambience. Competent cooking from a mainstream menu most will like. A tad pricey. Obviously, avoid the ossobuco.

Rating ***

The Wild Goose Grill. First Floor, 1 Sandford Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Tel: 01 491 2377