Dublin's Best Indian Food?
A weekend spent in Dublin with locals really makes an English boy stand out like a sore thumb. I’m not talking about a boys trip to a Temple Bar. Rather being parachuted into a local community and meeting half of the Southside. Warm hospitality and alcohol ease the nerves (Ok, lots of alcohol). But the contrast to my London home is stark.
Aside from the similar weather (Rain!), maybe it’s the lingo that leaves you confused at the constant mention of ‘craic’ or being called a ‘knacker’. Maybe it’s that families seem to have set down roots for aeons and all live close. Or maybe it’s just that everyone is friendly and actually seem to like other people here?
I mention this because it seems Pickle is much the same cultural transplant. London doesn’t want for upmarket Indian restaurants. Dishoom, Kricket and Roti Chai et al have us pretty well covered. Dublin, on the other hand, has been slightly less overrun.
Opening back in March 2016, I’m told that it for the first several months, the wait list for a table was around 3 months. So it comes with recommendation both personal and en mass.
Warm and welcoming the open corridor dining room is busy but due to a quirky shape, doesn’t feel overpacked. Manager Benny Jacobs, patrols the length of the aisles attentively surveying a lot of chomping and nodding. It’s a sanctuary from the drizzle and seems to exist in an almost parallel universe to next door bar Cassidys. Which, it should be noted, is equally great but in a very different way.
A quick scan of the menu lets you know that Pickle would like to be on a list with those London staples. Mention of spice-crusted scallops and lamb and bone marrow replace Bhuna and Jalfrezi. Indeed, most main dishes come with a selected bread, rice or side paring to pull together the choice. It feels that little of Pickle hasn’t been considered or isn’t intentional.
Certainly, the plating is, and with seemingly military precision. Venison Keema Samosas are two proud, golden envelopes amid winter hues of ruby chutney. They’re fiery too with a punch from the rich, gamey keema venison tingling your mouth with the sweet berry chutney. There’s also a kick to the pickled cauliflower before it’s all brought back together with a cool smoked yoghurt. It might be the prettiest a samosa has ever appeared, but it’s also the most moreish. Street food crave-ability but dressed up in a dainty prom dress.
Prawns with Kashmiri chilli are also turned out to impress. A conga line of brick-red seafood, soft inside but with a light, warming crust from the chilled flour. A cucumber and dill raita walks the line somewhere between raita and a tangy tartar sauce.
Mains appear as if at a banquet. Trays toting inviting brass and gold dishes and a waft of spices. Ghee-roast lamb is struggling to keep itself together like me the night before at nearby Coppers. Slow cooked with an almost sour spiced sauce giving it a glossy sheen. It’s sticky and rich without a hint of grease, topped with two quail eggs for a final flourish. Unfortunately, that’s more than can be said for it’s accompanying tawa parantha. A tangle of torn, oily bread. It’s like picking undercooked pastry from the side of a pie dish. It’s difficult to imagine this is anyone’s cup of tea.
The butter chicken is a thick simmer of tender chicken enveloped by a buttery bathing of ginger and fenugreek. Although the heat appears to have been dialled up a little more than usual. A side of freshly blistered garlic naan is made short work of. The Gobhi Matter proves too spicy for one of us but is another good end for the day’s cauliflower delivery.
The staff are incredibly friendly, their charm fits in well amongst the Irish accents. When the butter chicken proves hotter than imagined, there’s an immediate offer to swap it for a fresh pick. It feels like this filters down from the proud care of Mr Jacobs. He’s obviously man who clearly cares about the detail.
Pickle is a truly great restaurant, not to put too fine a point on it. Yes, there are cheaper Dublin dinners with mains clocking in above €20 per dish and that can make for a pricey bill if you’re not careful. But the cooking and attention to delivering something a little different is well worth it. It’s also worth pointing out that they offer an early evening menu for €22 for 2 courses which is a steal.
We pop back into Cassidys next door for one last Guinness before my flight home. Cultural transplant tho Pickle and I may be, from day one I’ve been made to feel welcome and at home by everyone. Judging by the food and popularity of Pickle, I’m not the only one.
A regal curry in Central Dublin
Pickle makes a mighty fine deal out of elevating North Indian food. Presenting brilliantly cooked food, show off with care and attention. Fortunately, none of the gorging glory of your local curry house is lost. It’s an essential visit in Dublin and the beer next door at Cassidys is as well. Why not have both?