Thursday 20 February 2014

Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

On a dreary night where I almost got blown away, Mr. FFID and I were on our way home and passing by Etto.  That night we were supposed to eat at home but the temptation of visiting a cosy wine bar was too difficult to resist. We were lucky to get a table without a reservation and should probably thank the Irish weather for that.

Etto isn't very spacious and the tables are quite close to each other at the entrance of the restaurant. It's also possible to sit at the bar on stools, which is great if you only want a few nibbles and some vino. I liked the simplicity of the decor: white walls, blackboard, wooden tables and chairs, bottles of wine and a funky framed orange print at the back of the room.

During the day, the lunch menu is priced at €14 for a main, €20 for two course and €25 for three courses but there's also a worker's lunch which consists of a sandwich and a soup for a tenner. The lunch menu on Saturdays is quite similar to what you'd get in the evening, a choice of small plates, large plates, sides and desserts.

When we were given the menu I have to admit, it contained many Italian terms I wasn't familiar with so I asked for recommendations and guidance from our waitress. She was very helpful and took time to explain everything. There was a choice of bar snacks, charcuterie and nibbles all ranging from €2.50 for a basket of bread to €18 for a selection of charcuterie but we opted for starters/nibbles and mains as we had big appetites.

I was intrigued by the pork belly and smoked eel croquettes (€11) and adventurously went for it. The croquettes were crispy on the outside and the inside contained perfect little chunks of pork belly mixed with the eel. There was some lovely smoky flavour coming through each mouthful and I never expected eel to be that tasty.

Mr. FFID always goes for the safest and meatiest dishes, he's so predictable sometimes. His choice was spot on though, the chicken liver and lardo terrine (€10) was flavoursome and rich, a delight with the toasted bread and beautiful sweet pickled prunes that came with it.

Don't be fooled by the look of Mr. FFID's main, his feather blade steak was absolutely gorgeous, rustic looking with the little pieces of baked carrots but deliciously comforting.

I omitted to take a picture of the polenta side which was very smooth and creamy, a pure hug in a bowl.

To follow, I went for something you don't find on all the restaurant menus: the neck and loin of sika deer with beetroot and mushrooms. The loin was nice and pink while the neck was very tender. Overall the dish was pure comfort food.

The champ wasn't a winner for me, maybe a little too bland.

Having said that, the choice of cheese that night was perfect for me and we finished the meal on a cheesy high with the Morbier, a French semi soft cheese from Franche Comté and one of my favourites, Délice de Bourgogne, a triple cream cheese from beautiful Burgundy. The bread was a delight and I believe it's from Le Levain bakery which can be found in Temple Bar Market on Saturdays.

It felt cosy in Etto's buzzing room, the service was down-to-earth and warm and it's definitely the kind of place where you could find yourself chatting with friends while having wine and nibbles and forgetting about the outside world. Also Mr. FFID and I loved hearing music by Nirvana in the background so they definitely won brownie points for that. The food was heart-warming and I can already say that I'd be back for more.

18 Merrion Row
Dublin 2

This is an independent review, I paid for my meal.