The Winding Stair in Dublin
Three of us had dinner at the Winding Stair on Ormond Quay overlooking the Ha’penny Bridge. It is billed as a modern take on traditional Irish food.
For apps we had Mussels which were good, the Irish charcuterie board with homemade breads, pickles and relish which was interesting but I wouldn't order it again. The Irish homemade bread wasn't interesting. The third I think was a crab mousse or potted. Usually I think the apps are better than the entrees, but here I felt the entrees were better.
For entrees we had the smoked haddock poached in milk with onions, spinach and white cheddar mash which I would go back for, the slow roast pork belly with champ, cider and cinnamon sauce and spiced apple puree was delicious but the portion of which was twice too large, and boiled Irish bacon collar, buttered organic cabbage, mash and parsley sauce. We all tasted each other's entree and all were delicious, but I have to say it was the smoked haddock I'd come back for.
A very cute place, with good food, but no attempt has been made to deaden the sound in the room at all. The result was like being on an active runway.
I would have to say that this was easily one of the best meals I have had in Dublin to date, if not the best. This may be due to my refusal to go anywhere pricy here because it's never good enough to be worth it, but that's another story!
I agree that the entrees were better than the appetizers. I sampled all of the entrees and thought they were all great--I think I would have been happy to have any one of them in front of me. Luckily, though, I ended up with the smoked haddock, which was probably the best. My one complaint was that there were no veggies. There wasn't actually spinach with the meal, just mash with some onions. Like most Irish meals, potatoes were the only kind-of vegetable on the menu. Other than that, though, it was fantastic. I would definitely recommend this for visitors--most "Irish" food is pretty bland to outsiders, but the Winding Stair gave it enough pizazz to make it interesting without stripping it of their Irish roots.
Mixed report on my end. Mostly, the food was very good (with one notable exception). Service was a bit overextended.
We started with appetizers of smoked salmon, served with bubble and squeak (non traditional recipe with all mashed potato, no other discernable veggie), greens and a poached egg; and tomato / leek soup with brown bread.
The smoked salmon appetizer was really quite fantastic. Egg was perfectly poached and just lovely (much better than the eggs I'm used to i NYC, even the free range ones). Greens were very fresh and vivid tasting, though they were a bit tough. Smoked salmon was among the best I can remember having. Bubble and squeak had a nice crust.
My companion's soup, on the other hand, was fairly uninteresting. It would really only have taken a little bit of something -- butter, salt, pepper, perhaps basil -- to transform the dish from a bland, mediocre one to a good one, but as it was, I would give it a pass next time. My companion and I love soda bread, generally, but he had the unfortunate experience of taking a first, bitter bite where the baking soda had not been mixed in properly. Ugh.
I'm sad I didn't have the smoked haddock based on Curmudgeon's report! But my lamb chops were pretty good. Medium rare, very tender, well flavored, if a bit oversalted. They were also extremely fatty, which doesn't bother me, but might bother others. They came with a delicious, layered potatoes casserole prepared with cheese and butter (a bit undersalted, but absolutely forgivable given the high butter content of the dish :) and haricots verts. The haricots verts were, like the greens, very fresh and flavorful, but a little tougher than what I'm used to. Perhaps there just wasn't a lot of rain this year, where these vegetables were grown?
My companion's steak was of excellent quality meat, simply prepared (just flavored with salt, it tasted like), pan fried, rather than grilled or broiled. They came over a bed of home fries (like chopped up steak fries), which were fine, but not really remarkable in any way.
Now, the service... There were three people working the floor, with a great deal of overlap in tables and areas worked. I think this caused some unnecessary delays and a stressed-out staff. (Each person seemed to be watching the entire restaurant.) It took a long time to take our order and a VERY long time to get us our check after the meal, after we'd asked for it. We actually had to get up and chase it down, I think because the woman we'd asked (the manager?) forgot. Some of the feeling of slowness and delay may be a result of cultural differences: We are New Yorkers and used to being able to catch someone's eye for the check when we want it; here, we felt studiously ignored after our meal. But part of it may not have been cultural. The Irish couple next to us also got a bit impatient because of the long wait for their food, and another table of four behind us, also Irish, came in after we did and left before, with seemingly no difficulty.
In any case, the food was good, occasionally great (very similar to Market Table in NYC). If we return, I supposed we'll just have to plan on a much longer meal next time.
We recently went to The Winding Stair with high expectations after reading some great reviews and the fact that it is hard to find good restaurant value in Dublin. Overall, the food was fine, not great. Locally sourced ingredients seem to be the mainstay... The dining room is small and unremarkable, above a book store that is much more interesting than the restaurant. On my next trip to Dublin, I would give it another try to see what all the buzz is about.
Although I agree with your ratio theory, I think the situation in Ireland is a bit different. In my experience of living there for a few years, food is not an Irish priority, and this is reflected. Good food is possible to find, but it's grossly overpriced. The average person is completely happy eating average food. I don't think that's the culture in many other places. I've moved to London since my original post on this thread and I've already eaten better many times over here than in Dublin. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved Dublin, but it's just not a food city.