The Pig’s Ear – Dublin, Ireland

Can you book? Yes
Food: 9/10
Atmosphere: 10/10
Price paid per person: €50

Once you’ve drunk all the Guinness you can handle and downed so many taster shots of Jameson whiskey that you can’t tell the difference between an 18 year old vintage and a young American, it’s time to sober up with some good quality Irish fare. Great quality in the case of The Pig’s Ear.

After eating there I discovered The Pig’s Ear was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2009 and retained it since. This is unsurprising. The food on the whole was excellent, and in the rare cases it wasn’t, I applauded the chef’s creativity.

The location is in an affluent part of Dublin (opposite Trinity College), but all you can see from the street is some steps leading up to a door. There is nothing enticing, no French-bistro style curtains shielding those sitting next to the window from fishbowl-esque street view but hiding just enough to fuel curiosity. Once you walk up the stairs though it’s a different story. The first floor dining room seats 48, with tables situated close together making it a pleasantly cosy room. Decor is modern and simple. Service is first-rate; efficient and friendly. So is the cutlery:

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Starters were a salad of Jerusalem artichokes, smoked gubbeen (a locally made cheese), pear and nut brown butter, and crab with trout caviar, buttermilk curd, carrot and tarragon. Both were presented well. With several important components, it was important to get the full spectrum of ingredients in each mouthful to honour the chef’s intentions.

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Mains were wild Irish game venison with roast onion, red berries, toasted quinoa and truffle, and roast cod with dillisk (a type of seaweed), cabbage, almonds and dill and cider sauce. The venison was an attractive dish, almost regal. I imagine Henry VIII’s Christmas dinner looked very similar. Again I worked hard to include each part of the dish in every mouthful and it really paid off, for each bite of meat and onion combined with a burst red berry was like a little explosion of joy. The cod was simpler but just as enjoyable.

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Dessert was where I awarded most of my creativity points. We had brown bread ice cream (yes, you heard me correctly), and a “black forest” milk jam. I won’t accuse the ice cream of not being made with brown bread, and yes there was thinly sliced crispy brown toast on the plate, but I struggled to taste it in the ice cream. For me it was more like vanilla that once had a very brief fling with some brown bread. The “black forest” milk jam was frankly quite confusing. I was expecting chocolate (note the dessert was described as chocolate and hazelnuts, kirsch cherry and blackberry) but found only a hint of it and the cherries were facetiously drenched in liqueur. It was like being on a treasure hunt and obstacle course at the same time. Furthermore the dark colour and great depth of the bowl made it difficult to see what I was eating. A lighter and shallower bowl, less liqueur, more chocolate and something with a crunchy texture for variation could fix it in my opinion.

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The Pig’s Ear thinks long and hard about how to surprise you, serves excellent food, with an atmosphere and service to match. Very highly recommended.

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