Last Monday was my boyfriend’s birthday. So to celebrate, we decided to go for dinner in La Maison, a gorgeous little French restaurant on Castle Market Street right next door to Grogan’s pub. We’d never been there before, it’s one of those places I’ve passed lots of times but had never ventured into. On the trusted recommendation of French Foodie in Dublin, we booked a table. When we arrived, it was quiet and only a few other tables were occupied, but it was a Monday night in the beginning of February so no surprise there.
We were greeted warmly by our lovely French waiter. The restaurant is intimate and cosy, very tastefully decorated in grey blue paint, with lots of vintage prints of French old drinks ads on the walls. The tables had crisp white linen tablecloths and glinting tableware, and one of the bigger tables had a beautiful bouquet in the centre. Each table had a cool tea light lit inside a small white paper bag – don’t ask me how these didn’t catch on fire because they made me very nervous!! I’m clumsy at the best of times but we managed not to set ourselves on fire! Our waiter did look a little worried though.
We were served a little board of crusty baguette and tapenade, which I don’t normally like as I don’t like olives, but it was delicious. I had already looked at the menu online, and French Foodie had recommended we share the Côte de Boeuf and the Tarte Tatin, so that was the plan.
I ordered the rocket and parmesan tart to start, and the boyfriend ordered a selection of patés. We flew through the bread and tapenade so we asked for more bread, but it came at the same time as the starters so we felt a bit greedy!!
The patés came out on a huge trolley. There were four different pates in long Le Creuset type terrines, and my boyfriend’s face when he saw them coming was both amazed and confused. Our waiter explained what each one was and carefully cut a small slice from each, along with some caramelised onions and some pickled vegetables.
My tart was delicious, with roasted courgettes, aubergines and onions on a disk of flaky puff pastry, topped with a salad of rocket and parmesan. It was light and very Provençal! I had a taste of the patés and they were delicious too, although the portion was very generous so he couldn’t finish it all.
After our starters were cleared away, we were given a beautiful palate cleanser – a delicious red wine and berry sorbet or granita. It was tart and refreshing, not to mention gorgeously presented in little glass dishes.
Next came our Côte de Boeuf, which our waiter had recommended we order medium rare. After some initial confusion – he thought we said medium well and was horrified – we settled on medium. When it arrived on a long wooden platter, we saw it was more like medium rare, but we didn’t mind. The meat had been sliced, with the rib bone standing up proudly in the middle. All the meaty juices were soaked up by a thin slice of bread underneath. It was accompanied by a tin of chunky chips and a large side salad of crunchy baby gem dressed in a tasty shallot vinagraitte.
We also had ordered a lovely full bodied Corbières that complimented the meal perfectly.
We managed to get through about half of the meat, so we asked for the rest to be bagged up. It made an excellent steak sandwich two days later, grilled with some toasted Tartine sourdough. After our main course we are pleasantly stuffed, but we just had to order desert! We had planned on ordering the Tarte Tatin, but at this point we were the only customers still there – even though it was only 10pm! So we didn’t have the heart to keep the staff waiting for twenty minutes, which was how long it said it took on the menu.
Instead I ordered the Mont Blanc with meringue, whipped cream, marrons glacé and vanilla ice-cream. It was delicious, except the chestnuts didn’t actually taste sugary but more like the plain vacuum packed ones I buy at Christmas to make stuffing. So not sure what was going on there, but it was still yummy.
The boyfriend ordered the Peach Melba, which I expected to be served hot but it wasn’t. It came out served with an almond frangipane pastry case, and vanilla ice-cream and cream. It was a generous portion and I helped him polish it off!
Overall the portions were very generous, just as they were when we visited Paris this time last year. It makes we wonder just now those French women manage to stay so slim, even having read Mireille Guilano’s book a few years ago.
So to conclude, we had an amazing meal in La Maison. The food was exquisite and the service was excellent. They could do with playing a bit more French jazz or some other classical music though, because when we first sat down they were playing Travis’ Why Does it Always Rain On Me, for some inexplicable reason!! We can’t wait to go back on a busier night and to order the Tarte Tatin.
La Maison would make the perfect place to have that romantic Valentines dinner à deux. They also have an extensive brunch, lunch and set menu, so there are lots of options if you want to try it out on a budget. In fact, I am very tempted to book a table for Valentines Day next Friday night, even though we had planned to stay in and make a special steak dinner. But we shall see….
15 Castlemarket Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 6727258