Ember: Fancy a trip to Milltown? Because you really should
Milltown isn't exactly the place to be in Dublin. Not in the centre, not in the nice southern suburbs yet, it is located in a bit of a no man's land where you wouldn't go unless you have a purpose. Well, the good news is that now, we do have one, my friends.
Having heard good things about Ember, a new restaurant which opened about a year ago, my mother in law got us a voucher as a lovely birthday present. Intrigued by the appealing early bird offer - 3 courses for 28 euros, Monday to Friday until 7pm - we booked dinner on a nice Friday evening.
The cosy eatery was still really quiet when we arrived around 6.30pm, and we were immediately escorted to our table by the manager. A waiter promptly took over, bringing us a board of warm flatbread with a pesto dip. We decided to accompany this delightful appetiser with a couple of glasses of Portuguese wine.
During our trips to Porto and Lisbon over the summer, I tried to pronounce every Portuguese word with the Portuguese accent. For some reason, when I ordered the wine, the waiter, who happened to be Portuguese, thought I was Portuguese myself. It made me ecstatic and so proud of my incredible language skills, while Damo was shaking his head in a mix of shame and amusement, appaled by the fact that he would have to hear me bragging about my impeccable Portuguese accent until the end of times.
After that funny episode, our waiter brought us two unexpected glasses of rosé Prosecco, which we welcomed cheerfully. Probably a favour reserved to his fellow citizens, who he felt I clearly deserved to be a part of.
The early bird menu, called "Neighbourhood menu", isn't short of appealing options. I started with charred heritage carrots and baby leeks, served with a goat's cheese mousse and hazelnuts. An absolute treat, the freshness of the vegetables was beautifully brought out by the nuttiness of the hazelnuts, creaminess of the cheese and sweetness of some sultanas.
Damien squid and caramelised onion risotto also was a hit. The squid was cooked to perfection, not chewy in the slightest, and the dish overall tasted and looked gorgeous, which isn't a small thing to say about risotto, probably the least Instagram-friendly dish ever.
We then both opted for the pan-fried seared trout, which came with incredibly tasty Jerusalem artichokes, cavalo nero, mussels, herb croquettes and citrus emulsion. Albeit refined in flavours, the dish had a very pleasant comfort feel. While most fish courses often feel lean and slightly bland, this plate felt rich and generous. We both loved it.
At that stage, we were already incredibly satisfied by our meal. We still went for the dessert, because YOLO, and ordered the rhubarb crumble and lemon meringue pie. Both tasted lovely yet were less impressive than the first two courses.
While the restaurant seems to target its neighbours first, with a tempting menu and a casual friendly atmosphere, the quality of the food should attract not only the locals but anyone looking for a great dining experience in Dublin.
It should be said that chef Greg O'Mahoney isn't exactly a newcomer on the Irish food scene, having worked for the likes of L'Ecrivain and Chapter One and opened his own place down in Kerry. He now managed to place Milltown on the Dublin food map, and we will certainly be back, neighbours or not.