The Legal Eagle: Falling in love with pub food
When I have French friends visiting Dublin for the first time, they usually have no idea what to expect when it comes to the food offering in Ireland. Not to sound too French-centred, but their understanding of the Irish food culture tends to stop at Guinness, and sometimes, potatoes.
This is why we always do our upmost to show them how amazing the food scene has become in the Emerald Isle, starting with Dublin. And when you need to showcase the best pub food the city has to offer, you can confidently book a table at The Legal Eagle.
Firstly, they can only be impresssed by the gorgeous setting, they love this feeling of walking into a very old pub but with a modern sleekness to it. When it comes to the menu, they are usually happy to be guided through and to share whatever comes their way. So, I take control and order what I think will surprise them and show them what the Irish are capable of in the kitchen.
This time, we started with the meat platter, which could do nothing but seduce French eaters. In France, we love sharing a cheese or charcuterie board, as a meal or for our beloved apéritif. Many bars all around the country offer one or the other, most of which are delicious. The Legal Eagle's meat platter is by far the most satisfying I have ever had, an unapologetic carnivore's dream.
Comprising of a well-curated selection of cold meats (corned mutton, smoked ham, haslet, Irish pastrami and spiced beef), incredibly tasty homemade pickled eggs (an absolute must-try), mustard pickles and a generous amount of fresh (homemade!) sourdough, it is a perfect shareable food with a group of foodie friends.
On the side, they were happy to discover the homemade stout and treacle brown loaf, a type of bread they would have never heard of in France. The one they make in The Legal Eagle has everything to be loved: a thick crust, a dense texture and this delicious hint of sweetness brought by the stout. With a thick layer of Irish butter, they are in heaven (in this instance, when I say "they", I mean "I").
After this delicious beginning, we introduced them to the Toonsbridge burrata, served here with rhubarb ketchup, fermented horseradish and homemade rye crackers. The Irish can make cheese, we explain to them, and this dish is a tasty proof of it.
The monkfish liver pâté, which comes with ruby grapefruit, seaweed sauerkraut and toasted sourdough, was another success at the table. We all enjoyed the rich fishy taste which gained from the sweetness and slight tartness of the grapefruit.
The Irish potato flatbreads made another great occasion to try some more local cooking creativity.
We devoured the oxtail, turnip, truffle and Toonsbridge mozzarella - and true hit at the table, but we resisted ordering another one and went instead for the smoked salmon, pea purée, trout caviar, Toonsbridge ricotta and poached duck egg.
Peas, eggs and salmon on a pizza, you say? Well, the good thing is, it isn't a pizza, so let's take some welcome licence and enjoy this delicious dish.
As for the desserts, we encouraged them to try the treacle tart with sea salt ice-cream, which didn't necessarily convince them when we tried to describe it - treacle is a pretty obscure ingredient in France, we call it mélasse and no one uses it nowadays except your hippie auntie trying to make some magic love potion.
In this case, the treacle gave a rich caramel taste to the tart, which worked great with the salted ice-cream.
The peanut butter and jam baked Alaska didn't appeal that much either when we described it - the equivalent in France is called omelette norvégienne and hasn’t been ordered in a restaurant since 1970, but again, we all loved the Irish version, especially because the PB&J flavouring made it modern and relevant.
For about €20 per person, this meal turned out to be a stunning display of Irish modern pub food, carefully curated by a talented chef. Truth be told, we can't wait for more friends to visit so we have a good excuse to visit The Legal Eagle - if we needed one.
One tiny thing bothers me though. Both times we went for dinner at The Legal Eagle, both on Saturdays, the place was inexplicably empty. Is it because the Saturday night crowd prefers the swamped streets of the city centre from the quietness of Chancery Place? It is because we came in at 9pm and everyone was already gone? I am not sure, but I truly hope this gem of a place gets the attention it deserves the rest of the week and that it remains open - I still have many friends to impress with fabulous pub food.