“Where’s good to eat in Dublin on a Sunday?” is a question that comes up regularly on Twitter. There are a few mainstays, but probably lesser known is Loretta’s in Phibsborough, in the north of the city, which does a ‘sharing Sunday dinner’. There’s no fixed price carryover, no stipulation on how you order, and you don’t even have to share. You could easily drop by, order a few small plates and go home, glad you managed to avoid cooking and washing up on a day off.
This seems to be a popular approach. I spot a bunch of Korean style drumsticks being torn down, good value for €9 (just wish they were outdoors), and next to us is bone marrow wood-grilled is coated in sourdough toast and sprinkled with parsley, a Fergus Henderson classic for €7. But the homemade chicharrones (€6) look like a Sunday snack, perhaps with a beer, or even a Heineken 0.0 (€4.50) for the driver. For the uninitiated, chicharrones are shameless puffs of pork skin that have been turned into a crunchy cloud and really should be shared between more than two, but the guilt is outweighed by the salsa verde sauce, which surely qualifies as one of my five-a-days.
Our next small plate is two stuffed courgette flowers (€10), a dish I’ve seen appear on quite a few menus this summer. In Italy, the flowers of male zucchini are used, which have no attached fruit. Often they are filled with ricotta and mint before being fried in the thinnest layer of batter made from flour and water; sometimes they are not stuffed at all. Here, the flower and the small zucchini are coated in a crisp, golden batter, filled with a light scallop mousse like a soufflé and placed in a puddle of coral-colored scallop mousse. We feel a generous hand with the butter, all very harmonious, with a hint of anise from the velvety green tarragon sauce that encircles the dish. A 175ml glass of Chablis Domaine Servin (€11) washes it all down nicely.
There are quite a few options by the glass on the wine list, which is commendable, although like most restaurants, bottles below €40 are limited. It’s good to see varietals like Cabernet Franc making an appearance, but a pét-nat, the bubbly of the moment, and a few low-intervention bottles wouldn’t get lost in this neighborhood.
We stick to the vegetarian option for one of the bigger plates to share, because many of them – a whole roasted Skeaghanore duck (€75) for example – feel like feeding more than two people . Judging by the bounty of the dish that landed on our table, my guess is probably correct. It’s nicely served – a wooden board with a dish of grilled eggplant on couscous, and smaller bowls of hummus, labneh and salad (€30) – in the center of the table, ready to be served on our piping hot plates. .
The eggplant is hatched and charred, the center is crispy and creamy, and the couscous is very fragrant. What is important. Because couscous is not a cereal or a seed, like rice, quinoa or millet; they’re basically little pearls of semolina or wheat, rolled to form grains, and unless they get a good flavor kick, they can be a little dull. Everything goes well with this couscous: they are large pearls a little al dente, spun with parsley, shallots and red onion, with a hint of grass in olive oil. The hummus is terracotta in color and judging by the slight heatstroke, involves chili peppers. A few carrot or celery sticks to dip in the hummus and labneh would have been nice, maybe instead of the little salad, which isn’t particularly exciting.
We share the dessert, which is more than enough for two. The panna cotta (€9) is served in a shallow crème brûlée type dish, so you can’t put it to the test. But it looks gorgeous, with sliced strawberries and a Thai basil granita adding fruity and floral notes to the rich cream placement.
Everything about Loretta is smart – the room, the service, and the food – and there are plenty of interesting dishes on the Sunday sharing menu. If you want to do the great dishes justice, round up a few buddies; otherwise, skip through the small plates and enjoy an easy Sunday night.
Dinner for two with a glass of wine, non-alcoholic beer and coffee was €73.60.
THE VERDICT A clever menu with lots of tasty dishes.
Facilities Gender neutral, clean and smart cabins.
Music Atmosphere and background.
Origin of food Wright’s of Marino, Pat McLoughlin’s meat, Andarl Farm pork, Larousse and Caterway.
Vegetarian options Limited: zucchini flowers and Padrón peppers in the small plates section, and one dish such as eggplant in the large sharing plates. May be suitable for vegans.
Wheelchair access The room is accessible and there is an accessible toilet.