We had recently booked dinner at Mint in Ranelagh, Dublin to celebrate Anna’s birthday. On the appointed day, we got dressed up in our finest and made our way to the restaurant, looking forward to another great meal from Dylan McGrath’s kitchen. However, when we got there, we found the place closed up, looking normal except closed. After the phone rang out a couple of times, we came to the conclusion that Mint had gone out of business. This is a shame as the food was excellent but the small size of the restaurant probably made it difficult to build up any kind of a cushion when times were good.
However, we were very disappointed that the restaurant had not bothered to phone its customers with reservations to let them know that it was no longer in business. This is only common courtesy and the least that could be expected. In our case, Mint is not too far from where we live, but you could imagine being somewhat riled if you’d driven a couple of hours to get there, or worse still, arranged an overnight stay in Dublin.
So in future, Dylan, show a little more respect for your customers!
In the event, we found a free table in the Wild Goose at the other end of Ranelagh village. This is a nice restaurant with a very good wine list, a lot of which is available by the glass. Although the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prices are still a little out of kilter with the current economic climate, there are very good 2 and 3 course options available on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. We had dry-aged rib eye and rack of lamb for mains and both were excellent, which along with a nice bottle of Zisola from Sicily ensured a good evening was had.
This great salad is based on a North-African recipe presented by Claudia Roden in her book Arabesque. Her version used plain roasted red peppers but I find the flavour of the Piquillo peppers adds a new dimension to the dish. These peppers come from northern Spain and after roasting over a wood fire are peeled and preserved in cans. They have a complex slightly smoky and very slightly spicy flavour. You won’t find them in the supermarket but you should be able to source them from Spanish delis or other specialist food shops. As mentioned above, if you can’t find them, don’t panic, just substitute roasted red peppers. Preserved lemons are used extensively in North-African cuisine and have a very distinctive, but non-lemony, flavour. Try to use capers preserved in salt as these tend to have a better texture than those in brine or vinegar.
Ingredients (per person)
Good olive oil
Flat-leaved parsley Pepper
Open out the piquillo peppers flat and cut into four or so strips. You can save a bit of time by cutting them while they are still whole, but just be careful to remove any rogue seeds. Make sure to keep any juice that is present. Place the peppers along with any captured juice into a bowl. Quarter the preserved lemons and remove the flesh. Cut the remaining skins into small squares. Place the preserved lemon, along with the capers into a sieve and rinse under the cold tap to remove excess salt. Transfer the lemon and capers to the bowl with the peppers.
Add a little olive oil, to ensure the ingredients are nicely coated. The amount will depend on how much juice you got from the peppers, but keep it to the minimum. Season with freshly-ground pepper. You won’t need any salt due the the saltiness of the lemons and capers.
Serve sprinkled with freshly-chopped parsley.