FOR that special lunch – celebrating a birthday, a long-awaited reunion or even just for the hell of it – L’Gueuleton on Fade Street seems destined to deliver. Its elegant façade, high-ceilinged Frenchified interior and the fragrant hum of good food briefly obliterates the daily grind. The Picky Eater has been known to tuck in until late in the day then repair to Hogan’s or the Market Bar or even upstairs to “the bar with no name” to keep the lunch going.
This time, the outing was preceded by a caution from a former fan: “It’s gone downhill. You have been warned.”
Picky and guest set out, nevertheless, in optimistic fashion. On a sunny autumn day, we opted for al fresco. Several of the half dozen tables were occupied although inside was more sparsely peopled. Situated on a busy city centre street with popular pubs and cafes to the left, right and above, traffic did not distract. Nor, as happens so often elswhere, were we crushed up against the wall or into the chairs of other diners. There was room; the street bustled but gently; we were happy and ready to eat.
The strength of L’Gueuleton’s lunch menu has always been its capacity to cater for all appetites from light to downright healthy – that and the fact that every day it differs slightly. There’s always a surprise: the familiar bowl of juicy olives or anchovies for the one who is waiting! There are simple salads with a twist like strawberries or figs, roast beetroot and truffle oil. The obligatory foie gras. A stylish French sandwich. And more substantial lunches such as grilled hake or roast belly of pork for the more robust. Along with a plentiful wine selection to help it all go down.
Over olives, we quickly settled on our food. I opted for the plat du jour: boeuf bourgignon with mash and a glass of house red (13.90 all in). It looked modest enough on the plate but in the mouth exploded with flavour. I savoured the moment. The meat was deliciously tender and as the little heap lessened, I felt disappointed that it wasn’t getting bigger instead! The wine chimed perfectly. But the mash was fairly nondescript and too pureed for my taste. But in truth, while I’m Irish I’m not a potato devotee – I’m hard to please in that department.
My friend chose a salad: roast beetroot with puy lentils, organic veg with Corleggy goat’s cheese and balsamic dressing (€10.50). No bread arrived. But the beetroot was a treat – moist, earthy and soft to the bite. Lentils, a favourite of hers, were also nicely done – just on the edge of mushy and flavoursome to boot. The organic veg had kept a vestige of crunch and the cheese had added a tang that lifted the meal out of the ordinary. The verdict was tasty and different – but some bread would have made all the difference.
To sweeten us up for what was left of the working day, we had crème brulee with chocolate and pistachios; and a petit gourmand (€5.90)– pistachio macaroon and hazelnut chocolate with coffee (€5.50). Frankly, you can’t go wrong with sugar and chocolate. No complaints there.
Overall? Picky would have missed how quiet L’Gueuleton were it not for the advice. Time was, you couldn’t get in at lunchtime. There are no bookings and I recall arriving almost for breakfast to secure a seat. Not any more.
But for sheer elegance – on the menu, in the surroundings and staff – L’Gueuleton still serves up the feast that is its name and remains one of the best restaurant in Dublin for those wanting something special that won’t break the bank.