The Pig’s Ear has quietly built its reputation as one of the city’s top restaurants, picking up a Bib Gourmand along the way, but it had been several years since we’d eaten there. I remember being impressed by the food and less impressed by being served some of it on slates, a trend in Dublin that thankfully appears to have disappeared now.
Either way, we were overdue another visit and my wife’s birthday was a great opportunity because so few places are open in the week after Christmas. Unsurprisingly, the dining room was almost full when we arrived and the atmosphere was far more akin to the run-up to Christmas than the inevitable hangover that follows.
The cooking here is often described as honest and simple, in fact, the website brands it ‘no frills’ but I think it’s being a bit too modest. There’s lots of invention and panache on display and no shortage of technique: a slab of pork belly with a toasted oat crust, creamy spelt risotto and a cider caramel is anything but simple and all the better for it. The presentation too has clearly received a lot of attention and one of the reasons I booked was because of the beautiful plating I was seeing on Twitter.
There’s two huge tranches of cod with a pair of crisped chicken wings (a combination declared random by the table seated next to us, when it is anything but) sitting on a bed of brandade and chunks of salt-baked celeriac; the sauce of browned butter flecked with chopped hazelnuts giving some welcome texture. It looks effortless on the plate but it’s a complex process to get all those elements to balance together in a cohesive way. A dessert of buttermilk custard and elderflower jelly doesn’t quite match the standard of what came before but the brown bread ice-cream with homemade honeycomb is outstanding. The ice-cream actually comes out with a little birthday candle on it for my wife, a very nice touch.
Of course, while it’s clear those in the kitchen really know what they’re doing, it would all be for nothing if the ingredients weren’t of comparable quality: a quick scan of some of the producers listed on the menu tells you you’re in a restaurant that cares deeply about sourcing .This is confident, modern, Irish cuisine at its best and it’s a simple as that.