Meringue is having a moment in restaurants. The melt-in-your mouth type you get on a Bird’s lemon meringue pie. You’ll find it torched on baked Alaska or queen of puddings and, now, in the newly opened Lottie’s in Rathmines, it has turned up as île flottante. If you ever manage to snag a reservation at Bouchon Racine in London, you’ll find it’s on the menu there, too, and in Soho’s Quo Vadis. As I said, having a moment.
It’s a sweet ending to a hugely convivial meal in a space that solidly underperformed in its previous incarnation as Lenehan’s. It was here, in the warm summer of 2020 – when outdoor dining was the only option – that I found myself in a bizarre situation. Informed by the manager that the upstairs terrace tables were reserved for “people”, it took some time to assure him that despite appearances, I qualified in that particular category.
It’s wet and rainy when I arrive so there’s no one looking to head up to the fancy terraces, which are closed for now, and as if the building has muscle memory, or maybe I have “cheap seats” emblazoned across my forehead, I find myself trotting through the lovely room to a slightly awkward stretch of two-seater tables opposite the pass. There are seats at the counter for those who like a kitchen view but this bit feels more like a train carriage.
A request to have one of the available tables in the front section was met with a most gracious, “Yes, of course”. I later discover that a pal who is decidedly more Shiv Roy stealth wealth, had a similar round trip before landing a table at the window. So, no insights to impart on the seating policy.
It’s a whole new restaurant, now under the joint ownership of Domini Kemp, and Brian Montague of the Winding Stair restaurant group. A bit of thought has gone into the redesign. There’s a very smart bar, the tables are well spaced and a few high tables break up the space nicely.
The menu is divided into snacks, starters, main courses and desserts. Some of the dishes are predictable, others have a French bistro slant. The head chef, Tudorel Ostache, has significant experience, including Pichet and Mister S. Geoff Graham is a seasoned front-of-house manager.
Big sturdy wine glasses arrive to the table to accompany our Ribera del Duero, Abadia de Acon, 2020 (€40) from a list that has plenty by the glass and quite a few options below €40. It holds up nicely against the robust dishes we’ve ordered.
For starters, we have a terracotta-coloured prawn bisque (€10) that combines sweetness, crustacean depth and a touch of heat and octopus (€13), which has been cooked slowly and finished on the grill so that the tentacles are tender, yet charred. It is served with a dollop of tapenade – they’re not afraid of flavour here – and house-made focaccia (€3) mops it up nicely.
The bavette (€24) is clearly the star of the menu – the fish choice is limited to Norwegian sea-raised trout. It is cooked gloriously, charred with a rare interior, served with a caper sauce that has a nice snap of acidity, garlic butter and Parmesan roast potatoes, which have been crushed so the edges are gnarly. An extra pot of roast potatoes is brought to the table.
We have ordered chips (€5) cooked in beef lard to go with the Andarl Farm pork neck. They are hand-cut and notably good with plenty of crispy shards. The pork has been treated to long slow cooking until the fat is rendered and soft, with a bit of char after being finished on the grill. It is a seriously robust, wintry dish, served with a deep savoury sauce that has been split with sauce vierge.
We finish with the île flottante (€8), a delicious circle of ethereal meringue that is dusted with flaked almonds and clementine zest, floating in a pool of creme anglaise.
Lottie’s feels like the perfect fit for this sizeable Rathmines location. The snacks could be a bit more interesting and I would like to see another fish option – fish and chips perhaps – but on the whole, it is hard to criticise. The pricing is spot on, the cooking is assured and the service is warm and gracious. It is pretty much everything you would want in a neighbourhood restaurant.
Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €123.
The verdict: Bistro food meets affordable prices.
Music: Background music, some jazz, mostly chatter in the room.
Food provenance: Andarl pork, Norwegian trout, North Atlantic langoustines, JJ Young free range chicken, Irish beef, Keelings, La Rousse.
Vegetarian options: Vegetarian gnocchi is available as a starter or main and grilled courgette and cauliflower with romesco and flatbread is a vegan option.
Wheelchair access: Accessible with accessible toilet.