Subscriber OnlyRestaurants

Flaneur review: This Dublin bistro will not win any prizes for sophistication - but it is affordable and tasty

This restaurant doesn’t set out to wow you, but stick with the cheaper dishes and you won’t go wrong

    
Address: 221-223 Rathmines Road Lower, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Telephone: N/A
Cuisine: French
Cost: €€

It’s a slightly awkward room which could be best described as the nose of the cheese, the pointy end of the wedge which should be left intact (cut along the length instead). It has been separated from Sprezzatura, the affordable pasta joint in Rathmines, perhaps for structural reasons? The last time I visited, it was Spatched, a sadly short-lived place selling gargantuan and tasty fried chicken burgers.

The banquettes and booths are gone and small round tables are packed into the room like a bunch of round Liquorice Allsorts. Not that they’re colourful – they’re faux marble – there are just a lot of them. It seats 40. It is only a third full when we arrive, so we go for a table with a bit of breathing room, right beside a nice high table for six. If you’re a group of four, you’ll be squidging two of those little tables together. Bon chance.

The high density seating at Flaneur reflects the price point and the name reflects the direction of the food. The owner, Thom Lawson, describes it as being influenced by Paul Bert’s Parisian bistros. Operationally, it is similar to its sister restaurant, Sprezzatura: affordable and tasty, with diners in and out with turnstile efficiency.

There are a handful of tables outside under a blue and white striped awning with heaters, and even though it’s a very busy junction, it’s an interesting place to loiter over a glass of wine with a canine buddy, carrying on the tradition established by Voici beside it. On this basis alone, it is a welcome addition to Rathmines.


Menus are accessed via QR code, but they’re also chalked up on blackboards that hang from the ceiling. The wine (list via QR code only) is mostly wine on tap. The entry level 150ml glass of red is €6.95. We opt for a bottle of El Mozo Tempranillo (€40).

There is no Tête de veau or sole meunière on this menu, but you will find marrow bones with sourdough toast, which have sold out by the time we arrive, steak tartare (€10.95) and scallop gratin (€14.95), which we order.

The tartare is a mound of precisely chopped meat. It is pink and has the appearance of being recently chopped; the egg yolk has been mixed through with capers and it is topped with chives and grains of salt. It is nicely seasoned, with quite a bit of heat coming through. In the gratin dish, three small scallops bask in a creamy sauce that is laden with delicious, melted Kylemore cheese. There is no spoon to mop it up, so be sure to order the Tartine sourdough if you’re having it.

The Skeaghanore duck pithivier (€22.95), one of the more expensive dishes, looks designed for Instagram. It is a mound of golden pastry with a pretty lattice design, though less technical than the typically more intricate pithiviers which are made from puff pastry, with the design scored by knife. I would be fine with this bistro-light approach, but the pastry is a bit tough, and the filling, a mix of duck breast and chopped liver, just tastes a little too livery. Not what everyone would expect, I’d imagine.

Sides need to be ordered, so it’s Wicklow greens (€3.95) with the pithivier, in a dressing that is a shade salty, and standard pommes frites (€3.95) to go with the escalope of pork (€8.95). The breaded escalope is better than the pithivier and a real bargain. Our waiter, friendly and helpful José from El Salvador, encourages us to opt for the blue cheese and leek sauce (€2.95), an excellent recommendation which somehow doesn’t get billed.

For dessert, it’s Ferrero gelato (€5.95), three scoops of fairly standard ice cream, and crème brûlée (€4.95) which would have benefited from a bit more time under the grill to get more of a shatter to the sugar topping.

Flaneur doesn’t set out to wow you with its savoir faire, and it is not looking to win prizes for sophistication. It is geared to the inhabitants of its young cosmopolitan neighbourhood, who are clearly happy to be there, and service is charming.

There are a few couples and a group of girls working through three courses, and a table of foreign students keeping their costs well down with an inexpensive main course and a glass of the house wine. This is perhaps the way to approach things here.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €119.55.

THE VERDICT: Bistro-light with plenty of flavour

Music: Michael McDonald, Jocelyn Brown and 1980s R&B

Food provenance: Andarl Farm, Ballymooney Meats, Glenmar, Ring’s Farm higher-welfare chicken

Vegetarian options: Gnocchi, cassoulet of Garryhinch mushrooms, and eggs and truffle; vegan options include ratatouille and green beans

Wheelchair access: Accessible with accessible toilet

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column