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Table 45 review: Bar off Merrion Square transformed into new tapas restaurant full of home-made warmth

The light-filled front bar with a Chilean-influenced tapas restaurant at the back, sits in the former premises of The Square Ball bar

Table 45
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Address: 45 Hogan Pl, Dublin 2, D02 RF34
Telephone: 083 041 4515
Cuisine: Spanish and South American
Cost: €€€

There is much talk about the housing crisis, but few go to the lengths that Daniel Kavanagh and Daniel Rivera did to ensure that they could stay in their apartment. The couple have been married for five years, and the apartment above The Square Ball, a sports bar in Hogan Place near Merrion Square, had been home to them and their three-year-old Labrador, Ella, for the past eight years. They had been living there so long that the staff in the bar downstairs called the dinner table in their apartment “table 45″ as friends and neighbours ordered food and drinks from the bar before popping up to visit them.

Hearing that the crew from the bar were packing up shop, they were faced with a choice – either move out with them or take over the lease for the whole building. They got right to it, stripping off the old plaster to reveal gnarly stone walls and brick window frames, and ripping up the AstroTurf to replace it with a wooden floor. They finished off the refurb with eclectic pieces of Spanish and South American art and a collection of plants from their apartment upstairs.

Within two months they had transformed the bar – where board games, bingo, quiz nights, hot wing eating challenges and bottomless brunches were de rigueur – to Table 45, a light-filled front bar with a tapas restaurant and a semi-open kitchen at the back.

Neither of the two Dans (as everyone calls them) owned a restaurant or pub before, but Rivera has worked in hospitality for more than 20 years, in his native Chile, then New York and Ireland. Kavanagh is an interior designer and accomplished carpenter. He did 90 per cent of the renovation work himself.


Diego, Rivera’s younger brother, fills us in on the intriguing story as we ask how the tapas are likely to land, altogether or as a stream of plates. Ordering a few at a time is the advice, and a plate of charred pimientos de Padron (€8.95) with a good hit of garlic appears shortly after our bottle of Ladres de Romeo Garnacha (€32) is uncorked. The wine list is accessibly priced, if rudimentary, but there’s a nice selection of cocktails (€13), including a very fine pisco sour and a Michelada (like a Bloody Mary made with beer instead of vodka). There are five different types of spritz and beer from the bar.

Chilean cuisine influences the menu, so we follow with a ceviche (€10), small rustic chunks of haddock that have been lightly cured in lemon and tossed with sweet bursts of pomegranate seeds, red onion and coriander.

The empanadas are not uniformly shaped, and somehow, they are all the better for it. It makes them feel wonderfully homemade. They are the work of Luisina Perdomo, a sous chef from Uruguay, their “Empanadera”, who is also responsible for the croquetas and churros on the menu. The empanadas de Pino (€9.50 for two) have the edge on the cheesy ones (€9.50 for two), with olives and chopped boiled egg bringing a depth of flavour to the minced beef filling.

The chorizo (€12) comes in a creamy sauce in an earthenware tapas dish and is a generous portion, certainly enough for two. The tortilla (€8), made with waxy potatoes that hold nicely in the egg omelette, is tasty, if not Uno Mas or Barrafina level, which is perfectly acceptable for the price; and the patatas bravas (€10) are piping hot, laced with mayo and tomato sauce. We finish with nicely made churros (€8) with chocolate and dulce de leche dips.

The tapas at Table 45 are all cooked to order, nothing is sitting around waiting to be reheated, and that counts for a lot. But sometimes it’s the unquantifiable that makes a restaurant truly special. The Dans see Table 45 as an extension of their own home. They have a puppies club, the Merrion Square puppies, which is a group of neighbours who love dogs and getting together. They hold paw parades (I know!), and invite the community to come in and use their place as a co-working space during the day.

It is a restaurant that exudes warmth and is such a wonderful place to visit.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €106.95.

THE VERDICT A new tapas restaurant that exudes warmth.

Music Jungle, Parcels, Free Nationals and relaxed modern funk

Food provenance Kish Fish, Doyle’s meat and vegetables

Vegetarian options Cheese empanadas, croquetas, tortilla and many vegan options including lemon cured chestnut mushrooms with diced courgette

Wheelchair access Accessible room. They have an arrangement where diners can use the accessible toilet in Musashi next door.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

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