L’Gueuleton: A much-loved French bistro is bang on the money

€9 is the magic number for a casual bite with friends

    
Address: Fadebrook House, 1 Fade St, Dublin 2
Telephone: 087 939 3608
Cuisine: French
Cost: €€

If you want to meet friends for a drink and would prefer not to throw your €9 at an excuse of a burger, you’d do well to check out the new menu in L’Gueuleton. It’s small plates. Remember them? Okay, they’re still around, but you don’t hear the phrase so much these days.

There was a time when they were the height of cool, inspired by Russell Norman’s Polpo restaurant in Soho, London, which opened in 2008. Based on chicchetti, the Italian version of tapas, the plates piled up in front of the diner at an alarming rate.

In reality, they were often too small to share, and it was a race against time to get through them before everything went cold. Similar places opened and closed in Dublin, with a few survivors, most notably Fade Street Social; but the dining experience now typically integrates these small plates into a broader experience, which you get in the likes of Host, Uno Mas, Variety Jones and Allta.

It is hard to believe that L’Gueuleton predates these trends, opening back in 2004. After getting a lockdown facelift, it now looks smarter than ever. The room has been opened up, the floors have been sanded, fixtures have been updated and there are additional tables in the smart outside seating area, with plans to use the No Name terrace upstairs for food as well.


Since reopening in late August, the menu has changed to feature mostly small plates, with a few larger stalwarts, including steak frites (€17.50). This is not a reinvention, it is more a coming up for air, testing the temperature and going with what feels right for now.

With a view to checking out the cheapest plates – which are actually €8.90, so yes, you’ll have to add their very good fries (€4.50) to get it over the €9 line, or opt for the charcuterie and cheese plate, the only dish that’s exactly €9 – we’re having several dishes, and check that they won’t all turn up at the same time. On this, our waiter is absolutely brilliant. He takes note of the order we would like and there is no sense of being rushed out of the place.

The onion and Gruyère tart comes as advertised: the caramelised onions are sweet, scented with thyme and still hold their shape, the Gruyère delivers the savoury hit, the puff pastry a textural crunch, and the dressing on the lamb’s lettuce salad adds a hit of acidity. As good as it sounds.

The pan-fried mackerel has a perfectly crispy skin, the shaved fennel adds a nice anise note, and the horseradish crème fraîche is revelatory, an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the robust flavours of this oily fish.

L'Gueuleton shows a perceptive understanding of what people want at the moment

We both have a glass of white wine to go with these plates, Picpoul de Pinet L’Etang de Sol (€8.50) and a Rias Baixas Albariño (€9), and follow with two glasses of red from a very short list of 11 wines. Nine of these are offered by the glass, which is good, but the list would benefit from the addition of a few quirky bottles and a Pet Nat.

The confit duck croquettes are more substantial than I expected. There are five of them, crunchy on the outside, light inside, packed with rich flavour and a whisper of star anise. They sit on shredded red cabbage that is sweetened with a date sauce.

The olive-fed pork fillet is cooked “au crepinette”, in caul, to prevent it from drying out, and is sliced on top of a bed of earthy cavolo nero, the ferrous flavours swathed in butter, with dabs of burnt apple purée adding a sweet note.

We share a perfectly made crème brûlée (€9) to finish, which comes with a tart passion fruit ice-cream and two fingers of shortbread.

L’Gueuleton shows a perceptive understanding of what people want at the moment. It’s good, solid and affordable, offering enough different options to make this the perfect place to meet up with your mates for a casual bite and a glass of wine.

Yes, I would love to see a few more interesting wines on that short list, but that really is my only niggle. The room is airy, the service is excellent and the outside area is one of the loveliest in Dublin. Brunch outside at the weekend would be a real treat. L’Gueuleton, the old chestnut, is more relevant than ever.

Dinner for two with fries, one dessert and four glasses of wine was €83.60

  • Verdict Great tasting small plates at a fair price
  • Facilities New, still smelling of fresh paint
  • Food provenance Vegetables from McNally Farm, meat 100 per cent Irish
  • Music Pop, funk, a broad mix, in the background
  • Vegetarian options Just two dishes, and the wonderful frites
  • Wheelchair access Fully accessible, with accessible toilet
Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

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