Never mind the view, look at the value

EATING OUT: Eden is offering a two-course lunch – starter and dessert – for a recession-busting €10

EATING OUT:Eden is offering a two-course lunch – starter and dessert – for a recession-busting €10

IN THE RECENT history of Dublin restaurants Eden in Temple Bar is firmly in the BB (Bellinis and Bonuses) bracket. Barristers, rock stars, PRs and their friends filled its high room with conversation and the clink of glasses. When the sun shone there was no better place to sit outside, watching people lope by. Then the long lunch withered to something eaten over a keyboard, trying not to drop crumbs between the letters.

Next, a huge flaming meteor fell from the sky destroying the lovely square and leaving behind a great big hole. Okay, so there was no meteor strike. But there is a big hole thanks to a plan by Temple Bar Cultural Trust to weather-proof the square by building a retractable canopy.

You could hardly blame Eden’s owner Jay Bourke for wondering when he is going to catch a break. Work started in January and was scheduled to finish in early summer. Then the weather gods gave us the driest April on record, normally a gift to anywhere with tables outside when everyone in Dublin wants to dine or drink outside. And just when the dark clouds came, the whole shebang turned up a Viking settlement and now Meeting House Square has turned into an archaeological dig that will take the rest of the summer.


As a place that used to have a reputation for good but pricey food, Eden is now doing a €10 express lunch, including a great combo that’s so obvious you’d wonder why others haven’t done it: the €10 starter and dessert option. How often do you read menus and find starters and desserts more appealing than the main course? There’s also a two-course lunch for €20.

I’m meeting two friends to try out the lunch options with as many complicated combinations as we can muster. We had made the plans with a table in the sun on the square in mind. The tables are still available, but there’s no sun today. And with the crater beyond I’m not sure how pleasant it could be. Despite it all, the interior of Eden is still a lovely place. It has buckets of watery light. And even though the cascades of greenery above are looking a little dusty, it’s still a well-designed space. “It’s like eating in a swimming pool,” Jeanne says as we admire the mosaic tiles high up on the wall. Without the chlorine and the floating plasters, thankfully.

A resolve not to drink wine quickly crumbles into a “okay-I’ll-have-a-glass” consensus. I blame the conviviality of Eden’s white round tables. Restaurant accountants don’t like generous round tables. They take up too much room and don’t pack-em-in like the square ones can. I like them. We order a glass from the generous list of wines by the glass, of Priorat (€10.50), a Mâcon (€9) and a Picpoul de Pinet (€6)

Round white tables and food served on hot, round, white plates are not all there is to like here. It takes a committed kitchen to put out great food when the tables in front of them remain resolutely empty throughout lunch. But that’s what happens here. My pork belly starter is perfect, a thin slice of rolled pork belly, not too fatty but truly tasty, with a punchy reduced gravy and a parsnip purée. Three tiny breaded things that look like croquet potatoes turn out to be deep-fried garlic cloves. They are fantastic nuggets of flavour that would bring me back again in a heartbeat.

Jeanne’s smokies are excellent, salty chunks of smoked haddock and plump cherry tomatoes all finished with cream and served in a shallow dish. They are a favourite starter, and a food memory she can summon at will. Gerry is having a main course of plaice, which is nicely done and smothered in flash-fried vegetables, all perfectly cooked. Jeanne’s main course of potato cake with fat brown Portobello mushrooms and rocket is also really good.

My cheese plate (which brings my lunch to €12 as there’s a €2 supplement for the cheese) is as generous and well served as I’ve eaten. It includes a tasty hunk of Durrus, some Cashel Blue and Cooleeny, all served room-warm with some gorgeous hand-made Parmesan and sesame seed butter biscuits.

Gerry’s sticky toffee pudding (he’s gone for main and dessert as his two courses) is straight from the comfort school cupboard, with a hot caramel sauce, a generous scoop of ice cream and a clump of burnt sugar that tops it all off with a Gonk’s hairdo (remember those plastic dolls with neon-coloured spikey hair from the 1960s and 1970s?).

There are some casualties of the crash that few mourn. They came, they politely mugged their clientele and when the money tap stopped flowing, they went. Eden always provided good food and some very good times to go with it. With everything that’s been thrown at it, there must be a temptation to dial down the excellence and shovel the cheapest possible food onto plates.

Instead, it has kept up standards and dropped prices. It’s a restaurant whose time came and went and now may be about to come back again. Eden is doing the best lunch at this price you’ll find in the city centre. Avert your gaze from the dig and dig in.

Lunch for three with two bottles of sparkling water, three wines by the glass and coffees came to €93.40


Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, tel: 01-6705372

Music: None the day we were there

Facilities: Unisex and self-contained

Wheelchair access: Yes, but bathrooms upstairs

Food provenance: Not too many names on the menu, but chicken comes from Clonee, Co Meath and beef from Ballon Meats in Co Carlow

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests