Review: Come for the classics at The Old Spot on Bath Avenue

This is a good spot for hearty pub food, just stick to the old favourites

The Old Spot
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Address: 14 Bath Avenue, Ballsbridge
Telephone: (01) 660 5599
Cuisine: Irish
Cost: €€€

This dish is like a prop forward in a tutu. You have to admire the effort, but they haven’t quite pulled it off. Maybe that’s what you get for ordering such a summery dish in a gastropub where the rib-stickers are spot on.

We’re in The Old Spot on Bath Avenue in Dublin’s Sandymount. It’s a friendly pub stuffed with people on a midweek night. Or is it? If the starter is anything to go by, The Old Spot wants to be a restaurant when it grows up.

My not-quite-there dish is a pea, peach and goat's cheese salad. Peaches are great in California or Spain, preferably from a back garden tree dripping with just-ripe fruit. They reach us in Ireland having been picked when they're still hard as their stones. I've given up buying them, organic or not, having tipped too many rock hard fruits into a bowl to find the next time I check, they've collapsed into a manky mess without seeming to stop at the sweet spot in the middle.

Cooking these stunt fruit (that look good but are pale imitations) is sometimes the answer. Heat can do to their sweetness what the sun would have done given the chance. But even grilling this unripe peach hasn’t sweetened it or given it that pleasantly squishy texture. So, the slices are pale yellow, hard and slightly bitter. The rest of the plate isn’t bad, although some of the fresh peas have been let get too large, so they’ve gone from sweet pops to starchy chews. The goat’s cheese is fine and there are some nicely bitter chicory spears to round it off.


But it’s a different story across the table where they’re doing what they’re bloody good at here. Crispy pork croquettes are note perfect; threads of deeply flavoured pork in a crumb coating with smoked paprika mayo and a gorgeous shaved fennel and rocket salad for some fresh zing.

The decor of The Old Spot is also way more cloth cap and prize fish in glass cases than minimalist clean lines and delicate plates. There are more dusty books and line drawings of men in tall hats than you could shake a vintage walking stick at.

We’re at one of the nicest tables, a corner banquette upholstered in weathered leather as soft and characterful as a cowboy’s chaps. The table top looks like a repurposed cottage door glazed in toffee.

Tonight they’re so busy they’ve run out of a few things, including the samphire for my roast cod main course. Small spears of bright green asparagus are a not-too-shabby substitution. The fish is perfect and the “crushed” potatoes are cooked perfectly, seasoned well, rounding out an excellent summer dish. We order a second starter as another main course. It’s tuna tartare on tostadas, chunks of lightly marinated fish on discs of fried corn crisps. The fish is great, as is the guacamole, but the crisps are stale, back of the cupboard stale. This is a shame as the rest of the dish is ideal bar food. Substitute the stale chips for some crisp lettuce boats and we’d be laughing.

Chocolate mousse and panna cotta are restaurant style presentations and prices, the chocolate exactly what it needs to be. The panna cotta with lemon curd and mascarpone is a dish that’s like slapping a dairy cow on the rump and sending her off on a ramble through a lemon grove.

The gastropub is still something of a rare breed animal in the Irish restaurant field. Sometimes you’re so grateful to find anything edible coming out from a pub kitchen that a place like The Old Spot seems too good to be true.

I’m all for pushing the boat out past burgers and pulled pork to make food a little more ambitious. But dinner here is great when they put down the squeezy bottles and ingredients that are more at home elsewhere. The moral of our meal seems to be that you’ll eat delightfully in the Old Spot if you stick to the classics. Dinner for two with four glasses of wine, sparkling water and tea came to €109.60.

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

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