Some of my fondest memories of meals out with my father involve salt and pepper squid, a Lazy Susan and non-compliant chop-sticks. As a family, we celebrated every special occasion, and quite often the occasion was it was Sunday, with an outing to the Chinese restaurant. Sadly my father’s gone 14 years now, but if he was alive today, this is where I’d take him. We’d ditch our old msg-laden favourites and trade up for a platter of Hon Yu Guozi (poached Chinese dumplings served in hot and spicy chilli oil) followed by Haozan black sole fillets, pan fried with sweet soy sauce and Sichuan pepper, served on pak choi, with a side of fried long beans with minced pork, lashings of fluffy rice and something expensive from Kevin Hui’s extensive wine list. Certainly this slick Sandyford outpost with its polished interior has upped the ante for ethnic eating in Ireland, many hail it as the best Chinese food in Ireland, but I still have a soft spot for the tinkling water feature in Mr Pings in Stillorgan.
The Forum, Ballymoss Road, Dublin 18. (01) 293 5100; china-sichuan.ie.
THE WILD GOOSE GRILL
The combination of a comfy (opulent but understated) interior, stellar wine list and top-notch steak offering makes the Wild Goose Grill a great choice for a dad-date. The place is owned by Kevin McMahon, former manager of Ely wine bar, so to say the man knows a thing or two about wine would be an understatement. His predictably impressive wine list offers an exceptionally good choice at reasonable prices, and includes about two-dozen by the glass. While the menu offers lots of firm favourites such as pan-seared scallops and baked goat’s cheese to start and lots of tasty mains, including fresh, grilled fish to follow. But the most popular choice is almost always one of their three steak options (fillet, ribeye or Cote de Boeuf) served with legendary house Goose Potatoes and a choice of three sauces on the side. They also serve a top notch Sunday lunch.
The Wild Goose Grill, 1st Floor, 1 Sandford Road, Ranelagh , Dublin 6. 01 491 2377; thewildgoosegrill.ie.
I have to include Ananda, not only because it’s my father in law’s favourite place to eat, but because it’s where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have one of the best Indian meals of your life. Inside, the restaurant twinkles with jewel-coloured embellishment and sets the mood perfectly for a fragrant ethnic feast worthy of any Monsoon Wedding moment. On the menu, you can expect to have your tastebuds seriously tantalised with the likes of Jaipuri Raj Kachori (hand rolled wheat bubble filled with crispy lentils, masala, Glenilen yoghurt, vermicelli), followed by blackened Robata-grilled guinea fowl with 24k gold, red bean and aged rice ball, coriander salad. Not a stodgy bhaji in sight, this is Indian cuisine at its finest. Dundrum Shopping Centre, Sandyford Rd, Dundrum. 01 296 0099; anandarestaurant.ie. Former Executive Chef Sunil Ghai has moved on but the place is still great. He has opened his own place which is another brilliant spot to try out if your pop is a spice man.
Why? Because he’s worth it. How many dinners has he bought for you over the years? So spoil him rotten with a blow-out meal at The Greenhouse – and the best bit is you don’t actually have to go completely broke in the process. They offer a terrific-value lunch, at €29 for two-courses or €36 for three. But with their brand new Michelin star twinkling overhead, you better get booking fast to snag a table in this intimate-enough Dawson Street dining room. When you see the magic Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen (formerly of Gregan’s Castle) performs with stellar Irish ingredients you’re sure to be as impressed as the tyre-company-testers were. Dishes such as Iona farm courgette flower, stuffed with chicken and smoked eel and drizzled with carbonara cream followed by Sika deer, Brussel sprouts, chanterelles, potato présse and warm horseradish, take dining to a whole new level of fine. The GreenHouse, Dawson St., Dublin 2. 01 676 7015; thegreenhouserestaurant.ie.
Located in the former vault of a bank on St Stephen’s Green, Peploe’s opulent
(but not stuffy) club-like décor oozes oodles of paterfamilias appeal. Think retro leather chairs, sparkling chandeliers, crisp white tablecloths and a soothing jazz soundtrack, all overseen by nattily dressed waiting staff. On the menu, a deft blend of classic French-inspired dishes, modernised with a light touch, makes for smooth culinary sailing. Possible father-favourites might include the pan-seared scallops with gambas a la pancha, black truffle and cured pork cheek or the seared Magret of duck, foie gras, duck leg croquette and grilled beets. Sunday brunch is a real star here – with low-key, live music encouraging you to settle in for a long, languid afternoon. Divine.
Peploe’s Wine Bistro, 16 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. 01 676 3144; peploes.com.