The Clarence Hotel, 6-8 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2.
Tel: +353 1 670 7766. Fax: +353 1 670 7800. Closed: Lunch on Saturday and Sunday. „
On arrival at The Clarence Hotel in Dublin you are presented with a fairly unassuming but classic hotel which sits on the river Liffey near Temple Bar. The Clarence is a former run down hotel which was bought by Ireland's most famous export - U2. They renovated the hotel and it is now one of Dublins premier boutique hotels.
On entry to the hotel the concierge showed us to the restaurant which sits at the back of the hotel. We later realised there is a back entrance which leads directly to the resturant and to the bars and clubs of Temple Bar. After being greeted and having our coats, scarves, unbrellas and various other layers removed (it was raining and cold!) we were shown to our table.
The dining room is a large long room with fairly sparse decor. The theme is a shaker-style with oak flooring, bannisters and a mezzanine level. Table clothes are white and the glasses are blue giving a lovely simple effect.
On being seated the waiter explained the various menus - the a la carte menu and the 'Market Menu' which is three starters, mains and desserts which are priced at 26 euros for two courses or 34 euros for 3 courses. As we had booked through toptable.co.uk we were also offered a special offer with a free glass of champagne (19.50 on the menu!) and 2 for 1 on main courses from the a la carte menu provided we ordered three courses each. After some deliberation we decided to go for the a la carte menu (the champagne swung it!) and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvingon at 26 euro -the cheapest on the menu.
The bread which was provided as we waited for our starters was utterly delicious. A selection of mini homemade breads, with Irish butter and a pot of the most wonderful pesto I have ever tasted, more than satisfied our rumbling tummies as we waited. The champagne was fantastic -excellent quality and all in all an excellent start to the meal. As we had ordered from the a la carte menu we were also presented with small 'amuse bouche' (I think that's how you spell it!) which are tiny little examples of the chef's skill. We had tiny shot glasses of warm asparagus soup and a wonderful tomato creme brulee - which sounds vile but was out of this world.
For starters we chose tempura oysters with parma ham, and crab ravioli with fennel salad. Both wonderful. After a short wait our mains arrived -monkfish on a bed of crushed potatoes for both of us. The monkfish was cooked to perfection, meaty and firm and the crushed potatoes were peppered with crab and flavoured with a fantastic grain mustard.
After mains we decided to get one dessert to share and a cheese board. The dessert was 'Crunch and Roses' - a crunchy praline biscuit with golf leaf, rose ice cream and praline cube. It was overly sweet for us but very interesting flavours. The cheese was 5 types of cheese (not sure what they were as we asked and the waiter did not know!) served with homemade crackers and chutney. All absolutely wonderful.
The bill (including wine, water and a supplement for cheese) came to 117 Euro - thanks to the current exchange rate - just over £100. This is a lot of cash for most of us I realise and this is certainly not something we would do all the time but - wow, The Tea Room at the Clarence was well worth it.
To me £100 is a fair price for a three course meal with wine, not to mention the champagne and extras we received. The service was friendly -not necessarily perfect, it would have been nice to know what cheeses were served and my wine was splashed a few times, but the staff were attentive and polite. The dining room was stylish with tables nicely spaced for privacy. Food was excellent and with the exception of the dessert some of the best meals I have ever tasted. We were made to feel special, we were at no point pressured to leave the table and the central location was perfect for out night out in Temple Bar.
I strongly recommend on any tip to Dublin you try out the Clarence, I can't imagine our holiday would have been so good without it!Thanks Bono!