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Cellar 22 review: A gorgeous new spot for a casual bite and a glass of wine

A smart casual space where you can graze on very fine food without breaking the bank

Cellar 22
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Address: 22 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, D02 HW54
Telephone: 01 531 2522
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

I don’t know about you, but I had one hell of a year and I am very happy to welcome in 2024. And it’s not going to be with lentils and beans; not just yet.

This year, I’m starting out with a menu which sounds simple, but really is not. In 1975, Shirley Conran famously penned the line “life is too short to stuff a mushroom” in her book Superwoman, unleashing a slew of “Life is too short …” revelations for decades to come from food writers around the world, with terrines inevitably being added to the list.

I can assure you, having put the theory to the test, that life’s actually not that short, and you should consider making a terrine. If you don’t, you should hunt one down.

But that’s easier said than done, because few restaurants have terrines on their menus, which is a little bewildering, as all of the hard work is done in advance and they take little effort to plate up when they are ordered. A good terrine – en croute (with pastry), rustic (with chunky bits), game (with stinky bits) and plain old pâté (like silk charmeuse) – with a nice salad and good bread, is one of the simplest and loveliest lunches you can have, or, indeed the perfect starter to a more substantial meal.

At Cellar 22 in St Stephen’s Green, there’s an all-day menu with three terrines/pâtés on the list. Order the large charcuterie plate (€28), and you will get the whole range (the smaller plate is mostly cured meats). It is a plate for sharing, so go with someone who will appreciate the experience, and be sure to order the bread (€9), a generous selection with smoked butter, Parmesan fondue, and beetroot and dill.

Pâté en croute is a finely ground terrine of pork with foie gras and smoked lardo in crisp savoury pastry, tasting every bit as good as it sounds. There’s a more rustic pâté de campagne with chunky bits of pork, chicken liver and a crunch of hazelnuts; and a gloriously smooth chicken liver pâté that is lavished with butter and brandy. The smoked pig’s head, which has been brined and rolled, cooked slowly overnight, and pressed and cut into paper thin slices has just the slightest nudge of porkiness. Ham hock terrine, set with mustard and ham jelly, is so much better than the quick fire versions that are typically trotted out. There is also venison rillettes, which are quite wonderful, tasting of themselves with a crispy umami shatter of an edge to each strand.

There’s a reason that this charcuterie board is so good. The chef who is heading up the kitchen here – which will soon include the reopening of the magnificent diningroom upstairs that was once home to Cliff Townhouse – is Chris Maguire, who was the head chef at Delahunt, having worked in London at Trinity, The Ledbury, The Square and Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. In fact, you may recognise quite a few of the team, including restaurant manager, Karolina Krzempek, also ex-Delahunt and Victor Nedelea, formerly of Sole restaurant, who is general manager.

The wine list has Nedelea’s imprint. It doesn’t venture into natural wine territory, but there are plenty of quality producers, with a good selection of bottles at entry level and more than 30 by the glass, ranging from €8 to €36 for a Domaine Drouhin Meursault.

Other interesting bites on the menu include a half-dozen Carlingford oysters with an intriguing jalapeño foam (€14), short rib croquettes which are marvellously meaty in a crunchy coating (€12), and Jerusalem artichoke agnolotti with ricotta, tiny cubes of apple and hazelnut (€16), which have a delicious nutty flavour, but the pasta is just a little bit thick.

Dessert is a chocolate mousse with banana ice cream and a crunchy pecan biscuit on top (€12.50), not my first choice as banana is invariably a little confected, but the deconstructed affogato is off when I visit.

If you’re having a Christmas meet-up in January, and would prefer to avoid the tyranny of a three-course menu (life being too short and all that), you may find that Cellar 22 is exactly the place you’ve been looking for. Other dishes on the menu include beef tartare, seabream crudo and southern fried maitake mushroom. It is considerably more luxe than the slightly incongruous beach-vibe of Urchin, the previous inhabitant of this space; and you can while away the hours in a very comfortable booth or indeed, a delightfully louche snug.

Dinner for two with four glasses of wine was €129.50.

The Verdict: 8.5/10 – The perfect casual dining spot

Music: George Benson, Bill Withers, and chilled sounds

Food provenance: Pat McLoughlin’s beef, Glenmar fish, La Rousse, Caterway and Artisan Foods

Vegetarian options: Breads with dips, cheese, Jerusalem artichoke agnolotti.

Wheelchair access: No accessible room or toilet.

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