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Allta review: This is going to be my restaurant of the year

Precise, delicious cooking that will surely land a Michelin star next year

Allta
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Address: 1 Three Locks Square, Dublin, D02 A5W7
Telephone: N/A
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

No point in burying the lede here. I’m in heaven. This is going to be my restaurant of the year. I have always loved the food from Niall Davidson, the chef behind Allta, with his Øland sourdough and shiitake miso butter and dishes that are imbued with the mind-altering machinations of miso, koji and lacto ferments.

This time around, in his new restaurant in Dublin’s Capital Dock, he has a custom-built Rhys Allen levitation grill with nine levels, fuelled by she-oak and orange-wood charcoal and a smidgen of apple wood. He describes his newest iteration of Allta as having a “very St John style menu”, referring to Fergus Henderson’s restaurant in London where he worked for a number of years. Certainly, a mention of offal and madeleines on the menu is a bit of a nod, and amazingly, it is not a tasting menu but a graze-as-you-please affair. There is no requirement to eat a plate from each section, or a main course.

The menu is considerably less stark than you would get in St John, as indeed is the room. It has more of the sophisticated air of Kol, Santiago Lastro’s Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant which is one of the hottest in London. Gone are the fleece-strewn benches and clouds of dried foliage. And gone is the Øland sourdough and shiitake miso butter. Davidson is not afraid to kill his darlings. It is now a 40-hour fermented sourdough developed by Seamus Jordan of Plúr Bakery for the micro bakery that will be operating throughout the day.

A menu of snacks, starters, larger sharing plates and desserts presents an ordering dilemma and I make the strategic decision to focus on the larger dishes and those that are cooked on the grill. A snack of mussels on crunchy rösti (€6.50) is a tasty start, followed by a dish that everyone in the room seems to be ordering, a skewer of squid and suckling pig with lardo (€12). Tender pork, charred so that the sweet fat has rendered, is interspersed with squid that has just the right amount of bite, all of it brushed with a charcoal sweep of squid ink, just enough to season it without vying for dominance.

Pasta has always been a strong point in Allta, and the new dish of barbecued rabbit with ricotta cavatelli (€24.80) is quite spectacular. Chunks of gently grilled rabbit sit on top of the small curls of pasta which have been tossed in a most wonderful sauce, which is rich yet well-balanced. It is surrounded with buttermilk cream and dotted with capers and chopped parsley. Every single bit of this dish works beautifully.

And then there’s that grill, which is the perfect piece of kit for barbecuing meat from ex-dairy cows. My benchmark for this is Victor Arguinzoniz of Asador Etxebarri in the Basque countryside of Spain, where chops from 12-year-old Galician Blond ex-dairy cows are a specialty. In Allta, Davidson has sourced six-year-old ex-dairy cows from a Jersey herd and serves an enviable-looking rib chop for two people for €89. We opt for the ex-dairy rump (€34) which is dusted in salt, charred on the outside and cut into slices of rare crimson meat, served with a very good Béarnaise.

We are, of course, drinking red wine with all of this meat, a Douro “Little Odisseia” (€46) from a list that pretty much starts at €40, but offers 16 wines by the glass which is impressive for a one-pager.

Our other large dish is barbecued veal sweetbreads (€34), a true test of skill. A large sweetbread has been lightly charred, sliced on the plate and served with sauerkraut, which brings a fresh kick of acidity. The cooking is precise and the sauce is well-judged. A side of potato cake (€6), crispy rectangular prisms of confit potatoes, works nicely, dusted with thyme, salt and black pepper.

For dessert, the chocolate sabayon tart with cultured cream and whiplash beer caramel (€11), is breathtakingly delicious, a lightly cooked mousse in a delicate pastry case. I seldom order chocolate, but this one is a star. The soft serve vanilla ice-cream (€8.50) with black sesame and a dusting of clementine powder is simpler, but also very tasty.

There are many references you could make for Niall Davidson’s cooking, the purity of St John, or the live fire of Etxebarri, but this is not a magpie approach; it is the resolved vision of someone who has spent many years in the industry. Davidson cooks with skill and precision. Expect Allta to land a Michelin star in 2025.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €185.39.

The Verdict: I love everything about this wonderful restaurant.

Music: Amazing playlist on a Toby Hatchett sound system.

Food provenance: Glenmar and Albatross Seafoods, Woodtown Jersey ex-dairy cows, Wine Tavern Farm Oxford Sandy and Black suckling pigs, Achill Island lamb, McNally Farm, Castleruddery Farm and Riverfield in Callan.

Vegetarian options: Ricotta with beetroot, January King cabbage with Cáis na Tíre, shiitake Bolognese (vegan), Vincent’s salad leaves, and potato cake.

Wheelchair access: Fully accessible, with accessible toilet.

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