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Bootleg review: Fresh and vibey new restaurant in a former Starbucks

Some of Dublin’s top restaurateurs join forces in new Drury Street venture

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Address: 56 Drury Street, Dublin 2
Telephone: N/A
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

I hate mission statements – yes, the restaurant world has them too – and save me from pillars, (a clutch of mission statements that refuse to be condensed into one garbage-filled line), even when they are subtly deployed under a heading like “Our Heritage”. “Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better.” No prizes for guessing what Seattle-based behemoth this is.

“Drink Dance Dine” sounds a bit more like my sort of vibe, although I soon learn that Bootleg, the new wine bar on Drury Street, Dublin 2, does indeed come with a banging sound system, albeit a VOID Air Vantage system with excellent tunes.

Bootleg was previously home to a Starbucks coffee shop, and it has been refurbished with a “tear down that wall” enthusiasm by a group of Dublin restaurateurs. Robert Hayes (of Big Fan) jokes that he is “doing the lord’s work”. He and his business partners, Alex Zhang (also of Big Fan), Geoff Nordell (of Bow Lane) and Thom Lawson (of Sprezzatura), are on a mission to redevelop it into “something good for the people of Dublin”. Recycled panels from the Starbucks fit-out have been used for the bar front, the high-top tables and the DJ booth.

Large windows provide a view out on to Fade Street, while inside, it is no accident that the floor is Campari red. Cocktails are big – there are 12 variations on the classic Negroni, an impressive selection of spritzes, and more are planned. Gildas, the quintessential wine bar bite, come in eight variations, at €2 for one or €17 for a half-dozen.

Whiplash beer is on tap, and the wine list has some interesting bottles, including a pet nat (a natural sparkling wine), and wines from Raj Parr and Pax in California. You could splash out on a Domaine Rapet Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru for €420, or stay in the shallow end, as I do with Uva Non Grata, a fruity Beaujolais (€39). There are also seven non-alcoholic options.

For the dine element, there is a touch of the creativity you would expect from Zhang, the executive chef behind the clever plates in Big Fan. Wei Cai, who worked with him there, is the head chef.

From the snacks section, the flatbread with muhammara, garlic scape chimichurri and tapenade offers a lot of eating for €8, the hot crisp bread being ideal for loading up the spicy dips. There is a smoky chilli kick to the muhammara, the garlic scape chimichurri has a citrus freshness, and the tapenade is brown and earthy.

The plancha is where most of the action happens, and although we have ordered all our dishes at the one time, they come in a steady stream without any pile up. The land and sea sliders (€17) are particularly good, and come in two mini brioche buns. One has a prawn that has been deep-fried in batter and popped on top of a shiso leaf, adding a spicy floral note; the other is a Wagyu beef smash burger, deliciously succulent and beefy, with a char to the edges.

Harissa swordfish skewers (€14) have chunks of charred fish, slightly rare in the middle, served with a zingy mojito yoghurt, the harissa bringing a bit of heat and the yoghurt a cooling element. Small prawns (€13), are served in the bubbling heat of a sauce with lemon grass, chillies and bottarga. Gilda olive oil fries (€9) are crispy, although probably better in concept than execution, the small bits of anchovies and cold olives somehow sit quite separately; maybe a sauce drizzled over would be better.

Our final dish (because we discover there is no dessert), is a sizeable picanha, with salt egg yolk, and bone marrow Cafe de Paris. It is the one misstep of the evening. It is not properly charred on the outside, so the fat has not rendered, and a few slices in, the middle is actually cold. The meat is in no position to allow the liquid egg yolk to coat it like a sauce. It is, I would imagine, a teething problem. The menu had just gone up a few days earlier, so I would not use it as a yardstick to judge the restaurant.

Bootleg feels fresh and vibey and I am in no doubt that it is going to be hugely popular. It is as handy for quick bite as it is for a meal, but with the music doing its mightiest at a similar level to 777 on nearby George’s Street, it may not be for everyone.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €114.

The verdict: Fun, tasty food in a vibey restaurant.

Music: A great play list played at Croke Park volume levels.

Food provenance: Kish Fish, John Stone, Manor Farm, Gubeen Smokehouse, Garryhinch and Keoghs Farm.

Vegetarian options: Corn pancake with muhammara, grilled halloumi, flatbread with dips, salt and chilli Garryhinch lion’s mane, oat milk and sourdough bliss (vegan) and house salad.

Wheelchair access: Fully accessible with accessible toilet.

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