What can I say? This restaurant was a fantastic discovery.
A quirky little place I spotted during a should we say less than sensible walk back to my hotel during the Dublin Horse Show, I reckoned that it looked like the kind of place that I would like to take a date.
In a way fate seemed to conspire the following day, I didn't get a date but a couple I am friendly with said that they were going to try it and invited us along, so a table of two became a table of five and the team were more than happy to accommodate.
The decor is the quirky kind of cool that I love, and in the bar made of books I was even able to make a suggestion for a book that would fit perfectly into a gap at the top. Because sometimes you have to be shameless.
The menu is an eclectic blend of French and Irish and at one point I was even tempted to go vegetarian as the options sound so moreish. I didn't though and instead opted to go for Goose Croquettes in an apple and celeriac remoulade followed by a Slow Cooked Lamb Shank with lardons and a potato and bacon strudel. If your mouth isn't watering yet it should be.
As a group we would be known to be big eaters so when it came to ordering additional sides our bubbly server stopped us at two because she would only have to throw them out. And she was right, the portions were incredibly generous which was not something one would normally expect when the food is of such high quality.
They had a good selection of beers available, I was delighted to see my old favourite Erdinger on the list, and the wine list was fantastic (yes, I had a pinot noir, and unfortunately I can't review it because I forgot to take a picture of the label and might have been a little tipsy).
The team were attentive and they were running everything to a T, there was no rush in getting our main course out after the starters, we were allowed time to rest before the main event, they were professional in checking up with us but not so professional that they couldn't have a bit of craic too.
The whole place has a friendly atmosphere in a cosy and quirky setting, with food that I really couldn't rave enough about.
And I didn't even mention my rhubarb and strawberry crumble. Nom.
1st Floor, 10 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
All week 12 - 9.30pm (10pm Fri & Sat, 9pm Sun)
On street, on Herbert Park Road
There is also Club Sixty6 making up the storeys above the Grande Cafe, but I'm not going to review the club here as that is a separate experience.
The National is one of those places that I seem to spend a wee bit too much time in. If I'm about during daylight hours and fancy a light snack I always enjoy a quick bit off the brunch menu, I'm quite a fan of their eggs benedict. That's not to say that the portions are small, the beef brisket hash makes for quite a filling meal and the deluxe sandwiches certainly will not leave you going hungry.
The coffee may not be to everyone's taste as they use quite a bitter bean, but that isn't a criticism, taste is entirely subjective, and whilst I'm personally not fond of bitter coffees (I prefer Columbian) I still regularly enjoy a cappuccino here.
I find that it is a great place to meet with friends for a beer on a Sunday, or a late breakfast after (in most cases for us) ending up in the National on a Saturday night. There is always a good mix of ages on a Saturday night and you can usually find someone to talk rubbish to.
They have a decent selection of craft beers and probably the best spectrum of spirits in Belfast, the National is one of the first bars I can recall having such a large range of vodkas, gins, rums and whiskeys in the city.
There is a very chilled atmosphere on a Sunday, usually with live music in the Cafe or out in the beer garden if it's a nice day.
Whilst I am clearly a fan of the National I do feel that it is now in need of a bit of a revamp, moreso in the beer garden than indoors. The National was one of the first beer gardens in the Cathedral Quarter but with the rise of newer and fresher competition I think that they need to look a rejuvenating the area before they get left behind. I say that with the best of wishes of course.
62 High Street, Belfast BT1 2BE
Monday to Friday, 8.30am - Late, Weekends 9.30am - Late
On street or High Street multistory across the road.