We have been to Locks a couple of times previously but before they were awarded their Michelin star so we were eager to try it out and see what all the buzz was about now.
On arrival, we were brought up the stairs (I actually hadn’t been aware there was an upstairs until that point) and seated. Very quickly we realized we did not want to be upstairs in this very small room with a handful of tables. It felt removed from the restaurant and like we were part of the other tables there like one big group as you could hear everything everyone was saying to each other, not ideal… We asked could we be reseated downstairs where there was more atmosphere. They were accommodating though and a few minutes later we started again.
Locks has a lovely situation on the canal, on a quiet street… and inside the ambiance is quite relaxed and casual. At one end of the ground floor is the bar and beyond that the kitchen and chefs at work. The dining room area is small enough and quite cramped, generally the tables for 2 are very close to the next table, not my favourite thing. I love space in a restaurant – a premium commodity I know! Oddly too, here the tables are longer than wide, meaning you are nearer the person at the next table beside you that the person you are dining with…
As we were celebrating our anniversary, we were going for the full a la carte menu, rather than the very good value seasonal market menu (€25 for 2 courses, but choice is limited on this menu) which was also available. The menu is what would probably be considered ‘Modern Irish’ for the most part with influences from lots of different cuisines such as French and Japanese. I liked the menu and the choice, not too short, not too long – about 6 starters, 6 mains and sides. Speaking of sides, the tempura courgettes, oh my… will come back to those!
I started with asparagus, in season at the time and really tasty, stylishly presented on a wooden board. For mains, I chose the lamb with a summer cassoulet; it didn’t wow, not very flavoursome, a little bland really. Luckily I had those tempura courgettes on the side, simply divine. The lightest batter, full of flavour, dipped in bearnaise sauce which they are served with. We both loved the courgettes and my husband would not be a big courgette fan at the best of times. He enjoyed a starter of fish in a light broth, followed by the Rib Eye Steak (he cannot resist a rib eye if its on a menu!). Everything we ate was nice, not amazing blow your socks off gorgeous but nice… well presented too.
I’m glad to see Michelin moving away from the traditional in Dublin; a Michelin star restaurant doesn’t have to be formal, white tablecloths, silver service… like in plenty of other cities there is variety in Michelin stars and it shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach. However, I’m not sure I fully see the reason Locks was awarded a star. I know the whole Michelin Star thing is a dangerous area – lots of people, restaurant critics, restaurant goers, bloggers, have mixed feelings on the transparency or otherwise of the process. While I’m exceptionally happy to see more stars for restaurants in Ireland, and for different types of restaurants, in the case of Locks, there are other places I’d rather go, both Michelin and not, in Dublin. I’m not sure I would revisit…actually maybe I would, for the tempura courgettes!
Locks Brasserie, 1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, Dublin 8 Tel: 01 420 0555