When I lived in London, my friends and I became certified experts on pre-theatre dining. In searching for restaurants to accompany our “big nights out” on the West End, we had three criteria: the place had to look fancy to match our new Primark cocktail dresses; it had to be unimaginative but decent to suit our many picky eaters; And because we were completely broke, it had to be pretty cheap.
Le Bon Crubeen, by that standard, is the perfect restaurant from pre-theatre dining.
Located on Talbot Street just a few minutes’ walk from both the Abbey and Gate Theatres, Le Bon Crubeen bills itself as a great place for a pre-theatre meal at a good price – and on that promise at least, it delivers.
For my first course, I opted for the menu’s most creative-looking item, crab crème brulee. Paired with a melba toast and served far chunkier than your average crème, it felt more like a fish-flavoured hummus than a crème brulee.
Like my roommate’s goat cheese salad, the crab dish was tasty – as long as you’re certain you like its ingredients.
The fishiness of the crème brulee was pretty relentless, and the “salad” consisted of three massive slices of goat’s cheese with little else on the plate to temper their big flavour. Good dishes, but best for devoted fans of crab or goat’s cheese.
The early bird menu offered six options for the main course, all of them fairly uncreative standards; this was going to be all about execution.
My friend ordered the steak, which came with a béarnaise sauce, a roast tomato, and a side of chips. It was cooked precisely as she’d ordered it, but that was its high point. We both found it unremarkable, especially given the €5 surcharge that accompanied it.
I ordered the confit duck leg and wound up with a meal that could easily have fed three people. The two massive duck legs were overcooked but not bad – and the puy lentils served with it were downright delicious. The three-course dinner off the early bird menu was only €23, and I would happily have paid that for this giant course all by itself.
Le Bon Crubeen has won awards for its value priced food, and this dish showed me why.
The dessert course was my personal favourite of the three. I had an exquisite raspberry bavarois with mango-strawberry salsa and dark chocolate slivers.
My first two courses impressed me with their size for the money but didn’t thrill me with their actual taste; I was happy to log no such complaints with this final course.
My friend’s dessert may have looked for all the world like store-bought cookies and milk, but it was in fact a white chocolate and lime mousse with citrus shortbread – and was quite a tasty end to the meal.
All told, a party of two can come to Le Bon Crubeen and get three courses and a glass of wine each for less than €60. (The two-course option doesn’t even break €20 apiece.) You won’t find any trendy food here, but you won’t find bad food either.
My roommate and I seemed to be the youngest people in the restaurant by about two decades, but the place was packed by 6:15 on a Wednesday. By the time we left a few minutes past seven, we could barely get out the door for the crowd of people at the bar.
Le Bon Crubeen may not cater to the hip young foodie set, but it deserves its large following of people who like good, inexpensive, and classic food.
As advertised, it does seem the perfect option for a nice dinner before catching a show at the Abbey Theatre. Just be sure to arrive early enough to beat the 6 PM rush – and, given the portion sizes in this place, maybe skip lunch.