Fine dining in this city has been swept away over the last five or six years.
Nowadays, it seems, the consumer wants to eat less fussy and more casual. Restaurants are often closer to nightclubs (think 777, Sophies or Opium) and the industry has matured beautifully since the excess and shit food of the Celtic Tiger years.
Still, though, we've struggled for a food identity of our own over the years – and I've often commented that if you were to ask a tourist what our 'local dish' is after a few days in Dublin, they'd probably wager that it was burritos or Thai.
Something is emerging, though – and if you want to know what it looks and tastes like, you need go no further than Locks in Portobello. This is modern Irish cooking; a new type of fine dining that is bang on the money in terms of what consumers are after, given the weight of those extra few euros in their pockets.
I absolutely love the room in Locks and would go as far as saying it is the best in the capital as a space.
Light comes pouring in from everywhere and if you're lucky enough to get a window seat you'll have a gorgeous view of the canal, swans, joggers and dog walkers. It feels like you've escaped the city into a countryside oasis, despite the fact that on 30 yards away on the other side of the canal lies one of the worst traffic spots in Dublin.
We started with a couple of oysters as a little "surprise" course. Big, plump, juicy and served with shallot vinaigrette they were the perfect little treat to start a lunch with.
As our starters arrived I started to understand the level this restaurant was pitching itself at. You can tell just by looking at a plate of food what they are aiming for and this is the very top-end – not in terms of price but in terms of the quality and precision of the cooking.
The fish cakes were incredibly fresh while my chicken terrine was a delight – but what really took my breath away was the crispy chicken skin, which was about 100 times tastier than normal thanks to it's slow caramelisation. Real lip-licking stuff.
Next up was the course I'd lobbied for the second I saw it on the menu.
In fact, lobbying would be a kind way of putting it – because I told Alex, who was eating with me, that this was what we were having and that he was to stop looking at the menu immediately. Chateaubriand is a large piece of fillet served for two, and along with a bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape, would be a strong contender for my final meal on death row.
I've had some pretty good ones over the years but this was on another level.
When the meat was presented at the table there were audible gasps of excitement from us both – and the fact that it was served with slow-cooked short ribs, absolutely perfect sauce bearnaise and onion rings only made the experience better.
And then there were the chips.
At the risk hyperbole, these were the best chips I've ever eaten in my life.
They must have been fried three times, dipped in duck fat and prepared by Gordon Ramsay himself out the back – they really tasted that good. My worship at the church of the humble potato has been a lifelong pursuit, but this took things to another level. A potato miracle.
As the bill came to the table I was surprised to see it came to €97.
Now, nothing annoys me more in life than paying over the odds for really shit food, but then similarly, I have no qualms paying for an experience this good. I know plenty of places where we'd have paid twice that amount for similar food. Sometimes a €97 lunch is a bargain – and this was one such occasion.
I eat out a good 15 times a week and I have absolutely no qualms in saying this is the best meal I've had this year.
Every facet of it was absolutely perfect and it showed me what modern Irish cooking is going to be about. Amazing ingredients, cooked by super talented chefs and served with understated class and excellence.
I'd put Featherblade, Delahunt, Forrest Avenue and Pichet in the same bracket as Locks, all symbolising the new wave of super high-end cooking but done without the pretence of snooty waiters and prices that make you shake your head.
I'll be back on a regular basis. Check it out.