My job is to find the very best restaurants in the city.
The trendy ones are easy to find because every other reviewer will be there trying to get the scoop, and my inbox will be flooded with press releases or offers of freebies for a good review. Screw that.
Sniffing out the diamonds in the rough is way more challenging though – and it’s the reason for writing here. The places that have been around for a decade like Medina Desi on Mary Street, which I discovered by talking to a taxi driver (an Irishman married to an Indian for a decade).
He promised me that they only decent and authentic curry in the city (Desi means traditional) is on Mary Street. I didn’t really believe him because If I had a penny for every person who’d told me about a good curry in Dublin I’d have enough money to fly to Mumbai for the real thing.
When I talk about finding an amazing curry in Dublin I mean something that you’d find in Brick Lane in London, the curry mile in Manchester or other parts of European cities with large Indian or Pakistani populations.
We have some awesome spots in Dublin like Kinara (Clontarf and Ranelagh) or Rasam – but they’re at the higher end of the market. Curry as a treat. I’ve always wanted one you could go for after 10 pints, for a quick lunch, or after work for something under a tenner.
That box in Ireland is ticked for this market with the takeaway options – plastic containers come out promising the world but containing four chunks of meat, a thick gravy like sauce that has about as much flavour as a wet soggy ashtray and a price tag that’s just insulting.
Walking into Medina, it is… well, unimpressive. But I followed the recommendation, ignored the meals deals for under a tenner and had a bit of everything.
My potato and pea starter was superb, coming at the same time as the Rogan Josh curry, rice, naan bread and can of Coke.
The fact that the curry came in little stainless steel pots with industrial-sized spoons made my eyes light up. It reminded me of the Dabbawala system – and of course, it’s promising to remember that stainless steel can’t go near a microwave, unlike the takeaway versions other places offer.
With little focus on presentation beyond the functional, everything is about the taste in here and they absolutely nail it. The place was set up by three brothers who leaned on their mother’s recipes to feed them and eventually spotted a gap in the market in Dublin for real quality Indian and Pakistani food.
The open kitchen here lets you watch the chef and you can see the passion that goes into the food.
You see him skewering the meat fresh for each curry, gently baking your naan bread and spooning sauces into the little pots with love. My curry took about 20 minutes to come out, which was refreshing; it tells me that, instead of somebody scooping it out of a big pot that’s been simmering for hours, it was being made to order.
Irish people might come down here and be disappointed after reading this review with what they get. We’ve become used to starched linen with our curry, red wine served by waiters and bastardised sauces a million miles away from what they should be – if that’s what you want, stay the hell away from this place. In Madina you’ll get a basic table, no bullshit and just simple, delicious and great authentic dishes.
They’re also affordable, served without fuss and the portions are huge (everybody who was there got the remainder to take away with them and were encouraged to do so by staff).
It’s taken me a bloody long time to find this place but am I glad I kept trying!