Sandymount has a chequered past when it comes to a solid neighbourhood eatery.
It’s perhaps suffered for proximity to the city centre – when planning a meal out it’s as easy to pop into town, meaning the restaurant scene hasn’t felt as buzzing as it could’ve. The last couple of years have changed that and a solid collection of cafés and restaurants mean there’s been a foodie overhaul in this leafy urban village.
BuJo is the diner-making-a-difference that everyone should make a date with asap. They’re conscientious in their approach to the environment and the panko pickles with sriracha mayo are to-die. Brown’s is a stalwart of breakfast, lunch and dinner and provides a beating heart for the village while the pizza place, Mario’s, has had a recent revamp and its Insta-worthy interiors are a tasty as the grub. Not to be outdone, Dunne & Crescenzi, one of the OGs to set up in Sandymount, has undergone a massive overhaul and is now going by the name Crudo.
The Dunne & Crescenzi flavour of Italy is intact but the new interiors feel fresh and contemporary. Gone are the heavy floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with wine and instead they’ve pared the space back to a bright, minimalist café; smart but casual. White walls and free-standing shelves are stocked with wine, giving more of a sense of space, while plants spill from the shelves.
The lunch menu is compact but indulgent. Five small plates include plenty of reliables, like tomato bruschetta and mozzarella and prosciutto. A salad of hot smoked salmon with ricotta, shaved fennel, apple and trout roe is on offer for anyone looking to wander off the beaten track. The pasta menu promises even tastier forays into adventure; along with the classic lamb ragu and a white truffle gnocchi with brioche pangrattato, there is a divine-sounding plate of linguine with Irish mussels and ‘nduja and a vegan option of yellow courgette spaghetti with pistachio and mint pesto and preserved lemons.
The menu is rounded out by a selection of sandwiches on grilled sourdough, all served with soup. Fillings include a taleggio with caramelised onion and a grilled chicken served with pancetta and confit egg. We opt for the simple plum tomato with buffalo mozzarella on sourdough and the day’s soup, pea and mint, and the lamb ragu, which is too comforting a prospect to resist on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
The sandwich was a masterclass in perfect execution. With such a simple line up of leaves, fresh tomato and mozzarella, there’s absolutely no room or excuse for fudging it and Crudo does not. All the components are excellent quality and the sandwich is well-constructed. Badly built sandwiches are my pet peeve. There’s nothing that riles me more than the arrival of a sandwich that short of dislocating my jaw, I don’t have a hope of eating.
I don’t want an unmanageable sandwich that needs careful dismantling before I can get a bite of it – surely the whole bloody point of the sandwich is that it is a convenient vehicle in which to ferry various disparate ingredients to my mouth. The pea and mint soup is also delicious. Creamy, moreish and well-seasoned, with a zing of spring popping through in the hints of mint.
The ragu is just want we want from this rustic traditional dish. It’s meaty and rich but not too saucy. The lamb just clings to the ribbons of silky pappardelle which retains a pleasant bite. My one reservation is the topping of pickled red peppers which I struggle to make my mind up on. They’re not an unpleasant addition but after a few bites incorporating them, I end up piling them on the side, finding them oddly distracting ultimately.
For dessert, Crudo’s lunch menu keeps it simple – there’s gelato, panna cotta and a tiramisu. We skip the gelato and share the rest. I am a woman who demands a lot of my tiramisu experience. It needs to be unctuous and creamy, boozy but not drenched, and I still like a little texture in the biscuits. The Crudo tiramisu does the business. There’s toasted nuts through the layers which gives a lovely texture and added note of flavour.
While the tiramisu was good, it was the panna cotta that really won the day. The thing with panna cotta – an Italian favourite made by setting sweetened cream with gelatin is that it can so often be over-set and veer into rubbery territory. Thankfully, this panna cotta was on the money – silken and creamy and accompanied by a delicate rhubarb compote perfectly contrasted with a basil jelly and dusted with crushed pistachios and hazelnuts.
With pastas between €14 and €17.50 and small plates from €6.50 to €13, Crudo’s offering is very reasonable, given the care and imagination in the kitchen. The staff are personable but nicely hands off and the mood is relaxed; one could while away the afternoon lingering over impeccable pasta and a bottle from the shelf or equally nab a quick soup and sambo on the hop. Hats off to Crudo, they’ve injected new life in this old favourite and without losing any of the old accomplished touch.
11 Seafort Ave