Ireland isn’t a cheap country to visit. When we met K’s Irish second cousins for the first time, we spent some time talking about travel and one of them said, “When you’re Irish, everywhere else is cheap for you!” There’s definitely some truth to that – however if you’re a bit clever in planning your days out, you can still dine out on a budget. Many cafes will do a sandwich and a drink for a fiver at lunch and pubs will do a 10 Euro lunch deal. Some greasy spoon diners will even do a 6 Euro full Irish breakfast if you want to go out for brunch, and many places will do early bird specials (dine before 6pm for half the price!).
Other places will offer set dinner deals, and the cosy PHX Bistro is one example. We went there for dinner on our first night and took advantage of their dinner deal – two courses for 20.95 Euro, or three courses for 23.95 Euro. You’re not limited in your menu choices either, as you pick each course from their regular a la carte menu. Some dishes will incur an additional charge (steak for example), but otherwise, you’re saving at least 5-10 Euro per person, depending on what you choose.
K chose the Starter special of the day, a Pork Rillette. He’d been missing eating processed meats since his gout diagnosis – no more prosciutto, pates or salamis for him! A rillette was a nice compromise, salted well and cooked slowly but without all the bas stuff that goes into more processed smoked meats. This dish was well thought out, with a strong porky paste, a sweeter onion puree and crunchy walnuts for texture, all spread on top of aromatic truffle-infused sourdough toast.
I chose the Soup special of the day as my starter, a Creamy Roasted Garlic and Potato soup served with home-made Guinness bread on the side. What I liked about this soup was the fact that the creaminess didn’t actually seem to come from the use of dairy – it came almost entirely from the potato itself, as the starchiness had already helped to thicken up the soup. I loved the healthy use of garlic as well, which just made the soup really fragrant. The perfect meal for a cold Irish winter’s night.
The best part of my meal was the home-made Guinness bread though – rich, tasty and yeasty without being overly beery. This is something I’d like to try making at home…which excited K when I mentioned it, as it will naturally mean buying a six pack or more of Guinness which he loves!
For his main K had the Duck Confit, served with a beetroot potato gratin and cabbage on the side. The cherry jus served with the meal was a particularly nice touch, as the strong fruity jus went well not only with the drier duckmeat and crispy duck skin, but also with the sweeter potato gratin and the wilted cabbage. It’s a dish where all the elements work together well, creating a hearty and satisfying meal.
My main was the Baked Irish Hake, served with potatoes, green beans and a delicious citrus cream. I really enjoyed my dish, especially with the citrus cream which went particularly well with the creamy white flesh of the baked hake fillet. With the crispiest potatoes and fresh green beans, the fish was really topped off with the fragrant herb crumbs. A simple dish that could be recreated at home for a healthy and balanced dinner.
To finish off our meal, K ordered a cleansing Green Tea – nothing too special, though it was nice to see that PHX Bistro care enough about good tea to offer proper tea leaves instead of a tea bag. Some places don’t even go to those lengths!
As we were quite full from our starters and mains already, we chose to share a dessert rather than ordering one each – a Spiced Pear and Wild Berry Crumble topped with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream. For future reference, pear and berries are a fantastic combination, with the sweetness of the pear helping to counter the tartness of the berries – and the great mixed nut and oat crumble really rounded it off, adding both texture and flavour.
After we finished our meal, I remarked to K that it was a simple meal. He disagreed, until I explained that I meant no disrespect by calling it simple. On the contrary, I think any restaurant that can serve up simple classics like duck confit and baked fish in a satisfying and satiating dish where all the elements work well together is harder to find than most people would think. PHX Bistro is definitely one of those restaurants – they’re not hitting it out of the park with innovative uses of seaweed foam or freeze-dried rare jungle moss, but they are serving up delicious classic dishes at a great price. Well worth a visit.
PHX Bistro is located at 12 Ellis Quay, Dublin.