Belfast Telegraph

Restaurant Review: Sophie's is a rooftop restaurant where the prices are not sky-high

Restaurant review: Sophie's at The Dean 33 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2 Tel: 00353 1 607 8100

Sophie's fills a gap in the Dublin marketplace, offering quality food and a wide range of drinks without the usual extortionate charges

Sophie’s at the Dean on Dublin’s Harcourt Street
Sophie’s at the Dean on Dublin’s Harcourt Street
Joris Minne

By Joris Minne

One of the side effects of the forthcoming Brexit is the growing number of requests I am receiving from readers for restaurant recommendations in Dublin. More and more of you are realising that you can in fact enjoy a decent weekend in the capital these days for the same money it would cost for a fortnight in Los Angeles.

Dublin's restaurant portfolio is very different to Belfast's. There are any amounts of high-end, expense account-only Michelin-starred places which are for the exclusive use of the landed gentry or corporates. And then there are loads of pasta, burger, pizza and other cheaper but trendier and fashionable restaurants which appeal to the younger, poorer set. In between, there was not very much to choose from - until recently.

That Belfast experience of mid-range restaurants, where prices are reasonable, good lunchtime deals are always available and where the quality of the food and service is as good as any you'd get in Michelin Bib Gourmand category (whether they've been officially acknowledged or not), is something which is only beginning to emerge in Dublin.

Now there is Etto, the Greenhouse, Dylan's and the Ivy. But also on the mid-range bistro and brasserie radar are the rooftop restaurants which crown the Dean Hotel and Devlin's in Ranelagh.

Sophie's above the Dean is the kind of place which will appeal to a very broad market. There is a central island cocktail bar, a pizzeria and a proper kitchen. There are booths all around and great views over Dublin city centre. Its spacious dining room, which surrounds that bar, is delightfully old-school, with big windows letting the light flood in during the day. Staff are cool but attentive and friendly and the food is far better than it needs to be in a place like this where, really, you're here to be seen.

But that's the thing. Being in a place to be seen nowadays means you have a certain knowledge of the quality of the food and drink on offer. You're here, therefore not just because it's the coolest place in Dublin, but because the cocktails are actually very good and the food is also excellent.

There are not revolutions under way here, yet there is some excitement in the menu. Burrata comes with chargrilled peaches, red peppers, croutons and a lemon dressing. The zinginess will make your eyes water and you'll feel cleansed from within. A smoked haddock gratin with scallions and gruyere cheese is a great resolution between mountain and sea, where the flavours of the gruyere and the haddock remind you of the best coquille St Jacques you ever had in St Malo. Or Neuchatel.

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Other starters include crispy prawns with green chilli, aioli and mixed leaves; scallops with pancetta lardons, squash puree, black pudding and tear drop peppers; and crab and prawn mayo with lemon chilli, fresh herbs, avocado puree and tomato salsa.

I check the wine list and uncover a rare list all sourced from a vineyard much loved and admired by northern chefs, Chateau La Coste. There are 11 wines, whites, reds and roses of varying quality, but as Dublin restaurant wine prices are so extortionate, the expensive ones here appear reasonable.

Following some very pleasant experiences with white Hungarian dry furmint and the not-too-distant cousin vermentino (last seen in Malta), we head straight to Les Pentes Douces, made with vermentino grapes. As rich and complex as a Burgundy chardonnay, yet fresh and citrus-like, this is a belter at €41.

Mains are dictated by the wine choice, so fish and vegetarian all round for the four of us. Pan-fried sea trout is generous and weighty, and served with peas, spinach, cherry tomato, new potato and some very rich butter sauce. Sea trout is one of my favourites, with the thin layers of flesh falling and slipping away from each other at the touch of the knife and revealing a deep and earthy flavour.

Linguine of prawns passes the teens' close scrutiny. Two crisp-skinned hake fillets with savoy cabbage do the job perfectly and show no hint of over-cooking.

Sophie's is as good for lingering after your dinner, beware. There are soundtracks which the DJ must surely retrieve from some efficient algorithmic detector which quickly identified who is paying and how old they are. And then there are those cocktails and digestives. We'll be back for my birthday soon.

The bill

Scallops......................................... €13.95

Burrata.......................................... €13.95

Crispy prawns............................... €13.95

Gratin............................................. €14.95

Sea trout............................................ €27

Hake fillet x 2..................................... €54

Linguine.............................................. €27

Bottle les Pentes Douces.................. €41

Total:............................................€205.80

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