The Marker opened just in time for our Summer 2013 heatwave, which for a few weeks, transformed Grand Canal Dock into the Riviera. Now, it was a particularly Dublin type of Riviera, with young wans in Penneys bikinis sunbathing on the dock while young fellas took running jumps into the ever so slightly polluted waters below. But still, it was Scorchio, and we were happy.
In those heady few weeks where the country threw caution to the wind and went for al fresco after work drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes even lunchtime, the shiny icon of this heatwave was the new Marker Hotel’s rooftop bar. I’m one of those so-called “Dublin’s Silicon Docks” workers, so I joined my colleagues on several occasions to beat an after-work path down to The Marker, where we grabbed coveted rooftop seats and sipped €13.50 cocktails until the sun went in and we remembered there was a recession on.
So I knew the cocktails were good, but it wasn’t until December and the occasion of our annual “Lovely Ladies Liquid Lunch – Christmas Edition” that I got the chance to sample the food at The Marker for the first time.
Originally aiming for lunch, the lovely Jill, bravely co-ordinating the diaries of ten busy women and finding a suitable venue, was told by The Marker that they didn’t do lunch during December, so we decided on an early dinner instead and booked a 5pm table.
There’s no separate restaurant as such, with the bar, reception area and Brasserie all running along the front of the hotel. You eat behind the glass windows that make up the outer wall, looking onto (at best) Grand Canal Square and the water beyond, or (at worst) straight into the side of the Grand Canal – sorry, Bord Gais Energy – theatre. It’s an ultra-modern, airy space, living up to The Marker’s “design hotel” credentials, and having seen it in daytime, I wondered if it would feel a bit cold and empty to eat there in the evening. But it was busy on the night we visited, with low lighting and the buzz of chatter warming up the space. Our long table was perfectly positioned in the middle of the room for us to be able to chat, laugh, exchange Christmas gifts and move around without being “that annoying table.”
Given the early hour of the evening, we ordered from the pre-theatre menu, which reading it today looks largely unchanged from when we visited before Christmas – this is no bad thing. At €25 for two courses or €29 for three, this menu grabbed my attention straight away and had us all feeling excited about what was to come.
Although I was tempted by all of the starters, I went for the beetroot-cured Clare Island salmon, with horseradish cream, brown bread crumble and lemon puree. The salmon, when it arrived, was cured like sashimi, and had taken on the bright pink colour of the beetroot. It looked stunning on the plate, and combined with tiny tastes of horseradish and lemon, scattered with crunchy caramelised brown bread “crumble,” it had me declaring it was “one of the best things I’ve ever eaten” after just a few forkfuls. Really that good.
Off to a great start then, and our main courses did not disappoint. My pan-roasted sea trout, sitting in a light mussel chowder and topped with a crisp onion bhaji, had me raving about it all over again. Other main courses sampled “in the interests of research” were a delicious rump of roast lamb, and the roast Monaghan chicken breast in a puy lentil stew with Serrano crisps. All were excellent and meant we were a very happy table of ladies before we’d even clapped eyes on the dessert menu.
Full of good cheer/a few bottles of Picpoul de Pinet, we decided “Sure it’s Christmas!” and instigated a no-sharing rule on the dessert front. I had a very good creme brulee, warm and crunchy in a shallow dish and topped with mulled pears and raspberries. However, my enjoyment of this lovely dessert was tainted by the food envy created by Miriam’s chocolate mousse with cinnamon doughnuts, which was distracting me from across the table.
This was the star dessert for any chocolate lover – a generous blob of dense, slightly bitter chocolate mousse perfectly offset by the sugary cinnamon doughnuts, and even better when accompanied by an espresso. It was the kind of dessert you’d come back for.
The only downside of the evening for me was the service, which I’d heard a few grumbles about prior to visiting. Now, it was totally quick and professional, but also totally lacking in warmth and there was very little engagement from our waitress in terms of food or wine recommendations. In their favour, they didn’t rush us from our table which can often be the kicker about early bird or pre-theatre dinners, as the restaurant had emptied out a lot by the time we finished up.
So, even if the musical fare on offer at the Grand Canal Theatre doesn’t float your boat, don’t let that stop you trying out this “pre-theatre” grub, which is great value for the standard of food on offer. It’s a new part of town for most people, so it’s a good option if you feel like a change of scene for your evening out, and you can hop in a taxi into town afterwards or go for a glass of wine next door in Ely HQ.
I also like the sound of The Marker’s “Le Drunch” at the weekend, which sounds like the makings of a fun afternoon, despite its slightly pretentious name. One for after the January detox, perhaps.