What: Slightly upmarket restaurant, famous for its steaks, but with a vegetarian menu.
Prices: Pricey. Vegetarian appetizers are nearly €8, vegetarian main course around €15, desserts €8-€9
Vegetarian menu: Appetizers: Soup of the day €5.50, buffalo mozzarella marinated in white truffle crème fraiche, grilled asparagus, slow roasted tomatoes €7.90, wild mushroom, sun-dried tomato risotto, fresh parmesan €7.80 and more. Main courses: Yellow corn polenta cakes with summer beans, goats cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto €14.50; warm butternut squash salad with chickpeas, boile goats cheese, cumin and tossed salad leaves €15.60; Darwin’s honey & lime tofu steaks are available to pre-order; and some more.
Drinks: Wine list, sparkling water and most other things you might want.
Service: Well above average, but they messed up quite a bit at our table. One member of staff’s English was too poor for adequate service. We had pre-ordered the honey and lime tofu steaks, which we were told in the restaurant are deep-fried. I asked that mine not be deep-fried, while my dining partner stated a preference for deep-fried. When they arrived to the table we were told that both were oven-baked. That is unacceptable, as I pointed out. They did offer to deep-fry it then, but we decided to just eat it. I had to ask the waiter who brought us an open bottle of sparkling water to bring the lid to the table (the lid should be left on the bottle, otherwise the water will go flat). That said, they were good at trying to resolve problems, and when I complained that the tofu steaks were tasteless I was offered the possibility of choosing something else. In my opinion the type of tofu that they use is not suitable for marinating.
Comfortable? Yes. The chairs are comfortable and the table for two was big enough and sturdy. The table mats are made of slate and the napkins are very good quality. It’s nicely decorated, the lighting soft and the music low and unobtrusive. Perhaps the tables are a little too close together, but the overall impression is of an upmarket and comfortable restaurant. However, the evening we ate there was very warm and the main door was jammed open with a chair…a very poor first impression. It was necessary to make one’s way through the people who were seated at the tables outside on the pavement. Some of these people were standing at the door drinking and smoking and thus blocking the door, as though it were a pub and not a restaurant.
Was the food good? I wasn’t overly impressed. The pre-ordered honey and lime tofu steaks were horribly bland…a nice idea that just doesn’t work. They were supposed to be served with mashed potato but for some very bizarre reason the chef sent them out with polenta cakes. Mashed potato was brought to the table when I said that that was what I had actually ordered. The polenta cakes were very good though, and the mash was fine. I absolutely wouldn’t recommend the tofu steaks, though my dining partner had a higher opinion of them. The wine was good.
Toilets: Very nice, clean, good soap. What you would hope for in an expensive restaurant.
My advice to the chef: The vegetarian menu relies too heavily on cheese. I would rethink the whole menu. The tofu steaks, while a nice idea, just don’t work. It would be advisable to find a different tofu, perhaps a firmer one. Another possibility is to inject them with a layer of filling.
My advice to the manager: Not all of the staff speak a sufficient level of English to make ordering easy. Perhaps this is why our order was not cooked according to our request? The tables are packed too closely together. It’s excellent that there is a separate vegetarian menu, but the menu itself could do with an overhaul. Risotto is offered to vegetarians in nearly every restaurant in Dublin and is offered here as both an appetizer and a main course. Why offer the same thing as everybody else?
Also, it’s really annoying that your website reads: “Darwins restaurant offers contemporary international cuisine with an extensive menu catering for ‘carnivorous and vegetarian’ diners.” Carnivorous diners? You cater for people who eat only meat? I think you mean “omnivore.” Restaurateurs, at least, should be getting this right. Also, there is misuse of capital letters on the menu, which I expect not to find at these prices in particular. It looks unprofessional.
Overall: A good, but pricey option for a group of omnivores and vegetarians, but vegetarian meals shouldn’t usually cost that much. I would return, but I would never have those tofu steaks again.