wow. Before reading any further, I suggest you log onto the Allta Winter House website and try to get a reservation or waitlist. Extraordinary and joyful things are happening on the 5th floor of a central Dublin car park and you have to experience it.
Chefs Niall Davis and Hugh Higgins opened Allta on Setanta Place to rave reviews (including from myself) in 2019 – but that space is now in the very capable hands of Kevin Burke as Library Street (which I loved it too). Allta had outgrown its original location and last summer they moved to a marquee in Slane Castle and created Allta Summer House, and now comes Allta Winter House which opened late last year .
The entrance to the Trinity car park is far from safe, but once we exited on the 5th floor we were warmly greeted and had a quick tour of the Allta Glovebox cocktail bar and art gallery which had a great live jazz band the night we visited (Thursday). Yes, the walls are concrete but there is a warmth to the space thanks to careful lighting and soft furnishings.
And the food, my God the food. We started with a rich broth of meaty onions and smoked bone marrow, followed by a crispy bite of sweet carrots topped with sea urchin mousse, followed by Cromane oysters with smoked honey and sea buckthorn mousse – and things got better and better.
Allta has always done bold flavors (too bold for some), but there’s a joyful, almost childlike enthusiasm for flavor that’s completely infectious. Texture is also a goal and everything I put in my mouth brings layers of pleasure. Several times during the meal we said “this is the star dish” but they kept coming, each one better than the other, so we gave up and focused on the food.
Large, plump scallops (cooked over coals) were beautifully caramelized and seated in an intense roast chicken jus spiced up with tarragon vinegar; Boyne Valley Bán Goat Cheese Stuffed in a Flatbread with Rich Black Garlic (and useful for mopping up leftover chicken juices) Skeghanore Duck cooked rare with meaty fruity liver and thigh sausage, with red cabbage contrast, artichokes and sticky sourdough bread with shiitake miso butter.
All brilliantly executed, but the Jerusalem artichokes simply floored us: roasted in a wood oven with sunflower seed miso vinaigrette, Cáis na Tire mousse and artichoke crisps for texture – those earthy, sweet, nutty, creamy and cheesy tasted of this world well.
We were full, but a huge wild sea trout arrived with crispy skin in a goat’s milk whey sauce surrounded by mussels and tangy seagrass – enough to feed six people. The roast cabbage and potatoes from McNally’s Farm (purple violet, red emmalie and others) were so good they could have made separate dishes on their own.
There’s always room for dessert and the white chocolate artichoke ice cream with a soft drizzle of coffee-sherry with puffed buckwheat for texture was a star, but the final triumph was a beignet filled with creme brulee with blood orange juice – quite honestly one of the best taste experiences I’ve ever had.
The wine list is organic and well chosen. Prices start at €34.50 for the Ciello Blanco, a fresh and creamy cattarato from Sicily — an easy choice. Turning to red, Eric Texier’s excellent Chat Fou du Rhône Méridional (€55) went so well that we needed a second bottle (see also the wine of the day column). We finished the meal with Milu Ribera del Duero (€42.70), the entry-level red and it too did not disappoint.
The staff were unfailingly charming and knowledgeable and Allta Winter House is probably the most exciting and enjoyable dining experience in the country right now. The scores here are the highest I have ever given: we left full of energy and completely in the grip.
A 12-course tasting menu costs €95 per person (plus 12.5% service charge); dinner for 4 with four bottles of excellent wine is €638 – not cheap, but worth every penny.
- Food: 9.75/10
- Wine: 9.5/10
- Serving: 9.75/10
- Atmosphere: 10/10
- Value: 8/10
Allta Winter House must be experienced – 12 delicious dishes cooked over the fire by chefs at the top of their game. It was so good I’m in shock.