You don’t need me to tell you that the past two years have been particularly difficult for chefs and the hospitality industry. One chef, however, only caught my attention during lockdown thanks to the beautiful photos he posted on social media.
Fiachra Kenny had only been working at Juniors for a few days when the lockdown was announced in March 2020 – he was wisely guarded by Paul and Barry McNeary who also own Paulie’s Pizza and the excellent food chain Lotts & Co.
It took me a while but I was finally able to visit Junior last week. A menu with distinctly American influences has been introduced in recent months, so as you would expect there are burgers and steaks, but also more creative options.
Tuna Tostaods (€10.50) are fried tacos filled to bursting with fresh diced tuna and avocado ceviche with slivers of soy lime ponzu adding extra zest, and chipotle mayonnaise rounding off the flavors nicely with a slight smoky heat. The lobster and Comte Arancini (€10) were crispy and oozed perfectly with the lobster and Comte asserting itself on the creamy risotto rice.
The grilled jumbo prawns (€22) with garlic, chilli, lime and parsley butter and a burnt lemon wedge shouldn’t have been as delicious as they were, but these prawns were singing flavorfully and as I sucked on their heads the juices and drippings of sauce fell from my fingers (and my chin), and I found my mood changed from supremely happy to something closer to ecstasy .
Pork Schnitzel Holstein (€22) was a breaded pork cutlet with capers and anchovies and topped with a fried egg – while working well with a nice contrast between the tender pork and the crispy exterior, we thought it would have worked even better if it had been hit a bit thinner and with a bit more anchovies and capers.
Sides are €4 each and we snacked on almost a bowl full of crispy fries and loved the sweet corn with n’duja and lime butter, but the crispy pressed potato was a bit heavy and most of the time not consumed.
The wine list is short but has good options with a mix of American craft beers and a choice of seven well-priced Spanish and Italian wines. From the specials board, I chose Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola for €25, a wine I know well, and its bright cherry and darker fruit matched the meal and our mood well.
Deep Fried Puff Pastry Apple Pie (€6.95) was a world away from anything you’ve had from a certain American fast food – a buttery pastry had tender, sweet apple chunks sprinkled with cinnamon and my guests Mille-Feuille had layers of hazelnut praline cream and Crémeux Chocolate between layers of puff pastry, managing to taste rich and satisfying while retaining a touch of lightness.
There was another task. A dish I had spotted on Instagram was not available so a second trip was made to Juniors the following Sunday. The chicken and waffles (€20) is a classic American dish rarely seen on menus here and had to be tried, especially if it was half as good as pictured.
Three extra crispy pieces of fried chicken and two fluffy waffles were served with sweetened whipped cream and a small pitcher of sauce. According to the internet, it’s Amish-style Chicken & Waffles, while in Southern cuisine, honey or syrup is more typical. The sauce was rich and worked, but a dollop of cream and a drizzle of stolen syrup had a transformative effect on the dish, turning it from comforting to decadent. Sweet syrup and crispy batter greeted each other like post-lockdown lovers and joy ensued.
Junior is exactly the kind of restaurant that I hope will thrive after the Covid restrictions. Not a second hand meal but delicious, treat yourself to a wet Monday meal – if I lived closer I would be there once a week.
Dinner for two including two starters, two mains, three sides, two desserts and a bottle of organic red wine costs €117.40
Mon-Fri – 8:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat – 11am-10.30pm
Sun – 11am-8pm
Juniors serves extremely tasty and well-prepared American-influenced cuisine, but with a touch of sophistication and zest – every neighborhood should have one.
- Juniors, 2 Bath Avenue, Beggars Bush, Dublin 4.
- Tel: 01-6643648
- Instagram: @juniorsdublin & @fiachrakenny