Ely Wine Bar
22 Ely Place, Dublin 2, Ireland.
When Erik and Michelle Robson opened the Ely Wine Bar in 1999, it was a brave move, almost a first for Dublin, a wine bar that didn't sell crap wine at 2 am, but instead offers over 70 wines by the glass, more by the bottle at a very reasonable markup. Everyone thought he was mad. Such a difference a few years makes, now good wine bars are de riguer and the cosmopolitan place Dublin has become expects nothing less.
The Ely has become one of the places to go for Dublin's media, legal, PR and IT brigade. The tall tables downstairs are the buzziest,and the place positevely crackles of an evening.
They try to do everything very well, and in fairness they succeed admirably. The food is a case in point. They use organic produce, with all the meat coming from the organic family farm in Co. Clare. The seafood and cheeses are sourced from suppliers who share their philosophy of care and attention. Paolo has long championed the Ely, and indeed they were in his Top 100 in 2004. This is what he had to say,
Because it's a wine bar, the wine list is where I'll begin. It's very long; there are over 400 wines listed, which is long by anyone's measure. Apart from the sheer length of it, what really sets it apart is the number of wines that are available by the glass, quite the largest selection that I've encountered. The joy of this is that you can taste and try lots of different wines, something you mightn't do if you had to buy a whole bottle each time. Unusually there are four sherries listed from Emilio Lustau and three of them cost well less than €20, which considering the quality of these wines is remarkable. If you haven't yet discovered the delights of good sherry, then here would be a good place to introduce yourself to them.
If you were feeling nostalgic for times past, you can also treat yourself to a glass of Madeira, once a mainstay of the drinks trade. These days it's reduced to a rarely encountered oddity, but you can try a Sercial or an Old Malmsey (15 years old) by the glass and discover what your great-grandparents used to enjoy. The wine list continues for many pages, covering France in detail - over forty red Rhones for example - to Spain, Portugual and Italy. The New World is equally well represented, there's a long listing of Californian wines, South African, Chilean, New Zealand and Argentinian. Somewhere in this list is the wine for you.
The food menu is a deal shorter than the wine list, but it's carefully constructed to ensure that whether you're looking for a meal, a snack, or something to help metabolise the wine, there's something to fit that bill. At one stage during the evening we ordered the cold charger, which at €27.50 might seem expensive, that is until it arrives. It was a platter heaped with charcuterie and cheeses that could keep hunger at bay for a large number of people, so for groups who just want to nibble, it's the perfect solution.
I picked the bangers and mash, which was described as an organic sausage and came with a mash with peas and shallots. The sausage was perfectly enormous and horse-shoe shaped, which sat imposingly on the bed of mash. The word organic does figure largely on the menu; organic chicken, organic beef and organic fettucine are all listed and the meats are all sourced in The Burren. I enjoyed the food I tasted, it was well-made and well-prepared, served efficiently and was just the right accompaniment to the excellent wines. The Ely continues to do what it does well.