Unicorn Restaurant Wine Bar Merrion Row
Merrion Court, (off Merrion Row) Dublin 2.
Contemporary Italian food served in an exciting and stylish environment, probably one of Dublin's busiest and buzziest restaurants combining great food, service and a sense of the theatrical. Paolo has been going for years, and always goes back for the atmosphere as much as the food.
I know for sure that I'll meet a lot of people that I know there. In that sense it's something of a Dublin dining club for me. I've lost count of the lunches that began in The Unicorn, went on until evening and then finished up in The Shelbourne. I'm much more sensible these days, those legendary twelve-hour lunches are no longer on my agenda, but during the summer months, especially when the sun is shining, I love sitting at an outdoor table there taking the sun.
The Unicorn doesn't call itself an Italian restaurant, but its menu is largely Italian and so is its wine list. These days the menu has plenty of information on the provenance of the food - the suppliers of the meats, fish and vegetables are listed. Inside it's always crowded, the tables are packed together and there's the hubbub of conversation giving the place an air of busy happiness. The closeness of the tables to one another is part of what makes the atmosphere in The Unicorn work: it ensures a casual, intimate feeling and the virtual certainty that you'll strike up a conversation with the people at the adjacent tables.
The Unicorn prides itself on the antipasto bar, which is a buffet laid out on weekends with Italian style hors d'oeuvres. While Jane chose the crab ravioli to start, I decided to do the buffet. This has got better and better of late; the array of foods is almost bewildering. Here's a flavour of what you can find there. Roasted aubergines, roasted courgettes, prosciutto, various salamis, salads of all kinds, olives, fresh Parmesan, mozzarella, sardines and whitebait to name but a few. You can have this as a starter for €8.50 or as a main course for €16.50.
For her main course Jane picked the fish of the day, which was fillets of sea-bream. I was craving a good Risotto which is hard to find in Dublin , and so I chose a wonderful risotto Milanese with saffron and chicken liver marsala. Both of these dishes were very nicely presented and cooked and left us both contented with our lot.
Neither of us had a dessert, but we finished up with a coffee for Jane and an espresso for me. We soaked up the ambiance from the surrounding tables and then headed off, content with the moderate bill we that we just settled. For those who think the Unicorn is expensive must admire the quality of the new E19.50 Two Course Set menu that is available daily from 12.30pm to 7.00pm daily.