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Ember is squeezing out sparks in Milltown

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Ember is a great name for a restaurant.
When Greg O'Mahoney and his team get one of those rare nights when everything hits the sweet spot, then they can say: “Man, we are smokin’!”
When the place is packed and everyone is happy, the crew can say: “Man, we are on fire!”
So, what was the incendiary status when we visited Ember on a Friday evening? Pretty toasty, I reckon. The room was filled with locals, all of them looking very happy to have a serious restaurant on their doorstep, knowing they had already saved the price of the first couple of drinks because there was no taxi fare from Milltown, Dublin 6, into Dublin 2.
Ember is significant, in this regard, and joins other suburban destinations who have enjoyed success thanks to a well-heeled, local audience who are grateful to have an ambitious restaurant on their doorstep – Canteen, firstly in Blackrock, and then in Celbridge; Heron & Grey in Blackrock; O’Connell’s in Donnybrook; Bijou in Rathgar; The Cookbook Café in Glasthule; Mayfield in Terenure; Ananda in Dundrum.
As one would expect from an experienced team, Ember hits all the points. There is a neat bar to enjoy a cocktail whilst you wait for your table. Red banquettes line the walls, with twos and fours seated in the centre of the room. Service is fleet, polite and well-informed. The kitchen pass opens right into the dining room, in the modern fashion. It’s a good room for dinner, and just as good for brunch.
And the menu is well structured, running from charred heritage carrots to a cote de boeuf at €65 for two, which explains why there is everyone from young couples, to groups of women, to quartets of pensioners, enjoying dinner on a Friday evening. We went for lamb consomme with a 63 degree egg, the slow-cooked squid risotto, and the board of ham hock and black pudding terrine, duck ballotine and chicken liver parfait to start. First up, we hungrily pulled apart some excellent flatbreads, then enjoyed the super-generous size of the starters. The day’s catch of hake, with brown shrimp and lemon dressing, was a textbook piece of fish cookery, and outshone some sage gnocchi with wild mushrooms, and barbary duck with fermented walnut and pomegranate. Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, and cinnamon pannacotta with rosemary and orange shortbread, are excellent desserts.
Ember will also endear itself to a huge audience because it is open for fully six days of the week, with lunch becoming weekend brunch, and dinner served from Tuesday to Sunday. The extraordinary thing about Mr O’Mahoney’s resturant is that it has already found both its own culinary signature, and its audience. When people are waiting for a table in early February, then you sure are doing the right thing. Ember has already caught fire.

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