Alan Stanford, Independant Life

Style: Indian

The Look: Modern

Clientele: General

Don’t Miss: The seafood

Cost per person: €25 – €30 (without wine)

If I could establish a basic criteria for the way a restaurant should be, it would be this: spacious calm welcoming, well but not garishly lit, with crisp white linen and good table setting. The food should be consistently good and the wine list should reflect the wallet of all diners. The cuisine should be of a particular style and not ‘a bit of everything’. The diner should be surprised by the imagination of the cooking. And the bill should always leave you astounded at how they do it for such a reasonable price.

Such a restaurant is Jaipur on Dublin’s South Great Georges Street. It has established a reputation for the standard of its cooking but also has all the essential qualities to make it a really delightful place to eat. The welcome is warm. The well dressed tables are generously spread throughout the room. The décor is pleasant an relaxing and the menu is both Indian and imaginative. The wine list is very acceptable with good drinking under €30. There could be a few more wines under €20 but that’s true of almost every restaurant.

Having spent a day running – well walking – around the city, which is so much more efficient that trying to use public transport, I collected Maeve and headed for a comfortable dinner. We settled down with the menu and some poppadoms and dips which Maeve, in her usual fashion, consumed most of in a moment !

The menu is interesting. It offers a broad range of dishes which are both decidedly Indian and yet not necessarily conventional in their structure or content. Jaipur is a restaurant that pushes the boundary a little when it comes to cooking. This is not a curry house in any ordinary sense of the world. The range of starters and main dishes offers something different in the way of both the cooking and the content. And for all the originality of the cuisine the prices are remarkably reasonable, with starters and main dishes averaging €7 and €18 respectively.

To start Maeve ordered the subz seekh, this being tandoori roast corn and vegetable rolls, and being in a tandoori frame of mind she followed this with tandoori jumbo prawn. I took the coorgi to start. This has nothing to do with small dogs much-favoured by the British monarch but in fact strips of lean pork, crisp-fried in a light batter with sweet chilli and honey dressing. The starters were excellent. The subz seekh vegetable rolls were quite delicious, with a gentle aroma and mild spiced intrusion on the plate. The coorgi was very tasty indeed without the stickiness that one some times encounters in such dishes. The light sweet sauce accompanied this well and the portion was most generous.

This I followed with the crab pepper fry – crab claws with red onions, crushed pepper and peas in a moderate curry sauce. The tandoori prawn dish offered four massive and beautifully cooked jumbo prawns, which were just delightful. The balance of the dressing was perfect – enhancing rather than overpowering the fish. All seafood can easily be ruined by excessive spicing but here the balance was just right. The same was true of the crab claws, which were served as a very substantial portion of very big crab claws, and the vegetables were dressed in a delightful sauce. Again the use of spice was guided by a gentle hand and the result was the dish that excited but not overwhelmed the palate.

To drink with all this we took a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Matua Valley 2004, which, though too young, was still a peasant and fruity balance to the dishes. We followed this with some excellent sorbet and good coffee.

The service here is as you might wish for – quiet unassuming and extremely efficient. You can sit back in comfort in the well spaced room. Neither the décor not the background music screams Indian at you. Indeed, but for the menu you would hardly know that the restaurant has anything to do with that particular sub-continent. This is the sign of a restaurant that has nothing to prove about itself. It’s a refreshing change from those oriental restaurant whose décor and ambience try to convince you that outside the door you are in central Delhi or downtown Beijing; rather than a grey and wet Dublin.

The meal with wine and without service charge came to a modest enough €88.50 which was well spent on what is high-quality fine dining in the Indian style.

Alan Stanford, Eating Out – Food & Drink, Independant Life©

(22 February 2005);