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WORDS LEO GARNIER

Caught in between the numerous pubs of Merrion Row, only a discreet white panel indicates the entrance to this new Italian-inspired restaurant. Head chef Barry Fitzgerald, who has recently returned from London after a stint at the helm of the Michelin starred Harwood Arms, has put together an inspiring menu that offers an innovative take on Italian cuisine.

While Etto has received much attention for its dinner menu, I was eager to see if the restaurant maintains such high standards for lunch service. Etto’s lunch menu is limited, offering a single lunch special, a selection of soups and sandwiches as well as a small choice of salads and cold plates. The waitress explained to us that the menu varies daily depending on what ingredients can be sourced, with a commitment to using locally sourced fresh ingredients.

Whilst waiting for our food, we familiarized ourselves with the interiors: white walls, rustic wooden tables and chairs, a blackboard on the wall; nothing new and exciting here by way of design. The absence of background music was somewhat refreshing, helping to establish a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere throughout the restaurant.

I chose the €10 soup and sandwich deal, served on a sturdy wooden board. One sip of my butternut squash soup dredged with chanterelles was enough for me to appreciate the mild flavours melted with the soft crunch of mushroom. The soup was creamy and perfectly seasoned in harmony with the spicy salami-parmesan-tomato sandwich. The toasted baguette bread, from the well-esteemed Le Levain, had nothing to learn from my native France, and set off perfectly the thin slices of spicy salami lightly seasoned with basil vinaigrette. The highlight of the show was the sweet ending note: plump red wine prunes fusing with understated vanilla extract in the velvety mascarpone. Squisito!

Etto is also an acclaimed wine bar with a varied selection of cosmopolitan wines from Italy, but also from Spain, Austria, Slovenia or New Zealand. However, my appropriate choice of drink would have to be the crispy prosecco on tap, kept in an unusual cask allowing storage for up to sixty days.

Unlike many of Dublin’s most popular restaurants, Etto doesn’t rely on trend, fad or gimmick to attract its customers. Quality flavoursome food is at the forefront of this eatery. While Etto’s lunch menu is incredibly good value for the quality that is produced, my only criticism of this menu would be its overly restricted selection. However, with the promise of a menu continuously shaped by the freshest seasonal ingredients, I look forward to returning soon.

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