Last night, Anne Kennedy of Greatfood.ie and I, in need of a glass of wine and some food, ended up – at her suggestion – at the newly decked out and recently reopened Shelbourne Bar in The Shelbourne on St Stephen’s Green. My memories of the old Shelbourne, admittedly after a couple of dynamite martinis in the Horseshoe Bar in the depths of winter, was of a gradually-getting-shabbier, heavy-with-tradition place. A grand old dame of Dublin, it was long overdue a facelift – although perhaps not one that went hand in hand with an American hotel chain. The Shelbourne Bar, where we ended up, is now a comfortable, light, bright L-shaped room on the left as you enter the hotel.
As we entered, Anne, with unerring ability, steered our way to the only empty table in a busy bar. Menus weren’t long in arriving but we didn’t look too far after seeing the oysters on offer. We ordered two each of the four types on the menu (and I forgot to take note of their names!), at €2.50 a piece, along with a couple of glasses of viognier (€8). Two platters arrived, with the fresh, plump, grey oysters sitting on the half shell, on top of crushed ice and some decorative seaweed. A little dish of shallot-rich Mignotte Sauce was at the centre of each platter, with a few lemon segments on the side.
We had ordered the four different types of oysters in order to compare, contrast and decide on our favourites; unfortunately when they arrived the waitress did not know the difference between the varieties so I’m not sure whether I preferred the Clair or the Belon (at least I think that’s what two of the oyster varieties were). Anne’s oysters were no sooner on the table than they disappeared. Mine – this was only the third time I had the opportunity to eat oysters – took a little longer to be savoured and swallowed. The Mignotte was too vinegary to do anything but disguise their savoury brininess but we nibbled at it afterwards as the ice melted and we finished our glasses of wine.
For oysters and a glass of wine, the Horseshoe Bar is a wonderful, and not extortionate, treat – especially for me, as Anne picked up the tab – but I’m not sure if my bank balance would survive an entire night in such salubrious surroundings. Another place to get the freshest of oysters in Dublin, along with a glass of white wine and some brown bread (now that would make a nice addition to The Shelbourne’s oyster platter), is at the Temple Bar Food Market – watch out for the stall with the stool by the Gallery of Photography on Meeting House Square on Saturdays.
The Horseshoe Bar at The Shelbourne, 27 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. Phone: 01 6634500