Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hugo's Restaurant and Wine Bar

I’ll be honest now rather than later to save you any disappointment: I’m not the person you should look to when trying to decide what wine to have with a meal. Cheap wine or expensive; I couldn’t even begin to tell you the difference between a cabernet and a chardonnay beyond that they’re red and white. Also that it would be very easy to write a poem about them. More importantly, I never did quite warm to the taste of wine in the first place. Patrick Guilbaud taught me high quality wine is indeed delicious and can be expertly paired with food, but in general I skip the list. Especially when eating without company. I expect by now that half of you who know their food and might be reading have already gone and closed the window. To those of you who did, thank you for getting this far! I’m amazed I managed to as well. Those of you who didn’t, you might be wondering why I chose to go to Hugo’s restaurant and wine bar for my first written review. Simple: familiarity, convenient Sunday opening hours for a restaurant of its kind but above all, good food.

My first experience with Hugo’s was in 2007, not long after they first opened. Paulo Tullio had reviewed them and done so well. It was new, French style, sitting alongside some of Dublin’s best restaurants and painted very eggshell blue. I was interested immediately. Three visits, two lovely bowls of tomato soup and one freezing Sunday night later I was there once again, this time with Rebecca and my good up-and-coming artist friend Yvonne.

The first thing you might notice – or I always notice – are the cushions; many cushions. They’re piled high along the wall seating and into the window bays. Very few places I’ve eaten in have ever taken this simple, straightforward approach. The aim in any restaurant of this kind is should be to serve food in a comfortable environment and Hugo’s could only do better if they had thrown in a few bean bags! The classic wallpaper, frequent artwork and heavy drapes give an altogether very bourgeois feel. It’s homely, it’s cosy. It’s exactly what you’re looking for when temperatures are in the minus outside. Our coats flew off and the food soon began to arrive.

Parmesan and semi dried tomato cake was something I’d been looking forward to since checking the menu and it didn’t disappoint; a very light and flavoursome starter. I was a little disappointed that the olives from the description had gone AWOL though, in my mind’s tasting they would have complimented it well.

Rebecca meanwhile enjoyed her Ronseal dish of organic smoked salmon with mini blinis and a generous helping of sour cream.

The mains arrived promptly as you would expect on a quiet Sunday night and all were well received: sun-dried tomato and artichoke risotto sans goats cheese for Yvonne, roasted corn fed chicken served on a bed of tagliatelle with a creamy tarragon sauce on Rebecca’s side and fillet steak ‘a la Lyonaisse’ with onion sauce, roasted potatoes and French beans for myself.

The star of the show here was the risotto; a very large portion, perfectly cooked and luscious throughout. Sun dried tomatoes are an addiction of mine and it was hard to stop myself from robbing more than I did from Yvonne! She (practically) proclaimed herself the risotto queen whilst we ate, so her finishing most of it is a compliment to the food in itself.

Rebecca’s chicken was succulent and crispy skinned, complemented well with the pleasant addition of mushroom to the tarragon sauce. The pasta was neither under nor overcooked and I unfortunately managed to steal none of the streaky bacon that also featured.

If I were to have one minor complaint about the any of the mains, it’s that my steak was closer to medium well as opposed to the medium that I asked for. This is, however, only a small problem when you’re eating a good quality fillet! The onion sauce was delicious, though perhaps slightly sparse on the plate for this particular serving.

Yvonne also skipped dessert, but neither Rebecca nor I could help ourselves. Her Crème Brûlée was generous (with the added bonus of three biscotti) whilst my apple and blackberry crumble was very enjoyable after it had cooled down a bit, particularly because in Hugo’s case the normal crumble mixture has been replaced with muesli. It makes for a really interesting flavour, and gives us a new excuse for having dessert first thing in the morning!

The service was friendly and helpful, checking with the chef at least twice regarding whether or not certain meals were vegan friendly. In total our bill came to just over €110 for two three course meals, one main, a coffee and two glasses of a half white, half rosé wine, the name of which escapes me.

Hugo’s is a reliable restaurant. They break the trend and make themselves available until closing hours on a Sunday, something that I still think goes largely unappreciated. Even more so given a) their location and b) the quality of the food they serve, which – if you hadn’t got the gist so far – is great. If I had a better taste for wine, I’m sure I’d be able to appreciate the other half of their title as well. Who knows? Maybe with enough visits, and assuming that they stay in business where neighbouring Kitty’s and Bang Café could not, I might eventually be able to. But in the meantime, I don't imagine Hugo's will give me anything to wine about.

Hugo’s Restaurant and Wine bar
6, Merrion Row,
Dublin 2

Tph: 01-676 5955


  1. My god your posts are very long. But good work! The photos are making me hunggggrrrryyy

  2. Same as Jössique, I can almost taste the food. Mmmm, onion sauce. Mmmm, noodle soup...
    Page looks good, Rob. Keep it up.
    Looking forward to your review of something Gulyás-ey.

  3. Nice, and very good photography!!

    Mind if I link you on my blogroll?


  4. Link away Debbie, I'll do yours as well once I've a better grasp on this blogger doo whicky. :-)

    Maybe I'll try and make Gulyás Mat, though I'd say give me about a month's worth of trial and error!

  5. Hi there!
    Don't know how we never came across your blog until now! .... but we just want to say a HUGE thank you for your lovely piece on Hugo's!

    For those coming in to us, we would just like to let you know that we change our menus every 3 months, and our wine list is constantly revolving.

    But back to you Rob... please say hi & introduce yourself next time you come into us. I'm sure we could twist your arm into sampling a little glass of Prosecco!

    Many thanks again,

    Gina, & all the crew in Hugo's :-)

    ps... sorry I had to sign in as anonymous... my nikname is Luddite! :-) G

  6. Hi,

    Seeing the pictures ! It looks yummy and I remember my experience. All food looks like yummy whether India, Chinese or Italian ! Last month I visited a Mongolian restaurant and the food recipe was almost look alike a any Indian recipe .. I used to eat at Punjab Balti ( now Punjabi by nature)

    Further, I would like to share my experience. I visited this restaurant and it was very good. I remember that visiting Indian restaurant and eating Indian food is always quite delightful. Last month, I visited in my trip a restaurant in Dublin, called Punjabi by Nature Indian Restaurants and Takeaway. You can enjoy the best of Indian cuisines at there also.

    Good meal deals, buffet, dinner, authentic India Food etc.

    I and my client enjoyed the Indian fusion music, the ambiance was great with pleasant service. Overall, the restaurants and nightlife in Dublin is amazing.. you will not stop ones you enter the temple bar area... Good music.. live band and whats more !

    So, wherever you go Indian restaurants have the same feel, taste and great service!