Fine Dining Chinese Restaurant Breathes New Life into the Old Post Office, Blackrock

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Words by Tanya Grimson
November 1st, 2019

Following on from the recent success of neighbourhood restaurants such as the recently awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Circa, in Terenure, and Grano, in Stoneybatter, Blackrock’s main street is now looking notably elevated thanks to the opening of a new fine dining Sichuan Chinese restaurant, Old Post Office. Taking over one of Blackrock’s oldest and most iconic buildings, the original post office of Blackrock, this new restaurant hosts some of the most stunning views overlooking Dublin Bay. Thanks to a sizeable investment, this restaurant is aiming high and wants to give guests a fine-dining experience with taste at the heart of the offering, from sumptuous décor to delicate elegant food.

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The grand scale and restoration of the exterior building is hard to walk past without piquing your curiosity, but what awaits inside is beyond any passersby natural expectations. It may be advertised as a Chinese restaurant but it unassumingly doesn’t showcase the sheer beauty of what lies beyond the front door. Upon entering it is immediately evident that this is not your standard Chinese restaurant. The interiors are lavish, sumptuous and truly elegant, reminiscent of what you might expect a celebrity’s stylish apartment or a penthouse suite in a 5* hotel in New York to look like.

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Interior design company, the DJI Group, has created a warm yet plush environment with the use of muted tones of duck egg blue, aqua green, and white table cloths. The copper detail of the bar set against the marble walls and pastel surroundings offer a modern yet equally elegant feel to the reception area, which also plays hosts to stunning large Chinese porcelain urns that bring us back to the eastern influences that are tastefully and subtly dotted throughout the restaurant. The walls feature commissioned paintings of local scenes from Blackrock to Stephen’s Green by artist Willy Redmond that once again represent the direct connection between East and West. On the way to the formal dining room at the back, you are met with large wooden pieces of furniture, photos framed on the walls bringing a sense of familiar warmth often lacking in many fine-dining restaurants.

Having authentic Sichaun food was crucial for the two Chinese business owners so Head Chef, Yu Shuchen, was recruited from the province to mastermind and lead a kitchen of four chefs. The restaurant is managed by hospitality expert Paul Malone who states that authenticity was integral to creating the right menu and experience for their guests, “Old Post Office will strive to balance the authenticity of flavour with thoughtful sourcing of Irish and organic ingredients.” This transparency is evident in the menu which cites its local beef and lamb farm suppliers.

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The menu is vast and varied, with over nine pages to choose from. I dined over the bank holiday weekend with my nine-year-old son and husband, and despite the restaurant’s 5-star ambition, I was pleased to see that they were also welcoming families by offering a children’s menu, which is virtually impossible to get in fine-dining establishments. The ‘Kids Menu’ however, isn’t your standard fare; it may have the favourites, but it also offers a more luxurious version in line with the rest of the menu and the environment. For starters, we ordered a selection of wontons, seared scallops, and the Chengdu steamed spicy chicken, all of which were preceded by an amuse-bouche of crispy pork wonton. The starters, although quite minimally explained on the menu, were incredibly fresh but with a cacophony of flavours due to a unique combination of ingredients and authentic expertise.

Between courses, we were offered another lovely touch — a shot of alcoholic and non-alcoholic palette cleansers that comprised of Cointreau blood orange liquor, bitters, and rum, while my son’s consisted of apple, lime and pineapple juice. For mains, I opted for the pan-fried king prawns in hot garlic sauce accompanied by a side portion of stir-fried broccoli; my husband opted for a chef special — the lamb shank with cumin; and my son the panko cod with egg fried rice. Again, everything was cooked perfectly, most notably the lamb shank with the meat falling off the bone and dusted in cumin spices and chilli. My prawns were generous in size and portion, set in a sticky hot and spicy garlic sauce that was not only rich but also contained the right amount of heat to provide a flavour that lingered on the palette.

But, I was extremely impressed with my son’s food; although it was for a child, the presentation did not suffer. The panko cod strips he ordered were served on a long platter with the finest of touches, the fish so fresh and the panko breadcrumb so light that the tiny bites melted in your mouth.

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Amuse Bouche - Prawn in Crispy Wonton Pastry
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Pan Fried King Prawn

The dessert selection is perhaps the most exotic thing to appear on the menu, although frog legs, ox tripe, and trotters also feature. As explained by the general manager,  traditional Chinese desserts are in fact savoury based and staying true to authenticity, the small menu reflects this, offering pumpkin and sweet potato and mooli (turnip cakes). As a result of this acquired taste, they have an off-menu selection of tarts to choose from such as chocolate and salted caramel in a sea of raspberry dust, double chocolate tart, and a selection of ice-creams.

However, although we did opt for the somewhat more conservative dessert selections, I was still curious to try at least one of the authentic Chinese desserts. We chose perhaps the least savoury option, the sweetened rice dumpling in rice wine, again this was explained to us that this may not be to everyone’s liking. It is most definitely unusual as the texture is quite syrupy, but yet on first bite, the palette is met with a hard-to-describe savoury taste that is immediately followed by an intense sweetness. In fact, it is so unusual that it entices you back for a second trial. After a series of tastes, my jury was still out, however, my husband thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was worth the unique experience of trying something I have never encountered on a Chinese restaurant menu in Ireland.

From the décor to the food, Old Post Office tries to marry the influence of the East with the West in a very balanced way. There is reverence to the authentic Sichuan style of cooking but with western touches and a respect for its locality. This is a restaurant you want to come to, to celebrate that special occasion, to impress your colleagues or close a deal in. It’s for when you want to enjoy the finer side of life, be truly spoiled with stunning food, stunning interiors and first-class treatment. It appears that suburban dining is not going anywhere.

For more info, visit oldpostofficeblackrock.ie.