A box of papads (€4) is how I start my evening at Pickle. The box of papads includes huge, blistered prawn-cracker style crisps and delicately thin discs of poppadoms. It’s the accompanying pickle and chutney that really grab my attention, most particularly Sunil’s prawn pickle. It’s phenomenal in its flavour, both sweet and sour, and it makes for a great start.
Pickle is a partnership between Chef Sunil Ghai and his business partner Benny Jacob. Ghai started his Irish career cooking in Jaipur before opening Ananda in Dundrum, nearly a decade ago. At Pickle, Ghai and Jacob are hoping to present their favourite dishes from North Indian cuisine, and have taken over the space that used to house Surma on Camden Street.
Creativity is evident on the menu, through dishes like the venison keema roti (€14), a sort of an Indian quesadilla with an Irish twist, thanks to that venison and the accompanying berry chutney. The tawa macchi (€14), a crispy fried fillet of sea bass covered in a dollop of creamy crabmeat, sprinkled with little potato chips and surrounded by divine pickled cauliflower and carrots, is a playful take on fish and chips. It’s my favourite plate of the evening.
The familiar is also present at Pickle, but it’s just better than you’ve had it before. The pastry on the samosa is thicker and flakier, its vegetarian fillings more sumptuous. The tomato sauce in the chana masala is more complex. The cottage cheese with our tempered spinach (€5) is made in the kitchen, and the spinach is thick, glossy and creamy. Every dish at Pickle has been turned up a notch, without losing its simple charm. There is no distracting or fussy presentation; it’s just been given a taste makeover.
The room is long and quite narrow, with an open kitchen at the end of it. It’s a full house when we visit and that narrow corridor between tables leading up to the kitchen is packed with staff bringing out trays of rice, masalas and meats. It feels a little frantic when we first arrive but once we’re settled into our seats, with a great view into the kitchen simmering with activity, we adapt to the pace.
The staff help, too. They are warm and friendly, and eager to explain the breadth of the menu. “Don’t eat that until I come back!” says one of our waiters as he puts down our goat mince curry (€21) along with various plates of rice and raitas. He returns, quickly, with a basket of Pickle’s homemade breads, and recommends that we eat the curry with the bread, rather than the rice. He’s right, the curry is better when scooped up with the incredible homemade breads, with the creamy avocado and pomegranate raita (€5) working as an effective cooling agent.
The dessert is a kulfi falooda (€7.50), an eggless ice cream heavy on the rose flavouring. It arrives in a glass, the scoops of ice cream covered with saffron vermicelli noodles and basil seeds that have been soaked in rose water. There are crunchy chunks of nutty caramel brittle hidden in this Indian sundae. It’s a totally new dish for me and, upon researching it after supper, I discover it has its origins as a Persian drink, brought to India by the Mughal empire where it slowly morphed into more of a dessert than a drink.
Pickle’s heart was immediately evident to me at the beginning of the meal with Sunil’s prawn pickle. Its playful soul, with an eye to the past but with a creative foot in the future, was presented to me through the tawa maachi and the kulfi falooda. The bill, which included a glass of Pinto Noir (€9), a bottle of San Pellegrino (€4) and a mint tea (€3.50) came to €102.
43 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick