DESPITE the country's financial difficulties, a new restaurant seems to open every week and themes are beginning to emerge. Casual dining, bite-sized food and cocktails are definitely in style, as are cheaper cuts of meat and anything vintage or traditional that reminds us of simpler times.
Among recent openings that fit into this description, I'd include Fade Street Social, Bite, 777, Damson Diner and now the Vintage Cocktail Club or VCC as they like to be known.
VCC is not easy to find as, despite the address being on Crown Alley, we walked past the restaurant twice until I noticed the initials stuck to a black door beside Eager Beaver on the same side as the Bad Ass Cafe. The restaurant appeared closed but upon ringing the doorbell we were welcomed inside.
VCC is set over three floors and has been meticulously laid out to appear as if it has been in existence since the 1940s or 1950s.
Staff wore vintage silk blouses and appeared both welcoming and slightly aloof, a little like I imagine cocktail waitresses used to be in the days before the sexual revolution.
Within a minute or two of sitting down, our waitress presented us with small champagne coupes of prosecco on the house along with some silver-plated cutlery and artfully torn and crumpled menus, which had been stained to appear as if they were decades old. Bear in mind that VCC opened less than a month ago.
We found the artifice amusing rather than annoying and we were happy to play along and ordered two vintage cocktails to whet our appetites. C's Cucumber Cooler was beautifully refreshing and my dry Manhattan was perfectly made with just the right amount of bitters.
There is only a choice of red or white wine at the moment, but our light and juicy bottle of Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence worked well and was good value at €18.
The vintage theme continued with the mis-matched china plates containing our starters. Wild mushrooms on toast were earthy and rich and offset slightly by some almost liquid burrata cheese and the salad of watermelon, goat's cheese, roast figs and candied pecans held together perfectly. ¤14 was a lot for four scallops on chargrilled puréed cauliflower, but when they tasted this good we couldn't complain.
Main dishes came on boards and are pre-sliced for sharing. Crisped pork belly with barbecue beans and a ramekin of coleslaw was as good as you could hope for. The Hanger steak was cooked rare and its rich meaty flavours and slightly chewy texture worked well with the winter greens and crispy chips.
We polished off a large bowl of apple and cinnamon fritters with cream and pecans with a toffee dip for dessert and managed to make our way down the stairs without too many stumbles (warning -- the cocktails are strong).
What made us love our visit to VCC was their attention to detail. Get down there before everyone else.