Dublin has just been voted the most vegan-friendly city in the world – a total joy if, like me, you prefer plant-based foods. With Glas opening last week, a rather fancy, and professedly sustainable and meatless restaurant, Dublin’s club of veg destinations purportedly grew.
It was 5:30pm when we left the comforting glow of Grafton Street’s Christmas lights and wandered into Glas on Chatham Street. A few couples were dotted around an elegant room, which, at its centre, had a long, softly lit bar, framed by hanging plants. Soft jazz completed the refined vibe.
A friendly waiter took us to our table, handing us some massive wooden chopping boards disguised as menus. As it was between 5pm and 6:30pm, the set menu was available (also between 12-4): two courses for €19, or three for €24. Clearly, this was not a place to inhale a quick lunch.
The wine menu was extensive, but most appealing were the two options from the tap – one white and one red. This was the first evidence of their sustainable credentials. Both were excellent, particularly the chardonnay (€7.50 for a glass, €30 for the bottle-equivalent amount).
“The menu was exciting – a mixture of vegetarian and vegan treats”
The menu was an exciting mixture of vegetarian and vegan treats. Moreover, the set menu wasn’t overly restrictive: four starters, four mains, and three desserts from which to choose. This was half of the overall menu, and to me it seemed the more appetising half.
Our waiter suggested the sweetcorn and jalapeño fritters instead of the ricotta and citrus salad (which does retrospectively seems obvious). And I couldn’t not order the vegan white truffle and forest mushroom paté.
The plates arrived quickly. The paté was rich, dark and decadent, balanced cleverly with a sharp quince and tomato chutney. It came with homemade sourdough toast as opposed to the walnut crackers as per the menu, but no complaints from me- it was delicious.
The fritters were good, but not as good. Perhaps slightly greasy, and maybe on the salty side. They were redeemed, though, by the freshness of the avocado and lime purée and dressed leaves with goji berries.
We had not ordered the roast candy baby beets, instead agonizing between the roast pumpkin and fermented barley risotto, and the homemade agnolotti (a type of filled pasta). But homemade pasta, as it always does, trumped. We also ordered the BBQ cauliflower ribs, following our waiter’s wisdom.
“It tasted fresh and somewhat unusual, more subtle than basil”
The agnolotti were a triumph. Filled with earthy baked celeriac, accompanied by pickled carrots and carrot-top pesto, topped with stracciatella (the creamy inside of burrata!), it tasted fresh and somewhat unusual, more subtle than basil. It overshadowed the cauliflower. The florets were slightly underdone and drenched in an uninspiring BBQ sauce. The crispy polenta puffs were a cute touch though.
The problem was that the cauliflower dish wanted to be meat. It wanted to please omnivores, and in its effort to emulate BBQ ribs, the cauliflower’s innate elegance was overshadowed. In a vegetarian restaurant, vegetables deserve to be the star of their own show.
As the waiter cleared our plates, we asked if the pasta and stracciatella were vegan. “No,” she said, with a chuckle. “You can get close, but you can’t get that close”.
“The plum tarte tatin was delicious, sitting pretty beneath an almond milk pistachio ice cream”
We found room for dessert. The plum tarte tatin was delicious, sitting pretty beneath an almond milk pistachio ice cream; the vegan pastry casing didn’t miss butter. The mango raw cake was better still, with a hazelnut base and passionfruit sorbet that sang on the tongue.
The bill totalled €70: two glasses of wine and two three-course set menus – a mighty hole in my student-wallet. However, the same meal would have cost nearly €15 more from the à la carte menu, so if you find the funds, make sure to go at the right time.
The waiter proudly told us of Glas’s green credentials as we were paying: no food leaves the kitchen since the waste is composted. They are also making an effort to receive less food wrapped in plastic, though she does admit that this is currently difficult.
That’s the problem at the heart of this restaurant: it can’t decide whether it’s gourmet or sustainable. My favourite dish, the agnolotti, strove for both; with pickled carrots on the plate and carrot-top pesto dressing the pasta, the harmony of no-waste cooking made the food taste better. But how can mango cake with passionfruit sorbet be described as sustainable? Delicious, yes, but then presenting the whole menu as sustainable seems like a gimmick to entice customers. And the high prices do nothing to shed veganism’s association with the middle class. It will be interesting to see if the dishes change with the seasons, and whether they will be brave enough to take mangoes off the menu.