When restaurants are called by a girl’s name, I like to imagine it must be in honour of the heroine of a magnificent love affair, or an ode to a romantic encounter or some other grand and heart breaking tale where you can almost hear Maria Callas sing ‘O Mio Babbino Caro.’
Isabel’s is so called, indeed from love, but not from any heartache. It is named after the owner, Ian Keegan’s daughter, which is immediately heart warming. It’s on the corner of Lower Baggot Street and after taking the few steps down to the basement entrance, you find a softly lit, warm and sensuous restaurant and wine bar that’s tiny and perfect. I often have misgivings about wine bars with food, as the menu can sometimes present a world of shocking misunderstanding. Cajun wings and a delicate Pinot? Yum.
Thankfully, Isabel’s are tiny and perfect with their menu too. Ian and head chef Niall O’Sullivan have created a delicate, exciting, and delicious menu whether you want to nibble on lighter bites, a cheese board, vibrant salads or something more hearty like their fish and meat mains.
My dining companion and I chose to share a cheese board and a salad. The cheeses were all Irish, immediately causing my pupils to dilate into heart shapes. Coolattin cheddar, Five Mile Town Goat and Bellingham Blue made for one harmonious combination. The Buffalo mozzarella salad was as good as I’ve had it. Ripe tomatoes, good olive oil and basil. We devoured the lot. The breads served were superb.
We chose two glasses of Isabel’s Pinot Noir from New Zealand, which were delicious. She is clearly going to be a lady of good taste when she grows up.
Everytime I go to Isabel’s it feels more and more special. It has the sort of lighting that can be problematic, as well as wonderful, as hours slip by unnoticed. I don’t think I’ll ever go for lunch, as I’d want to move in there all day.