I have been confused about the identity of Ard Bia since it moved to the Nimmo’s building at the Spanish Arch. Downstairs I think was called Nimmo’s, and upstairs called Ard Bia, and I was unsure whether there were different kitchens and menus. That confusion is now gone as it is simply called Ard Bia with the downstairs open all day and night and the upstairs opened as needed when extra busy. The menu is the same throughout and now includes breakfast, lunch, afternoon teas, snacks, dinner, and Sunday lunch. It is still a quirky restaurant and while I am no longer a fan of retro pine tables and chairs there is nothing retro about the food. It is modern, and top quality with a modern twist to traditional dishes.
The menu is about 40 per cent vegetarian and all the soups are dairy and gluten free. I opted for the new daily special that costs €10; for that you get a soup and a hearty sandwich, or a dessert instead of the soup. As anyone who reads my article knows I am not a fan of expensive sandwiches but in this case I have to take my hat off to the chef. I had the house baked ham on crusty bread with Wicklow baun cheese and Ard Bia’s own homemade chutney, served with a decent green salad. The salad had grated fennel, quinoa, shredded carrot, and lots of seeds. The ham was thick and the cheese excellent, but it was the bread that did it for me. The bread is made every day in the kitchen, moist and full of flavours. It was too big a portion for me to finish so I brought the remainder away, but by the time I arrived home I had demolished it as the smell of the bread still tempted me. I choose fennel, spinach, and roast garlic soup, which was tasty, though not exceptional. Normally these items would cost €7.50 and €4.50, so for €10 it represented good value. I sampled the gluten free chocolate cake that was also available and it was unusually moist and very chocolatey as most gluten free cakes are pretty awful. Other mains that you could have for €10 are the ploughman’s platter of ham, Mount Cullen cheese, pickles, tomatoes, seeds, and greens.
The Sunday roast for €12 to €14 sounds tempting and is available until 5pm on Sundays. It is a busy restaurant with a very loyal following and I would guess that booking for an evening meal or Sunday lunch is necessary. Keep on eye on its website and Facebook page as it intends to swap kitchen staff with some Dublin restaurants in the near future. The Dublin kitchen staff will then recreate their own menu and serve it in Ard Bia — a clever idea and sounds interesting. www.ardbia.com