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The names may have changed - but French food remains on the menu Back  
While Dublin's restaurant scene has changed much over the past 20 years, many stalwarts remain favourites with FINANCE readers, as indicated in this review of the major names of the past 20 years.
Twenty years ago Le Coq Hardi was the place to dine in Dublin, offering a taste of 'la cuisine bourgeoisie' to politicians, media types and the well-to-do. Much has changed since however, and while the Celtic Tiger is fueling growth in new restaurants to the extent that almost every month brings news of a new fine dining venue in Dublin, many, including the renowned Le Coq Hardi have closed.

During its hey-day Le Coq Hardi was as notorious for its clientele as it was its food, and was for many, a symbol of the wealthy in the pre-Celtic Tiger days. The late former Taioseach Charles Haughey was a frequenter of the spot, along with his companion Terry Keane, and in 1991 he was found to have spent almost €20,000 in the restaurant.

However, the good times were not to last, and the restaurant, which used to be located on Pembroke Road, was sold in 2001 for around €3.2 million.

The Pheasantry restaurant, which also doubled as a night-club, was another hang-out for politicians in the late 1980s, but this is also no more.

Today, The Unicorn and Dobbins are two of the most popular restaurants for politicians, located as they are so close to the Dail. The Unicorn is one of Dublin's longest-running restaurants, having been founded by Renato Sidoli in the 1960s, but its buffet lunch has become a firm favourite for business lunches during the week, with customers coming for this and Sky News, which is streamed into the dining room.

Another famous restaurant of the 1990s was Peacock Alley, which was first located on Kildare Street but soon after moved to the Fitzwilliam Hotel on St.Stephen's Green. Headed by Conrad Gallagher, who was described as the 'purring tiger of the Celtic economy', the restaurant was seen by many as an indication of Ireland's new found wealth and confidence, and it attracted a high profile clientele. However, the good times in Dublin couldn't last for Gallagher, and the restaurant closed amidst a storm of controversy in 2002.

Other restaurants which made a mark during their time but are now closed included The Commons and Whites-on-the Green, which is where Shanahans is now located.

One restaurant which was open in 1987 and remains open today is Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.
Launched by Guilbaud himself back in 1981 behind the Bank of Ireland on College Green, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength and today is the only restaurant with two Michelin stars in Dublin.

Now located in the salubrious environs of the Merrion Hotel, diners take their seats surrounded by paintings from artists such as Louis Le Brocquy and Roderic O'Connor, and Guilbaud offers unashamedly upscale French cuisine - at unashamedly upscale prices.

Still very much the place to be seen in, Guilbaud maintains a personal atmosphere in the dining room, and is frequently to be found greeting diners.

Another upscale restaurant which has emerged as one of Dublin's best is Chapter One, which, while located in the relative hinterland for local gourmets, the restaurant has built itself a top class reputation, in spite of its location.

In the recent past there has been a flurry of new restaurant openings, with some of the most notable ones being Venu, which was created by Patrick Guilbaud's son Charles, Balzac, which is in the same dining room as La Stampa, and Peploe's, on St.Stephen's Green.

Located in a vaulted cellar which was built in the 1760s just off St. Stephen's Green, Peploes occupies a space which was formerly used as a safety deposit centre, and it is run by the former owner of near-by Browne's Brasserie, Barry Canny.

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