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Seven Social Squirrels: Leslie Williams eats with the ancients.

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Emma Bowe of Seven Social has never taken an easy path. She opened her tiny restaurant in a former hairdressers on a street with one of the worst reputations in the city with little passing trade (unless you count the Luas trams that whizz by within a few feet of the restaurant). Admittedly the Dice Bar was already established just down the street and the arrival of the trams had given an air of optimism to the area but even still this was a major risk for a cook with no formal culinary education, just lots of enthusiasm.

Well, over 18 months later, Seven Social is planning a move to larger premises and on Sunday last they held their second annual Ancient Irish Feast featuring everything from Squirrel Pie to Smoked Octopus to Polenta Barm Brack.

Emma takes care in sourcing the finest ingredients including sublime Abernethy butter from County Down along with foraged leaves and game (the squirrels are shot by a friend) plus forgotten ingredients such as knotweed flour and flax seed.

There are a few more recent ingredients thrown in (e.g. polenta) so the “ancient” aspect is more an attitude than an imperative.

The best dish in this year's ancient feast was called “Hidden Clams” which involved razor clams, large quantities of saffron, sorrel leaves for bite, chilli for heat (various obscure ancient peppers not having arrived by mail order in time) and garlic breadcrumbs for oomph and extra flavour served with a mineral and aromatic Verdejo-Muscatel blend from Valencia.

Pumpkin soup with smoked octopus melded well and the grey squirrel tartlet (or “chewette” as Emma called it) with figs turned out to be delicious. Emma had told me squirrel was like duck but I found it more like pheasant but much moister and more succulent. I shall be bringing my air rifle to Bushy Park later this week (only half joking). The crumbly tartlet made from knotweed flour and Abernathy butter was another highlight along with the fine Chateau du Cedre Cahors served alongside.

Given that this was an ancient feast some of the more porridge like textures favoured by our ancestors were less exciting for me, but this is a minor quibble given how much I did enjoy in the ten courses (for just €70).

We finished with some fine cheeses with honey comb followed by two desserts – mini plum puddings and a brack made from polenta served with an intense ice cream made from blood orange juice, cinnamon, poitín, rum and red wine.

Emma will be serving these dishes on her à la carte over the Christmas period from December 27th to 31st. I can think of no better alternative to spending more money on stuff you don't need in the sales.

Seven Social, 76 Benburb Street, Dublin 7. Tel: 01-6729080.http://www.sevensocial.ie/

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