Deputy Editor Niamh Devereux visited this well-known chain recently and was blown away by its unexpected food offering
When you think of food in a Hard Rock Hotel, you might conjure up images of the famous Hard Rock cafés, with their American-style burgers, rainbow-coloured cocktails and hard-rocking playlists.
However, it’s an altogether different vibe in Dublin’s take on the iconic hotel. On its ground floor, with a separate entrance on Lord Edward Street, is Zampas, a stylish restaurant serving up mouth-watering Peruvian cuisine with an Irish twist, featuring a buzzy open-kitchen and a suave, relaxed atmosphere.
I was there recently for the launch of Zampas’ summer menu, which began with a drinks reception on the rooftop of the hotel, an extension of the incredible Rock Star suite. Overlooking the city, I went exploring the top floor with a zingy, sweet Pisco Sour in hand. The suite, which comes with a lounge and living area, is decorated with Irish made artworks including Jim Fitzpatrick’s magical triptych of Sinéad O’Connor and Phil Lynott, while handwritten lyrics by Bono and a letter by Van Morrison hang in frames.
Those who book the suite also get the outdoor terrace, which can be used for BBQs or a drinks reception. Essentially, it’s one hell of a party pad, where you would most definitely feel like a rockstar. Other rooms in the hotel are equally cool: there’s also the Silver Suite, where a flatscreen tv emerges from the end of the bed, for example. All rooms are a visual treat, filled with Irish art, quirky lamps, chic bathrooms and little touches, such as guitars embroidered onto the pillows. Of course, there’s also a record player, and you can request a curated playlist – as well as a guitar to your room. Where else can you get guitar room service!?
But back to the food. We take the elevator down to Zampas, passing more music memorabilia; the hotel houses Bowie’s orange jumpsuit, a sweater worn by Kurt Cobain and guitars signed by The Cranberries, among others. Before we reach our table, we make our way through Zampas’ bar, where the words ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ are emblazed in neon. Live music plays here throughout the week, showcasing local artists.
To kick off the meal, I opt for a cold glass of Domaine Fourrey Chablis, a beautiful white wine, and nibble on a Harumaki Spring Roll, stuffed with prawns, pork and Namban sauce. For my starter, I opt for Papa Rellena: crispy Irish beef cheeks and potato croquettes, served with chili jam, Datterini tomatoes and feta cheese. The other option of white fish ceviche also looked delicious.
The star of the show is the mains: the Zampas Butcher’s Block, served family-style. There was sticky Asasor Peruvian chicken and spicy dips, a 280g Dry Aged Sirloin Steak with chimichurri, fall-apart Tonkatsu pork ribs, smoked lamb tomahawks as well as feta-crumbed corn, crunchy, fluffy chips and honey/chili roasted carrots. Talk about a flavour-bomb feast; every morsel is marinated and flame-cooked to perfection. It’s also worth noting the Irish suppliers that are supported throughout the menu, from John Stone’s beef to Manor Farm chicken.
Dessert ended the evening on a perfectly sweet note: the Dulce De Leche Parfit, a warm apple and cinnamon doughnut with fresh mango and honeycomb. There’s other tasty treats to opt for, like a spiced ginger pudding with a banana fritter and butterscotch sauce, or warm churros with a vanilla bean gelato – these are the kind of desserts that are impossible to skip.
I have to mention the staff in Zampas too: good humoured, on-the-ball and super friendly, this dining experience is elevated by them. They’re equally cheery and helpful in the morning for breakfast service, where the options include a full Irish, vanilla and cinnamon French toast, avocado on toast with refried kidney beans and poached hen’s eggs and smokey beans and eggs on chorizo.