Saturday nights at Admiral are the busiest.
The tables are full, the Eastern European pop is loud, and the decor is nautical – sails across the ceiling, portholes on the walls, netting and model ships.
It’s easy to forget you are in Dublin, on the ground floor of the Q-Park on Marlborough Street, with the fenced-off Luas works running down the road outside.
While Admiral bills itself as a mainly Russian restaurant, the menu spans the wider neighbourhood, with Eastern European dishes, as well as some from the Caucuses and Central Asia.
“We asked their waiters and customers what they would like to see in our menu,” said Kamila Chomiuk, the manager of the restaurant, on a recent Tuesday. That’s how it became so diverse.
Admiral isn’t new. It opened eight or nine years back, when a family from Eastern Europe noticed a gap.
“At that time, there were loads of people from Eastern Europe for work, and they were nostalgic about the food,” said Oxana Kutcyulim, who has worked there for about two and a half years.
The founders thought they should make it look like a ship, as if you are travelling through the sea somewhere, she said. “Something different.”
The menu includes several types of dumplings, from boiled Russian pelmeni with sour cream, to deep-fried Lithuanian pelmeni, juicy inside. There are also Ukrainian-style vareniki, stuffed with potato and topped with bacon.
It’s also possibly the only place in the city to get the Georgian comfort food khachapuri, a doughy, cheesey, buttery dish a bit like a pizza – but with more butter and cheese and dough. At Admiral, they offer it with or without a raw egg on top.
The most popular dish, though, is either the borscht or the Lithuanian cepelinai, says Oxana. The latter is another type of dumpling, but larger than pelmeni or vareniki.
“It’s two big dumplings, and served with sour cream and bacon, or something like that,” she says.
In recent times, the menu has added more Moldovan and Romanian dishes, too, with mamaliga – a kind of Romanian polenta – appearing on the menu, and barbecued meat, too.
They change the menu every six months, but they keep the classics on it.
The head chef is from Ukraine, Oxana said. The kitchen staff also includes people from Russia, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine. Five nationalities among the 11 members of staff.
Kutcyulim says she thinks Admiral would be even busier if it had a better location. Sure, it’s not far from O’Connell Street, but it’s a bit out the way and hard to stumble upon, she says. “You have to know.”
These days, among those the restaurant attracts are students who bring friends along to taste the food and – if it’s a Friday or a Saturday evening – to catch the Belarussian saxophone player, or the powerful singer.
“They come here just to wonder, to remember,” she said.
As the Luas gets up and running, she expects even more people to discover the place. And there might be outdoor seating once the weather improves.
“In springtime, we’re going to have some big extensions, with tables outside,” she said.