As One + Potager:
Two Perfect Rooms For The Pandemically-Anxious Diner
Lisa Cope - 7th July 2020
What’s the story?
An awful lot has changed since our last (carefree) once over of the brunch menu at Daddy's back in March. Just three days later schools were shut, and what's likely to be the defining event of our lifetime was underway. Four months later and we're still feeling hollow and unsure of what's coming next, but we'd be lying if we said that the reopening of restaurants (and creches) last week wasn't a huge relief.
What's still causing a lot of unease is how many places are projecting radio silence across their websites and social media channels, and it's anyone's guess how many casualties are going to scattered across the city when this is all over, but for the ones that have reopened (with the necessary precautions), there's never been a more important time to get out and support them (presuming you feel comfortable doing so).
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Why is it an ideal post-lockdown eating out choice?
The room is huge, high ceilinged and very spacious. They've taken out a few tables but there was already lots of space between them - all part of the mindful, minimalistic vibe. There's also outdoor seating if it's dry. Menus are gone, instead you scan a QR code on your phone and it pops up, or you can see it on a screen on the wall. There's a clearly marked queuing system both inside and outside, and lots of signage about keeping your distance.
Staff weren't masked when we were there, but the room is so cavernous and airy (particularly with the wide open doors at the front) that it really didn't feel like a problem. Staff did appear scrupulous about hygiene though, gingerly handing over cutlery and carefully placing food down from as much of a distance as it's possible to maintain.
As One is the ideal place to ease yourself back into café culture or brunch with mates, and we can't imagine many places feeling safer or more well ventilated. It's the antitheses to cramped cafés where your elbows knock against your neighbour's, and you have to shout over the noise to get a server's attention. Cool, calm and comforting is where it's at after the past few months, and there's the added bonus of all of that impeccably sourced food, that your gut will hopefully thank you for.
What's the food and drink like?
Provenance of everything is front and centre, so if seeing things like Magner's Farm organic eggs, Irish shiitake mushrooms and The Village Dairy's organic milk put a smile on your face you're going to love it here. The post-Covid menu is slightly more condensed, with breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, as well as the salad and protein bar, and a couple of sharing plates.
We're still thinking about the savoury, earthy mushrooms on toast with Irish shiitake, oyster and chestnut mushrooms, Jane Russell's black pudding, edamame and spinach pesto, chervil and an organic poached egg on Le Levain sourdough toast, but also loved the soft, smokey Turkish Eggs Menemen with a tomato and roasted red pepper sauce, feta yoghurt & black olives.
What about Potager?
We reviewed Potager last year and fell hard for ex-Chapter One head chef Cathal Leonard's dynamic, singular cooking. After having four months to think about where we were most longing to eat once restrictions were lifted, it kept coming back to Potager, so yelps of delight were heard by the neighbours after bagging a Saturday night booking their first weekend back.
What do I need to know about As One?
As One opened on City Quay, just down from Tara Street station, a little over a year ago. Owner Mark Cashen had suffered with gut problems in the past which made him realise the importance of diet for wellbeing, so decided to leave his job in banking and open a café with gut health, mindfulness and the best of Irish produce at its core. The spacious, high-ceilinged space is minimal and supposed to be an antidote to the over stimulation that consumes most of us from one end of the day to the other, and the menu is a who's who of Irish farmers, vegetable growers and dairy producers.
A large proportion of ingredients come from the surrounding area in North County Dublin and Louth, and suppliers are proudly listed opposite that night's menu. Out of 10 courses there wasn't one dud, starting with fermented brown bread and Cuinneog butter, and onion bread with ricotta and kale pesto, and seeming to get better with every course that followed.
A beer, cheese and savoury soup had us fervently scraping the tiny bowl for one more drop, the violet artichoke with crab, elderflower and sorrel had so many flavours with not one redundant, and the kai broccoli with confit garlic, deep-fried breaded anchovies, mustard and crispy violetta potato skins from Ballymakenny farm was a plate of total joy, that almost made up for the hell of the past few months.
The staff had all told us that the beetroot pasta with smoked duck, truffle and ricotta was their favourite dish, and with an ingredient line up like that it wasn't hard to see why. We love a pasta course on a tasting menu, and we loved this one more. Usually the mere sight of chicken on a menu emits a bored groan, but not when it's Sean Ring's organic chickens from Kilkenny, and not when it's served in three different ways with two different types of swede, a garlic scape and a chicken jus that tasted as like at least 100 chickens had gone into it.
The cheese course was a Knocklara cheese mousse sitting over a cranberry jelly with three different types of port in there, pistachios on top and seeded crackers. Think about how good that sounds, then multiply it by 10. This man is a maestro when it comes to whipped cheese, and we had the same sentiments last time about a similar dish with Cashel Blue, apple and celery jelly and walnuts.
As everyone who has reopened is still a bit shell shocked, toying with limited menus and deciding how to navigate the many, many reopening guidelines (some of which make absolutely zero sense), it didn't feel right to do a typical once over, so instead we're telling you about two dining options that are perfect if you're feeling a bit anxious about stepping out into the big, bad world again.
What's the food and drink like?
This is fine dining but there's nothing uptight or serious about it. The set dinner menu has increased in price from €55 to €60, but €60 feels like immense value for food this compelling. The only other changes are that there used to be a choice of mains and now that's just another course in the tasting. For us this is an improvement, as one of our only critiques last time was that the mains weren't as interesting as the smaller courses and felt like they were there to fill people up. That's not the case any more. There's also an extended menu for €80 with an extra course, both cheese and dessert (rather than choosing between them), and petit fours.
We also tried the porridge made with oats from Merry Mill in Laois, which came topped with teff (an Ethiopian grain), caramelised banana, almond butter and strawberries. There was no denying the quality of the oats, but the dish felt slightly dry and in need of some yoghurt or compote. We'd had the pancakes on a previous occasion and wished they were back on the midweek breakfast menu, because blueberry pancakes with Velvet Cloud sheep's milk yoghurt are an excellent start to the day. Coffee is from Cloud Picker with both regular and decaf versions faultless, and the 'healthy' treats of oat bars and coconut raspberry slices tasted in no way healthy - which is a large compliment.
The ending was sweet, with chocolate, Velvet Cloud sheep's milk yoghurt and cherries, followed by petit fours of rose geranium filled choux buns (we scraped the plate for the last of the cream), and chocolate, white chocolate and beetroot macarons.
Both the wines and the service have taken a leap forward since the last time we were there, and every recommendation by the glass did what all great wine pairings should do - enhanced the food even more. Service was so smooth with dishes perfectly paced, while the staff remained relaxed and chatty - there can't be that many places in the country to eat food of this level in such a laid back, informal atmosphere.
Why is it perfect for post-lockdown dining?
The room has always felt spacious, and now with a couple more tables removed you're metres from anyone else, and in no danger of eavesdropping on their conversations. There's hand sanitizer at the door, you hold onto your menu for the night to minimise contact with staff, and they've even removed one of the lobby doors into the bathrooms to eliminate one possible area of cross-contamination between guests.
A second visit to Potager has confirmed for us that it's one of the best restaurants in Dublin, with its own unique take on fine dining, and us post/mid-pandemic diners are very lucky to have it. No one knows what's going to happen with Michelin this year under the current circumstances, but if they are doling out stars for 2021 we hope they get a chance to come to Skerries before decisions are made.