A New Reason To Visit The Dublin 8 Favourite
Lisa Cope - 25th February 2020
What’s the story?
Bastible opened in 2015, the first restaurant from couple Barry Fitzgerald and Claremarie Thomas (who also own Clanbrassil House and Coffee Shop), and after Catherine Cleary called it the best restaurant she'd been to that year, there was something of a stampede, with months of tables booked out in an instant. Since the initial pandemonium it's enjoyed steady success, and it's safe to say it would feature on most (if not all) food writers and critics' 'best restaurants in Ireland' lists, but in the middle of last year there was an interesting development when it was annouced that ex-Geranium (three-Michelin starred restaurant in Copenhagen) and Noma (two-stars, also in Copenhagen) chef and Dublin native Cúán Greene had come home and taken up the mantle of head chef. Cue mammoth excitement about having someone who's worked at that level of globally recognised dining home and cooking in Ireland.
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What's good to eat?
We visited for Sunday lunch which is the best value meal of the week at Bastible. The 'set menu' (really a tasting menu) is €45, whereas on other days a similar spread costs €52 at lunch or €65 at dinner. Just think about the extra money you'll have to spend on wine.
Next up came doorstop sized slices of homemade sourdough bread with Greene's cultured butter, the bread soft and tangy, the butter creamy, sweet and almost fluffy. We're also not sure whether it was deliberate or not but we're really on board with the idea of serving the bread and butter as its own course, rather than as an accompaniment to more exciting dishes. What's more exciting than really excellent bread and butter? After that came what felt like a beautiful looking palette cleanser of very finely sliced kolhrabi, sorrel and orange blossom, served cold and eaten in one or two bites. It was an interesting, light bite, but it won't be consuming our minds like some of the other dishes.
Where should we sit?
The dining room is pared back and minimalist, with lots of wood and steel, and moss green on the walls - very Scandi-esque. There are tables against the wall and in the centre of the room, and a six seater at the window. We do prefer a window seat, but if there aren't that many of you we'd opt for the wall every time. There's also some counter seats with a good view of the kitchen, which we imagine are in demand on busy evenings.
Then it was back into OMG territory with a dexter beef tartare topped with a Jerusalem artichoke cream and cep crumbs. If there's a better tartare in the country we need to know about it, because it's unimaginable to think of any tasting better than this. The cream was almost like a rich, earthy custard, with the slightest crunch from the crumbs contrasting with the velvet softness of the tiny cubes of meat. A perfect plate of food.
Where should we go for a drink first?
If you're after bubbles or wine, recently opened The Wine Pair on Clanbrassil Street should be top of your list. The neighbourhood wine bar has a mostly European selection, with plenty of organic and natural options and €10 corkage on anything off the shelf. If it's a pint or a G+T you fancy head for 57 The Headline who specialise in craft beer and have an enormous range of gins.
Then it was onto the main course proper - quince lacquered sea trout with glazed potato flatbread, smoked yoghurt and fermented gooseberries. The fish was rich and sweet and flaking apart, the potato flatbread pillowy, chewy and slightly sticky, and the smoked yoghurt with sea lettuce on top jacked everything up to peak flavour. The only thing we didn't get was the fermented gooseberries, which were tangy and sour in a very funky way that we found marginally unpleasant. They also only brought one tiny bowl of each for three people which felt a bit mean. They brought more on request but there was a five minute wait while the chef prepared it. Nevertheless this is a spectacular combination of flavours and textures, and much moaning was uttered during its consumption.
Dessert was a beautiful, unusual combination of sheep's milk yoghurt mousse, fermented plum, marigold leaf sugar and woodruff oil. After so many rich flavours it was nice to end on something so light and delicate, with the sugar giving a lovely crunch against the airy mousse, and each flavour defined yet melding together so well. Plates were scraped clean.
Finally as a petit four we were brought a juniper caramel wrapped in blackcurrant leather, a sweet, sour, salty, satisfying end to a pretty spectacular meal.
What about the drinks?
The wine list here is impressive, with many of our favourite winemakers featured and loads from the natural canon, as well as sherries and grower Champagnes - notoriously hard to find on Dublin wine lists. We loved the Gaston Chiquet Champagne and the Emmerich Knoll Riesling, but you can't go far wrong with a list like this.
And the service?
Staff were all lovely and accommodating, and knew exactly what was in each dish and how it had been prepared - a rarity. We did have to flail around a few times trying to flag someone down to order more wine or request more of that immense smoked yoghurt, but once they got there they were very helpful.
They kept it quiet to start, letting Greene find his feet and explore the local (and greater) Dublin area for what could be foraged, fermented and found in woodlands, fields and probably even gardens, but you can't keep a secret long in this town, and as soon as Catherine Cleary found out there was fresh blood in the kitchen she was straight in. Another rave review followed, with her saying "there's a new level of cooking in town", and Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner following close behind saying that what's happening here "needs to be experienced". We don't need any more convincing than that.
After that life high came a dish we'd been lusting after on Instagram for weeks - the baked swede with pumpkin seed mole, pumpkin seeds and ginger oil. It's one of the prettiest plates of food you're likely to eat this year, with soft, delicate flavours, but it didn't have the oomph or impact of some of the other dishes so felt over-shadowed in the grand scheme of the meal. Although 10 points for making turnip not taste like turnip.
It opened with 'ox tongue shish, kelp and dried mushroom', and if the thoughts of eating that part of an animal has the potential to turn your stomach, this is the tongue to change your mind. We're talking "OMG what is happening in my mouth right now and how can I make it last longer" levels of deliciousness. It had been sliced wafer thin, threaded onto a branch made of beech (for the flavour), barbecued and glazed before serving. Imagine the softest, most melt in the mouth, deeply-flavoured brisket, which had finished over fire to make it extra 'extra', and given a sticky, slightly sweet coating. What an opener.
Bastible has been one of Dublin's top restaurants since it opened in 2015, but the arrival of Cúán Greene has taken it to the next level, where foraging, pristine sourcing and defining Irish food takes centre stage, and stars undoubtedly await. It's no secret that Greene harbours ambitions of opening his own restaurant, and how far away that is we don't know, but we'd recommend trying his food here as soon you can, and you'll be guaranteed to follow him wherever he goes next.