This Week's Critic Reviews
‘Ouch’ has been the word of the weekend, after Glovers Alley getting a hammering from Catherine Cleary and Sole getting not one but two hammerings from Tom Doorley and Gillian Nelis. It’s also been a bad week for the reputation of the mildly terrifying looking Norwegian crab.
The critics have been taking their time heading into Glovers Alley, presumably giving the team a fair amount of time to settle in, but after being open for six weeks (is that really all its been?) we were hoping for better than Catherine Cleary’s 6/10 in The Irish Times. She quipped that the cheapest option on the menu was to not show up (€50 a head), and lamented the use of Swiss cheese over Irish, which we think is a little unfair - it would be a hard-pressed kitchen to stick to only Irish ingredients. What’s less understandable is how they let a hair get onto the plate of the Irish Times food critic.
Beetroot with foie gras was the best dish of the lunch, and they felt the kitchen showed more flair with vegetables than meat, calling the guinea fowl skin ‘flaccid’ and the hake ‘rubbery’. Even Aoife Noonan’s universally praised desserts didn’t do the job, with CC saying her rhubarb meringue looked much better than it tasted. She felt the place was ‘vibrating with stress rather than focusing on the food’, and if it was a person she’d ‘send it on yoga retreat or to a dark room to calm the heck down for a few hours’. We hope Andy McFadden and team have thick skins. The only way is up guys. Read her review here.
Another team likely to be licking their wounds this weekend is the one at Sole, the glitzy new seafood restaurant on South William Street where a plate of the eponymous Sole will cost you €47.50. We did raise our doubts, and it seems the critics agree.
Tom Doorley in the Daily Mail was unimpressed with their use of Norwegian crab and Portugese octopus when we have so much great seafood on our coasts. The crab tasted of little and the octopus was battered, but not in tempura like the menu said, just your bog-standard kind. He describes a dish of Coquilles St Jacques with two scallops in a sauce the consistency of milk, with under-seasoned, under-buttered mash piped around the edge, for the eye-watering price of €35. (Sounds almost as scary as that massive crab in the tank above.) We bet he was dreaming of the one he had in Bresson a few weeks ago. He ends by saying ‘lacklustre food at any cost is always disappointing; at prices as ambitious as these it feels worse.’ Once again, ouch. (Review not currently online)
Gillian Nelis’s headline says it all for her review of Sole: ‘Swanky Seafood at terrifying Tiger prices’. She is not impressed that her dish of Dover sole costs €2.50 more (€47.50) than a far more enjoyable three-course meal at Locks (€45, her review last week). She too lampoons the use of Norwegian crab, 300g of which will make a dent of €65 in your pocket, but she thought the sole and tiger prawns were well cooked. Sarcastic sentence of the week also goes to G: ‘If only we lived on an island surrounded by some of the best crab meat in the world that could be sold at a much more affordable price, and in the process help to support local jobs…’ She ends by saying ‘Sole is the ghost of the Celtic Tiger come back to haunt us.’ Read her review here (subscription only).
Not everyone got a kicking this week. Katy McGuinness in The Irish Independent managed to bag a reservation at Heron & Grey - she must have been hovering over the laptop when the last batch of tables became available – AND got to sit next to ‘Lovely Leo’ - swoon. She calls the cooking dynamic, innovative and flavoursome, describing a journey through the tastes that sounds a bit like a science experiment, but one we’d wait in line to be a guinea pig for. She describes dishes of ‘Allotment Kimchi – Herring – Kohlrabi’, ‘Refined Unwaxed Lemon Textures’, and pigeon with wild garlic and hazelnut.
They don’t quite get a perfect score like Etto, with 9/10 for food, and 10/10 for ambience and value, which Katy puts down to it still being somewhat of a test kitchen, and a stepping stone to a more ambitious project. We’ll be hovering again on the 1st of April at 10am when the next batch of tables become available. If you want to hover too you can do it here. (Review not currently online)
Next door to Heron & Grey, Lucinda O’Sullivan was lapping up the Indian street food at 3 Leaves, leaving their perfect critic score unchanged. She loved the pani puri (wheat based shells filled with potatoes, chickpeas, mango, pomegranate and sauces, below), palak pakora chaat (crispy spinach dressed with sauces) and the kesari murgh (chicken curry with nuts, lentils and other toppings). Dessert of gulab jamun (milk-solid balls in rosewater syrup) was ‘absolutely heavenly’, and she found the whole experience ‘thoroughly delightful’. (Review not currently online)
Also having a good food day was Joe McNamee who was in Waterford at the Bay Tree Bistro, the same restaurant whose food Tom Doorley called ‘over-ambitious’ a few weeks ago. Joe also found the ‘multiplicity of flavours’ a bit much, and the amount of flavours described in the snacks alone had us needing a sit down - White Pudding & Blue Cheese Gougere; Chicken Mousse & Curry Granola (what?); Soy-glazed Chicken Oyster; Beef Tartare with Balsamic Caviar. Make it stop.
Joe and The Light of His Life (changing it up from My Heart’s Desire, good man Joe, keeping it fresh) loved the homemade crisps, breads and butters, and starters of beef cheek rillettes with brown butter, and ‘cheffy’ Sea Bass, potato, apple and beetroot. Our favourite food descriptor of the week comes in the form of his Kilkenny Rose Veal which was ‘tender as an infant’s cheek’, and desserts were accomplished but so sweet, and lacking the innovation of the savoury dishes.
Despite a couple of blips they left happy, saying; 'it is a joy to eat the food of a chef so utterly in thrall to his craft, an old pro operating with the enthusiasm, vigour and verve of a freshly unfettered young ’un.’ We’re sure the team have a bit more pep in their step today than they did two weeks ago. You can read his review here.
More next week.