This week's critic reviews
In The Irish Times, Catherine Cleary was in much better mood than last week awarding Locks a rare 9/10, and saying "The food is brilliant and easily outflanks restaurants where tables are much harder to secure. Go soon to enjoy a restaurant at the top of its game." We also can't help but detect a subtle dig at Glover's Alley when she describes Locks as "calm, less nerve jangled than those earlier days, like a place that knows what it is rather than somewhere reaching for what it wants to be."
CC's food descriptions alone are enough to have you begging for a booking - "gobstopper-sized croquettes of smoked ham with disks of glistening apple", onion soup that comes with "a smoked buttermilk curd like a captured cloud in the bottom of the bowl, currachs of pearly charred onions and lifebuoy rings of battered shallots, like a bay with the tide gone out, all waiting for the soup which is poured from a jug at the table", and poached sea trout "such a vibrant colour that it looks like it was sliced sashimi style from something still flapping, then scorched with a flame and plated ... There are tricolour blobs of herb oil, creme fraiche and roe to finish one of the most beautiful starters I’ve had in an Irish restaurant." *books table immediately*. You can read her review here.
Tom Doorley in the Irish Daily Mail was equally loving his visit to Locks, mostly because he was let in the door - the last time he tried to eat there he was thrown out by ex-owner Sébastien Masi (long story involving some contentious pumpkin gnocchi). He calls the new Locks "one of the best places to eat in the capital", and says the food is about "serious talent and discipline". He calls the whipped chicken liver paté "ethereal", the agnolotti with smoked potato "inspired, quite brilliant", and the cod "impeccably cooked". If you didn't want to visit before you definitely do now. (Review not currently online)
Someone else who was loving the critic life was Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner after eating in Assassination Custard THREE DAYS IN A ROW. Hard core. We've always wondered what the crazy name meant, and he starts his review by telling us - it involves Samuel Beckett being stabbed. Thankfully things look up from here.
He loved the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern inspired menu, featuring dishes like panelle chickpea flour fritters, goat's heart with cherries, yoghurt and smoked paprika, and homemade labneh with pomegranate seeds and sumac (all above). It sounds like a little piece of heaven and we're scratching our heads as to why they only open for lunch from Tuesday - Friday. Answers on a postcard. You can read his review here.
Over at the Irish Independent and The Sunday Business Post it was a tale of two Indian restaurants. Gillian Nelis was in Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh, enjoying marinated, charcoal cooked beef, masala prawns cooked in a tandoor oven, and a mouth-numbing, sweat-inducing curry. She also makes a very valid point about the wastefulness of the lettuce, carrot, cucumber and tomato garnish on the plate - has anyone ever eaten that?
Her and her companion also "pushed the boat out" with a €45 bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir - are we the only ones who wish the critics would stop apologising for having a nice bottle of wine with their nice plate of food? Or worse, ordering the house wine EVERY SINGLE TIME. We're not in a recession any more lads. Good food deserves good wine.
While she enjoyed a lot of the food, she felt it was a bit dated and lagging behind what new-wave chefs are doing with Indian food. We're quietly confident she was thinking about 3 Leaves in Blackrock when she wrote this, which coincidentally is where Katy McGuinness ended up for her review. (Read the review of Kinara Kitchen here - subscription only)
Unsurprisingly, Katy loved 3 Leaves, particularly the Dahl Puri - "crispy puffed semolina balls stuffed with chickpea and yoghurt sauce and more deep-fried shards of crunchiness on top", Chicken Shahjahani - boneless chicken thighs in a rich cashew nut gravy, and Aloo Ka Masala, a vegetable curry with house-made cheese, nuts and soya beans. She calls the potato and white turnip breads "exceptional", and lets us in on the hot tip that Blackrock Cellar across the road offer a 10% discount on wine to take across to 3 Leaves - it's BYO in case you didn't know, so you can feel a bit less guilty about "pushing the boat out" with that nice bottle of wine. The two reviews are like a snapshot of then vs now, and we know which one we'll be heading to the next time we're craving Indian food. Read Katy's review here.
Last but never least, is Lucinda O'Sullivan's taking apart of Elle's Bar and Bistro in the swanky new Iveagh Garden Hotel on Harcourt Street. Despite a €40 million cash investment, they couldn't manage a base plate or a spoon for her crayfish cocktail, and her main of Barbary duck breast was like "two big lumps of pig's liver". Yum yum. Thankfully her friend's spelt risotto was delicious, despite a long wait, as was a gluten-free brownie (we're sensing a trend here).
The service sounds a bit like a Fawlty Towers sketch, with a waiter attempting to remove a starter plate before it was finished, questioning a choice of red wine when the diner was having fish (face palm), and then managing to get the bill completely wrong. Oh well. They launch properly mid-April, maybe they'll have spoons by then. (Review not currently online)
More next week.