This Week's Critic Reviews
The big story this week is how much Lucinda O'Sullivan loved Sole, the new, high-end seafood restaurant on Wicklow Street, after it was panned by Tom Doorley in The Daily Mail and Gillian Nelis in the Sunday Business Post. They both took exception to the amount of imported seafood and the eye-popping prices, but LOS had no problem paying €47.50 for a plate of "perfectly grilled" Dover Sole, and didn't blink at a seafood platter for €110.
There's a touch of the 'fangirl' about it, with owners described as the same people behind the "oh-so-fabulous Fire", the much criticised Norweigan crab called the "mighty denizens of the deep", and "fantastic" Coquilles St Jacques, described as "a plumpous duo of scallop shells filled to their pretty frilled edges", costing €35. Compared to Tom Doorley's description of the same dish, with a sauce "the consistency of milk", and "under-seasoned, under-buttered" mash, we can only suggest that maybe they've bucked up since then. We heard on the grapevine that another critic paid Sole a visit during the week, so we'll wait to see what side they're on. (Review not currently online)
Another talking point this week was Catherine Cleary who went to probably one of the country's best restaurants right now, Clenaghan's, and only drank fizzy water. Surely there should be a ban on reviewing a meal if you don't try the wine? Maybe budgets at the Irish Times' are tighter than we thought.
Despite the lack of liquid refreshment, Clenaghan's is currently top of her list for meal of the year - imagine how good it would have been with booze! The food reminded her of when she first fell in love with restaurant dining in rural France, and every dish she describes sounds magical. "Quail’s eggs cloaked in sausage meat and bread crumbed and cooked so that a bright yellow yolk slides out of the “wee scotch eggs” like a kitchen conjuring trick". "Properly impressive goat and beet, the cheese in curd form so it’s still almost liquid and gossamer delicate in flavour, a whisper of goat rather than the usual holler." "A slab of garlic bread, the quennelle of green pesto on top made from the softest wild garlic on top of a buttery slice of toast." There may have been a late night dial to Clenaghan's last night to enquire about accommodation availability. Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams was at Glovers Alley having a very similar experience to us (you can read our take here). He too was underwhelmed by the first taste of a Parmesan Gougère, but loved the Jerusalem artichokes with winter truffle - "a genius masterclass on what you can do with a humble root vegetable", Comeragh Mountain Lamb with "the purest most perfect ‘Irish Stew’ I’ve ever tasted", and "silky exuberant Coconut Rice with Cream Cheese wafer, Sake and Yoghurt Ice-cream", which was "extraordinarily good". He ends by saying it's not perfect but has touches of perfection. Read his review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was back at Lucky Tortoise in Ranelagh, who are still on the search for a permanent site. He found the €20 dim sum menu delivered yet again, and it seems to have had some multi-cultural tweaks since we were last there - Thai green chicken curry dumplings, pot stickers with pancetta, and a suspicion that the Japanese omelette had a Lea and Perrins sauce. He loved it all, and we've made a mental note to return to what has to be one of the best value eateries in the city. It's also BYO, which is one of the best things ever. Review not currently online.
In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis felt her Italian dinner was over-priced at Pinocchio in Ranelagh. Spaghetti Carbonara was cooked the right way (no cream or bacon to see here) but incredibly rich, the frittura mista was well-cooked but salty, and the disappointing tiramisu tasted of "nothing but sugar". Her Italian friend took it as a personal insult that lady fingers weren't used, and they generally felt the food was "only okay" and in parts "very over-priced". Read her review here. (Subscription only)
Finally, Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent was over in London checking out one of the buzziest restaurants in the city right now (and the subject of an Irish racism row), the modern-Irish Nuala. Unfortunately for Katy she was stood up by not one but both of us her lunch dates - we'd be getting new pals Katy! She soldiered on alone (whilst only being able to try half the amount of food, rage). Turns out Irish cooking means load of potatoes, and Katy immensely enjoyed the beef tartare with extra stout sauce, egg yolk and dripping fries, the chips "especially good", and the dauphinoise potatoes with lamb-fat gravy.
Cauliflower rarebit was lacking cheese, lardo that came with crab was cut too thickly, and she couldn't manage dessert after all those potatoes, but she'd like to return with a gang, if she can rustle one up. Read her review here. Book your flights to London here.
More next week.
* 1st August 2018 - A previous version of this article featured Ernie Whalley's review for the Sunday Times. This has been removed at the newspaper's request