This Week's Critic Reviews
After last week's Sole love fest from Lucinda, this week it was Katy McGuinness's turn to give her take on the €65 Norweigan crab claws, in the Irish Independent. She seems more on team Lucinda than team Tom and Gillian, and despite having the same complaints about the glut of imported seafood, she liked the 'retro' starters of Oysters Rockefeller and prawn cocktail.
Sole meunière was "simple, as it should be", and the infamous crab claws had good flavour and texture but lacked richness - if you can afford to pay €65 for crab claws you probably won't lose sleep over this. She acknowledges it's not for a cheap night out, but we're still staggering at the bill of €287 for dinner for two. You could easily get in and out of Chapter One for less than that. Read her review here.
Meanwhile, Lucinda O'Sullivan in The Sunday Independent was trying out the newly refurbished, controversy-ridden Clontarf Baths. Luckily she wasn't planning a dip as she would have been bitterly disappointed. She thought the food was fantastic - Guinness bread with seaweed butter, Ireland's Eye crab on sourdough, Gambas with chilli, garlic, chorizo and samphire - but we're not sure it will be enough to get locals to drop their placards and pop in for lunch. (Review not currently online.)
In The Irish Times, Catherine Cleary did a split review, mostly of Cowfish in Bray, with a shorter mention of Strandfield House in Dundalk, and once again neither involved alcohol. We're starting to wonder if this is all part of our great leader's plan to bring prohibition to Ireland, on top of having the highest tax on wine in the EU, making us do the walk of shame to the bottle bank and a soon-to-be introduced alcohol bill, the implications of which it's probably best not to talk about on Sunday when we're still marginally happy after the weekend. Has Leo gotten to her?
She liked the rooftop location and summer vibe at Cowfish, but had issues with the mackerel on toast which needed to be "toastier" and mushroom ravioli with a filling too much like baby-food, but she enjoyed the beef cheek, "a slump of brown meat cooked so slowly that the sinew and fat have melted to a glistening slick that binds the whole lot together," and the onion nest (above), which were "dusted in a gritty polenta crumb ... tasting like the best crispy bits in the bottom of a chip bag."
At Strandfield House she finds "proper cakes, luscious enough to put Strandfield on the map for a pit stop off the M1 on the next trip north." The coffee and hazlenut cake and chewy, toasty coconut macaroons get special mention. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was taking advantage of €8 corkage at Whelehan's Wines, paying €28.50 for a wine he reckons would be almost €100 in other restaurants (p.s. this is how to drink well when out - look at Green Man Wines, 64 Wine and Fallon & Byrne's €1 corkage Mondays and Tuesdays for similar tricks of the trade).
He and his dining companion enjoyed potted Lambay crab and scallops with Clonakilty black pudding, but thought the boeuf Bourgignon had too much tomato, accompanying sides were ill-chosen and the food generally needed a bit more swagger, being "sound" rather than "exciting".
In The Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee was at Kalbos Café in Skibbereen, Cork. We love his description of "a space so small even telepathy might be vulnerable to eavesdropping, a crucial consideration in a country town". Every dish hit the spot, including Castletownbere crab salad, caramelised champ potato cakes, and parsnip, leek and lemon soup, but the star attractions were the cakes. The white chocolate and raspberry cake is "so good", the warm nut brownie deserving of 'world famous' status, and the ricotta and lime pie "divine. Read his review here.
Finally, in the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis was in the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford, trying their Michelin-starred restaurant 'House', and making half of Instagram green with envy with her picture of a ridiculously intricate chicken skin waffle amuse-bouche.
She describes the kitchen as "pushing boundaries", using ingredients like the bitter sea buckthorn, but the rest of the tasting menu sounds like an exercise in the ultimate luxury - quail's eggs, caviar, morels, guinea fowl, lobster and tonburi Akita (land-caviar), all feature. Foie gras came with the "rhubarbiest rhubarb" she'd tasted in ages, and the guinea fowl was an "indulgent treat".
Both the trio of desserts and the petit fours sound like works of art (or science experiments), and we recommend reading the whole review if you like feeling very jealous of other people's meals. The whole thing sounds worthy of a Chef's Table episode. Read her review here (subscription only).
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