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This Week's Critic Reviews

This week sees the redemption of Bun Cha, the Vietnamese street food restaurant on Moore Street, which Lucinda O'Sullivan memorably ripped apart soon after opening.

While LO'S called the summer rolls "tasteless lumps of starch", Tom thought they were "spot on, underlining that this kind of food is all about freshness and clean, distinctive flavours."

Wonton noodle soup was a highlight - "I'm not sure where else you will get so much to eat and delight in" - as was the bun cha, consisting of smoky pieces of grilled pork in a sweet, savoury and salty broth, which had "clean, fresh flavours and a considerable degree of zing". The whole meal came to €40 for two, which Tom describes as "The Noble prize for value".

It's always curious when critics have such different experiences and opinions of a restaurant. Were the meals cooked by two different people? Has the restaurant in question changed things since the bad review? Or do the critics just have completely different tastes? Regardless, Bun Cha has been removed from the "never eat here" list. (Review not currently online)

In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness is at Juniors in Dublin 4, wondering if the two women who are front of house and "hospitality incarnate" can be cloned and distributed across the city. Pretty sure our restaurateurs would jump at that.

She regretted choosing the pint of prawns for a starter, saying they lacked flavour, and had the exact same complaint about the "homemade mayonnaise" that Paolo Tullio had nine years ago when he ate there, calling it "white and anodyne and less exciting than Hellman's". Nine years is a lot of time to get the mayo right.

Purple sprouting broccoli with goat's cheese mousse, red chicory and toasted hazlenuts was "simple, seasonal, rather good", and high praise was reserved for the the Côte de boeuf, which she says isn't far off Etto's. She also managed to narrowly escape disaster when her glass of red wine went flying in the direction of a fellow diner wearing a white silk shirt, but just missed her. Not sure the Indo's budget would have stretched to replacing that. Read her review here.

In The Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan does a nice little round up of 5 cafés she thinks are worth a visit - Happy Out in Clontarf, Pot Bellied Pig in Rathmines, The Riddler near Christ Church, Vanilla Pod in Blackrock, and Fennelly's in Kilkenny.

She recommends eating a toastie overlooking the sea at Happy Out, and the smashed avocado or speciality crêpe at Fennelly's, as well as the desserts and cakes which are "to die for".

Risotto at The Riddler was pleasant, breakfast at Vanilla Pod sounded pretty standard but was enjoyable and good value, and a BLT with garlic and basil aioli was the standout at Pot Bellied Pig. She advises checking out their monthly drag brunches and supper clubs. Review not currently online.

In the Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee was breaking the cardinal rule of never reviewing a restaurant on opening night. To be fair, he didn't plan to write about it - it was just so bloody good. Chestnut in West Cork, from chef Rob Krawczyk, is one of the most anticipated openings of the year, so we're not surprised Joe wanted to get in early, but we're both jealous and impressed that he bagged one of the 18 seats on their first night of service.

The food sounds dynamic and delicious, featuring dishes like mussels with tangy-sweet cucumber and samphire, scallops with parsnip purée, pan-wilted wild garlic and fennel pollen, and new season asparagus topped with a shaving of ham fat and pennywort.

The two dishes that sealed the deal were Hogget, with its "impossibly tender pink meat you could slice with a knife’s handle let alone blade", and the cheeseboard, which he boldly states is the best restaurant cheeseboard he's ever had.

The Michelin guide have already been in, so if you want to visit we'd advise trying to get there before September. This little 18 seater could be Cork's answer to Heron & Grey. Read his review here.

In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis was at The Parson's Nose in Hillsborough, Co. Down. It sounds like better than average pub grub, but not a whole lot more exciting. She loved the smoked mackerel with pickled radishes, apple and horseradish cream on sourdough toast, and a hot smoked salmon salad.

Her whole plaice was flawlessly cooked but came with bland broccoli and kale, and the daily special of cod with mussel and cannellini bean ragu (which doesn't sound overly appetising) was once again bland with no discernible mussels and a chewy courgette on the side.

Dessert of pear and almond bakewell with almond streusel and vanilla ice-cream made up for the unspecial special, and she calls the town itself "picture-perfect". Read her review here (subscription only).

And finally, as if Cork and Down weren't far enough away, Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times was on a beach in Tulum, Mexico, eating at Arca, next to Graham Norton. Well for ya.

After telling us about the chef's pedigree (Alinea, El Cellar de Can Roca and Noma), she describes a setting that features "dark wood tables, gravel underfoot, and the whole thing is (barely) lit with glowing bulbs and candlelight". Sounds slightly nicer than Moore Street.

The incense they were burning to keep the mosquitoes away made her feel like she was at mass, but the roasted red pepper tartare made up for it, and came topped with a cured egg yolk and toasted almonds, alongside warm sourdough that was "scorched and charred like something rescued from the embers."

Other winners included a prawn ceviche cured with the juice from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, octopus tentacles so fresh they tasted like lobster, and suckling pig with a raw chayote salad (which is like a squash). We're expecting regular Irish-based service to resume next week. Read her review 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

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