• All The Food

This Week's Critic Reviews


It feels somewhat trivial to be obsessing over food after the past few history-making days, but repealers still need to eat, so on we go.

In The Irish Times this week, Catherine Cleary was trying an enchilada cooking class at Picado, the Mexican food shop on Richmond Street. She laments the proliferation of Tex-Mex in Ireland (we'll refrain from mentioning one particularly offensive burrito chain) as opposed to what they actually eat in Mexico, and if you want further elaboration on Mexican Vs Tex-Mex, this podcast episode is brilliant.

She loved the vegetarian tamal (which we presume is the same as a tamale), the poblano pepper stuffed with squash and hibiscus flowers, the Oaxacan black bean sauce and the chilli and chocolate torte. We’re a long way from cheesy nachos and chicken fajitas.

She thought it was a brilliant night, and describes Lily as “an inspiring cook and storyteller whose love for real Mexican food makes for a delicious education.” Read her review here.

In The Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley is rhapsodising over the fresh Irish seafood at Niall Sabongi’s

Klaw Seafood Café, where he found eating Dublin Bay Prawns with his hands “deliciously liberating”.

More Dublin Bay Prawns with exotic mushrooms on toast were “simplicity itself” and “really worked”, and fish (hake) and chips had “shatteringly crisp batter encasing moist fish cooked perfectly, crisp skinny chips and proper tartare sauce that most definitely didn’t come out of a jar.”

He ends by saying that although restaurant critics tend to always go in search of the new, he’s finally learning to resist the urge to run straight in after a place opens, saying that “many first-nighters or first-weekers are not even remotely interested in what the food is like”. We're not sure if that’s a jibe at the city’s press or diners.

In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness is the first critic to get to Barrows Keep in Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny. Opened 7 months ago by Stephen McArdle and Morgan Vanderkammer

(former chef/owner and sommelier - respectively - at Stanley’s in Dublin), this is one we've had high hopes for, so have been impatiently awaiting the first review.

Katy thought the food was “top notch”, particularly the smoked potato soup with beef daube and wild garlic, and the Kilmore Quay crab salad with Goatsbridge trout caviar, sweetcorn, whipped avocado and croutons, which she calls “a visual delight and a textbook exercise in balance and texture.” She also liked the beef and pork sausages which were “properly meaty”, “smoked and delicious”.

She was unimpressed with desserts but praised sommelier Morgan Vanderkammer’s intriguing wine list full of natural and biodynamic wines, and wished that they weren’t driving so they could have explored it more. Read her review here.

In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee is at House restaurant at The Cliff House, having a similarly magical time to Gillian Nelis a few weeks ago. The descriptions of the four amuse-bouches alone is enough to have us booking ourselves in for a night.

Beetroot and creamed cheese meringue; seaweed and fennel dashi; baby potato baked in edible clay with three-cornered leek mayonnaise; shallot panna cotta with a ‘caviar’ of tapioca ‘pearls’, dried potato croutons and hazelnut. We're not even onto the starters yet.

His other half's (who we're still calling 'The Cat's Pyjamas') starter of Bantry Bay Organic Salmon, Pickled Vegetables, Codium (a type of seaweed), Black Toast, Salmon Ice Cream and Smoke, which was unveiled by the lifting of a cloche, made her gasp and whimper apparently, and Joe called the assemblage "breathtakingly gorgeous".

Everything sounds next-level culinary genius territory, and we recommend reading the whole article just to get an idea of the compositions and combinations coming out of this kitchen. We're currently obsessing over the Atlantic Halibut topped with a melting sliver of waygu ‘lardo’, and the Roman style gnocchi fried in lamb fat. Read his review here.

In The Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis is enjoying the sea views and the seafood at Spillane's in Dingle, which she tells us has been there in some form for over a century. Locally caught crab claws with marie rose sauce and brown bread were "fresh as a daisy", salt and pepper calamari were "cooked beautifully" and the hake club burger was "brilliant".

Her dessert of rhubarb crumble took her back to childhood days, even if it was a bit heavy on the topping, and she ends by saying the meal had been "incredibly tasty, more than generous in size, and served with real friendliness". Read her review here (subscription only).

Finally in the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan does another round-up, this time of the country's 20 best terraces - another one to file away for those two weeks of summer we're due any day now.

Making the list in Dublin are Angelina's, Bresson, The Dylan Hotel, Nightmarket, Radisson St Helen's, Suesey Street, The Garden Room in The Merrion and Whelehan's Wines.

Expect a few more of these sunshine-dependent lists over the coming weeks, and expect to not actually be able to get into any of them if the sun does come out. Best bet for getting a table is probably in winter under a heater. (Article not currently online but should be up on Lucinda's site in the next week or so.)

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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