This Week's Critic Reviews
It's a bit of a case of the good, the bad and the ugly this weekend, but we'll start and end with the good.
In the Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams finally got around to eating at Richmond, after 18 months of haranguing by a friend, and managed to bag the best table in the house (table 13) with a view of the "exotica outside and the bustle inside".
He ate from the early bird menu which sounds like brilliant value considering the quality, at €29 for three courses. Standouts included a fennel and raisin bread with curry butter (eh, yum), a Dexter beef tartare with capers, pickles, a quail's egg and some deep fried tempura ox tongue - he assures us it was the best part - and pea dumplings with slaw, parmesan crisps and a "mood-enhancing" hazelnut sauce.
A cheese course of Milleens was too immature for their liking, but a chocolate fondant was "perfect", oozing "liquid, dark joy all over the garriguette strawberries", and a "picture perfect" meringue was filled with a "gorgeous apple and red wine chutney", even if it did overwhelm the meringue.
He calls Richmond a "joy of a restaurant", with "good ingredients, perfectly pitched classical touches and masterful saucing." We'd say they're pretty happy with this one. (Review not currently online)
After a trip down memory lane (where he tells us that The Trocadero is the oldest restaurant in the city centre and Bewleys on Grafton Street did a mean chicken croquette in his youth), he comes back to the present day in La Cave, describing the "perfect" oysters and Chablis, the crab and Gruyère tart (which didn't have homemade pastry but did have lots of sweet crab meat and sweet and salty melted cheese), and the garlic and parsley butter snails which were "a touch of decadence".
A venison casserole was "immensely tender" in a "rich sauce singing of garlic and red wine", and he says you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to ordering wine in this "womb-like French restaurant". (Review not currently online).
Someone else who was reliving their childhood, this time over beef-dripping toast, was Katy McGuinness at Pichet . After overcoming the fear that a car from the St Andrew's Street carpark was going to come crashing through the window every time headlights appeared, she enjoyed seasonal asparagus with a brown butter egg yolk, crispy boneless chicken wings, and truffle pecorino.
Beef tartare came with quail eggs (so hot right now), radish and micro-herbs, and beef-dripping toast full of taste and texture, which brought her back to the fried bread her father made when she was a child. Short rib with salt-baked celeriac was the winneing mains, and came with ox tongue (this week is all about tongue and tartare) and a walnut mushroom duxelles, making it "rich and deeply satisfying." Lamb rump was nicely cooked but the dish was underpowered and lacking in salsa verde, and a confit of squid, chorizo, basil, tomato and chickpeas which came with a dish of salmon was "woefully insipid".
Desserts of muscovado crème brûlée and banoffee were both enjoyable, and she ends by saying that Pichet is "one of those restaurants that can be all things to all people ... If that means that the food pleases rather than thrills, then so be it." Read her review here.
Now to break up the joy momentarily, because over in Monkstown, there was a very unhappy camper in the form of The Sunday Business Post's Gillian Nelis, who was having a bit of a 'mare in Bresson. After getting a spate of great reviews straight after opening, we don't think anyone was expecting this one.
Whilst starters of Roquefort and pear salad, and devilled lambs' kidneys were great, what followed wasn't. A chargrilled, salt-baked celeriac, with hazelnut dukkah, cocoa bean cassoulet, salsa verde and swiss chard featured under-cooked celeriac, a salsa so salty it induced wincing, no discernible dukkah, and an undercooked cassoulet that included unpleasant bits of bitter, preserved lemon. Disaster with a capital D.
A fish special of plaice was "so undercooked it should never have made it out of the kitchen", and a side of choucroute was tasty, but another of dressed salad leaves was "outrageously overpriced" at €4.50. Desserts were a mixed bag with a crème brûlée small but tasty, and a tarte tatin disappointing, with "undercooked lumps of apple and a soggy pastry bottom".
She says she's at a loss to what has happened here since opening, and so are we. Has Head Chef and owner Temple Garner taken his eye off the ball? Was there a new chef in the kitchen that's just not up to the task? Or did a staff shortage on the night lead to a series of unfortunate events?
We're really feeling for the city's chefs and restaurateurs at the moment, with chef shortages at an all time high, and wonder how many bad meals are connected to this growing problem. Maybe this was just a bad night for Bresson and normal service will resume shortly, or maybe there's something there that needs to be fixed. Either way it doesn't sound like they'll be getting a second visit from Gillian. Read her review here (subscription only).
This week sees another round up from Lucinda O'Sullivan in The Sunday Independent, this time featuring the country's 20 Best Coastal Hotspots. As we're all about Dublin food we'll just tell you about the two Dublin spots mentioned - the Clontarf Baths and Happy Out on Bull Wall, also in Clontarf. We're surprised that nowhere else in Dublin was mentioned considering the entire county hugs the coast, but we'll put our own, more comprehensive list together soon.
She recommends coffees and toasties on the deck at Happy Out, and cocktails, seafood and knickerbocker glories at The Baths. She doesn't recommend a swim, because despite that being the whole point of the place you can't actually do that. (Review not currently online)
Finally, we're ending on a high note with Catherine Cleary's trip to Dooks Fine Foods in Tipperary for the Irish Times. Chef Richard Gleeson trained at Ballymaloe and worked under Yotam Ottolenghi, so she was expecting big things, and wasn't disappointed.
She calls the place "revolutionary", and the first plate sounds pretty special - brill carpaccio dressed with a jade-green parsley oil, lemon zest and house “ricotta”, with a pickled rhubarb accompaniment which brought "a clarity to the fish flavour like spears of sunlight through water" - phrase of the week right there. Aubergine focaccia also sounds impressive, with toasted seeds, more ricotta and olive oil.
Muttony lamb for mains came with rainbow chard so buttery she reckoned she could eat a plate of it, and the veggie option of parchment-thin sliced celeriac filled with mushrooms, parmesan-and-hazelnut aioli, cauliflower and chard, in a fennel sauce had them licking their plates. They finished with a chocolate, coffee, mascarpone layer cake and she compares it to Ox in Belfast and Mews in Baltimore, which is praise of the highest order. 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