This Week's Critic Reviews
A resoundingly successful week for eating out, with once again all the critics having meals worth recommending. Unfortunately the same can't be said for us, who had to go out to eat three times last week to find one restaurant worth writing about. That's coming tomorrow.
Top of the pile in Dublin this week was The Greenhouse, where Catherine Cleary enjoyed yet another alcohol-light lunch. The lack of wine didn't detract from the experience, and she gave it 9.5/10, saying it's "still the best lunch in Dublin".
As usual, it's a great read, with head chef Mickael Viljanen described as "paler than a submariner on shore leave", and this description of the demise of French style dining in Dublin: "Bistronomie was on the march and acres of table cloths were warehoused. Poshness was reborn with a clutch of dandelion leaves and a glass of natural wine murky as cider."
The pastry on a miniature asparagus tart was so crisp it "almost evaporates in the mouth", a courgette roasted in seaweed with a maple seaweed sauce and bergamot yoghurt is "astonishing", and white asparagus "chunky as a baby’s arms" with a raw egg yolk, black garlic and girolles is described as "minerality meets creamy food hug".
There wasn't a disappointing dish, and her well travelled dining companion thought the food rested
between two and three michelin stars (they currently have one and it took them three years to get it, much to the outrage of many, including Guardian food critic Marina O'Loughlin). She ends by saying The Greenhouse has long been the city's best lunch, and it keeps getting better. Read her review here.
Another team who must be feeling happy with themselves this weekend is the one in The Old Spot, who Tom Doorley reviews in The Irish Daily Mail. A buzz has been quietly building about the Michelin recommended gastro pub on Bath Avenue over the past few months, and it seems to have only increased with the hiring of Denise McBrien (ex-Pichet and Old Street), now running front of house.
Tom usually doesn't like gastro pubs but calls The Old Spot an "exception", praising the quality and work that goes into head chef Fiachra Kenny's food, including slow-cooked octopus, nduja, homemade pappardelle and black olive tapanade, which was "bloody good", and slow-cooked smoked pork shoulder, sausage roll, cabbage celeriac and mustard, which was "a dish to conjure with".
Prawn pil pil (which we were eyeing up a few weeks ago) was "delicious", and he felt €30 for a 10oz dry-aged rib eye was justified, with its proper chips and "pulse-quickeningly lovely" bone marrow jus. He calls the cooking solid and well-grounded, and the service quiet and efficient. Go team Old Spot. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness is the second critic to get to the much hyped Restaurant Chesnut in Ballydehob, Cork, from chef Rob Krawczyk, after Joe McNamee got straight in on opening night (impressive). Katy is equally enamoured with the tiny 18-seater restaurant in the middle of rural Cork, calling the spelt sourdough with smoked butter sprinkled with sea salt and flecked with gold "an event in of itself", with the chewy crust of the bread and the flavour of the butter "immense".
All of the dishes seem to have a lot going on - one example being charred asparagus with potato, yoghurt, 'edible earth' made from mushrooms, trout roe, nasturtium, and other secret ingredients - but she assures us there's a "felicitous harmony" to the way they come together. Same goes for "impeccable" scallops infused with citrus and ginger, cauliflower purée and apple.
We have no idea what cylinders of compressed rhubarb rolled in anti-humidity sugar are (an interlude before the mains), but would like to find out, and brill with mussels and ham fat in lemon butter with slender-stemmed broccoli was the dish of the night.
Dessert of sabayon formed an "etheral cloud", over the "apple-iest" apple and oats (above), and she has a slight quibble about having two sweet courses as part of the tasting course rather than a cheese course, but as they're still finding their feet we could see that changing after this review. She describes the portions as "nicely judged" and the meal "beautifully paced". That's two out of two for Rob and team. (Review not currently online).
In The Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee is on a quest for burgers in Cork, after a friend proclaimed he was done with all that "Michelin Palaver", and wanted him to review something "everybody eats". He starts at Bunsen, where he found the meat to be superior but it left him feeling "processed". Better was Son of a Bun which was upbeat with "good, flavoursome meat" and a better range of craft beers and ciders than many upmarket restaurants.
The star of the review though, the burger awarded a rarely seen 9.9/10, was the one from Woodside Farm, who've been selling their incredible, small production pork and beef at farmers' markets in Cork for over a decade, and who have now branched out into hot food.
Their beef burger served in a pillowy Pana bun, with their own crispy bacon, Ballinrostig gouda cheese, tomato, lettuce and their secret burger sauce was "impossibly rich in umami flavours, succulent, tender but with perfect ‘bite’". He calls it "the finest burger I have ever purchased."
More success in The Sunday Business Post, where Gillian Nelis was at Eastern Seaboard in her hometown of Drogheda, having "possibly the best steak I’ve ever eaten in this country". The 65 day salt-aged ribeye from Peter Hannan came with skin-on chips, onion rings, anchovy butter and a salad of butter lettuce with a mustard vinaigrette, and she said she could still taste it a week later. The vegans must be hating this week's reviews.
Her companion's fillet steak with the same accompaniments was just as good, and a generous portion of chicken wings and "perfectly made" potstickers were polished off before the meat arrived. We're stuffed just thinking about it.
A Japanese cheesecake with yuzu cream was "as fluffy as the fluffiest teddy you had as a child", and a Black Forest pavlova (below) looked so good that the next table immediately ordered it too. She calls it "indulgent but oh so delicious", and while we reckon we'd struggle to get up after that much food, it does all sound excellent. Read her review here.
Finally in The Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan is at Everett's in Waterford, the new opening from ex-Restaurant Forty One and Chapter One alumnus, not to mention former Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year, Peter Everett.
She calls the three course lunch for €25 "fantastic value", especially as the options are not far off the dinner menu, and thinks that dinner for €40 also sounds excellent, whilst having a dig at the "young bucks" "setting themselves up with tasting menus running from €65". Wonder who that could refer to...
In house baked breads were "superb" and "divine", fresh crab in a tomato jus with balsamic and rocket was "feather-light", and dressed baby violet artichokes with wild garlic purée and roasted discs of red pepper were simple but superb. An "elegant" fillet of cod came with an nduja crust (below), onion purée, purple broccoli and a sherry sauce (yes please), and braised short rib of beef with parsnip purée, knotted spring onions and bearnaise was "exquisite" and "richly-flavoured".
They ended with "the most fantastic" brown sugar tart with Bramley apple ice-cream, and a really interesting sounding cheese plate, with bluebell falls goat's cheese drizzled in honey, a pungent, semi-soft Hummingbark, and Crozier Blue with pressed fig and nut cake. It really does sound like incredible value for €25, and more potential road trip material. (Review not currently online)
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