This Week's Critic Reviews
Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times wins the prize for most arresting review title of the week, calling Five Guys on George's Street "My worst ever meal as a restaurant reviewer". If that's not punchy enough to make you dive in, nothing is.
Bizarrely she opted for the veggie sandwich (so over this healthy living schtick - although it has provided for entertaining content on this occasion) and lived to regret it. It sounds utterly gross, with CC saying two bites was all she could manage before her gag reflex kicked in, and comparing it to the veggie burger from the country chipper, with all the toppings but no burger. We've seen pictures and it truly looks like a disgusting afterthought of a dish.
Her teenager's beef burger was "fine", but the cheese had the "consistency and flavour of molten Barbie doll", chips were crisp but over-salted, and a milkshake was "cloyingly sweet". Between all of this and the filthy table covered in the remnants of other people's lunch, she calls it "the most dismal dining table in the history of this column." Read her review here. Get better burgers here and here.
With that one hard to follow, we're going to the other end of the spectrum with Tom Doorley's review of Glovers Alley in the Irish Daily Mail, where he thought €100 a head for lunch was worth every penny. (We also thought it was value for money everything considered - read our Once Over here.) He admits to hoping to hate GA after all their pre-opening noise, but calls his lunch "brilliant", and describes McFadden's cooking as having "small explosions of startlingly pure and assertive flavours forming a kind of minefield of delight with all of the other elements on the plate."
Highlights included a starter of asparagus, button mushroom, mustard and aged Belper Knoll (Swiss cheese - below) and a main of suckling pig belly and confit with crisp slices of turnip, essence of chorizo (no idea) and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar.
He finished with Aoife Noonan's citrus soufflé topped with chocolate ganache (which seems to be reaching celebrity status based on the number of people who've been sending us pictures of it). The soufflé was so light he wondered if it was going to float away, and he claims he broke the habit of a lifetime by exclaiming "wow" in the middle of the restaurant.
With wine and service the bill for two came to just over €200 and he thought it was worth every cent. (Review not currently online)
Over on the canal in Portobello, Leslie Williams had a similarly lovely time at Locks, where he was trying out the wares of new head chef Chris Maguire. He ate from the very good value market menu along with a few extras, including the homemade bread with sea trout and dulse butter, which his guest found so intense as to be almost crude - clearly this person is insane as it's one of the most incredible things we've ever tasted.
Textures and flavours in a mackerel tartare were in lovely harmony, and a dish of "crisp and pungent" asparagus, smoked lardo, black garlic sauce, girolles and grated cured egg (below) also hit the spot.
A veggie main of grilled potato, soft eggs, beech mushrooms and gorgonzola had a lovely mix of flavours, and the other main of cod had "perfect translucence" and worked well with smoked bacon, wilted baby gem lettuce and buttermilk sauce.
Desserts of chocolate ganache with banana milk ice cream, hazelnut praline crumbs and caramelised banana (above), and a strawberry fool topped with strawberry granita above a fluffy creamy mousse and preserved strawberries both look and sound delicious, and he praised the Portugese-focused wine list "packed with gems". Read his review here.
In The Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan is proclaiming that Ananda in Dundrum's tasting menu is "the biz". She calls head chef Karan Mittal's food a "culinary experience with a difference." Filled with words like "explosion", "heavenly", "amazing" and "exquisite", we're left in no doubt what she thinks of "superstar-in-waiting" Mittal's cooking - he of the "TV looks and charm".
Highlights included a Kashmiri morel mushroom, thinly-sliced tandoori-smoked Barbary duck, a sorbet made from aged-black limes, and a main of jhinja neelgiri (prawn two ways) on a bed of wild garlic, coconut and curry leaf emulsion. It does sound pretty fantastic from start to finish.
Dessert consisted of chocolate and cherries in the form of Kirsch kulfi pops, and she says Ananda is a real treat that won't break the bank. (Review not currently online)
Down to Cork and back on our road-trip buzz, Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent was sending us into a glazed stupor with her description of the (solely locally sourced) food at Mews. From whipped monkfish liver and wild fennel in a boat of kombu to oyster mushroom with roasted yeast and sycamore, the whole thing sounds like a lovely dream.
Carpaccio of langoustine on a buttermilk crumpet with coriander and wasabi (above) looks and sounds almost too good to be real, and brown crab on boxty was complimented by anise-scented sweet cicely and Cape Clear chili (below). The fact that everything is sourced from West Cork just adds to the magical feel of it all.
Everything sounds worth driving to Baltimore for (like next weekend good), but we're seriously taken with the idea of creamy Mileens cheese on tayberries, and one of our favourite ever cheeses, mature Coolea, turned into a ganache-type filling and placed inside crisp pastry. OMG.
They finished with a granita of dill and wild sorrel and textures of local milk, gorse honey and pine. She ends by saying that she hopes the Michelin inspectors make it this far south, so she'll be happy to find out they have paid Mews a visit in the past few weeks. Watch this space. Read her review here.
Another reason to head south is Takashi Miyazaki's recently opened Ichigo Ichie, which Gillian Nelis in The Sunday Business Post is also touting as a Michelin-star contender (and the inspectors recently visited here too - sounds like some trip to Cork). She says there's not much point in trying to describe all of the dishes they had as the menu will change frequently, but it sounds very similar to what Catherine Cleary & Lucinda O'Sullivan had when they visited, which might be good news if you're dreaming of blow-torched scallop and savoury custard with chicken thigh.
Luckily for Gillian (and us), her husband visits Japan regularly so we get a rundown of what's typically involved in a kaiseki ryori (multi-course Japanese meal), including the showcasing of different cooking techniques, seasonal crockery and local produce. Like the reviewers before her, she's totally impressed with the breath and depth of flavour and skill in the sequence of dishes coming out of the kitchen, which included "the finest piece of nigiri we'd ever tasted" and "divine slices of ox tongue served with a creamy wild garlic dip"
She was less impressed with the lack of detail on the website and the inability to get anyone to answer the phone, but she calls it a "must-visit for anyone interested in the continuing evolution of Irish food."
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