This Week's Critic Reviews
Provenance seems to be the theme this week, with almost every restaurant praised for their Irish lobster, Connemara mussels or free-range, Irish chicken.
In The Irish Times, Catherine Cleary was in Green Man Wines in Terenure trying out ex-Fia head chef Keith Coleman's new menu, who's currently there doing a residency. She gives it 9.5/10, and the descriptions of the dishes sent us into a mild panic that we wouldn't get there before said residency ends (no date as of yet).
They ate smoked Lough Neagh eel with pickled turnip, butter and mustard on charred Scéal bread ("like the perfect Croque Monsieur ... oozy and comforting"), charred Wye Valley asparagus "laced with skin grafts of Gubbeen lardo" and marigold petals, and slices of Goatsbridge trout with juniper and a crème fraîche "thick and silky as expensive face cream."
Onglet with quartered white turnips is "spectacular", with meat "cooked so briefly it hasn’t tightened to sinew and yet it’s not so underdone that its organ honk hits you", and they finished with woodruff custard, rhubarb, strawberries, buckwheat groats and shortbread made with savoury (a herb with a flavour somewhere between thyme and rosemary). She calls it a place to bring wine and food lovers together, with "plates of brilliantly creative food in a casual friendly place."
If you're wondering what she drank in the wine shop/bar with possibly the best wine list and the best value in the city (€8 corkage on everything so the more expensive the bottle the better the value), the answer is an elderflower spritz. If you go (and you should) don't make the same mistake. Put yourself in the hands of the ultra-knowledgeable, ultra-lovely staff and have the full Green Man experience. Read her review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness is praising the premium fried chicken (free-range and Irish) at Mad Egg just off Camden Street. After apologising profusely for her use of the word "moist", she describes how the chicken is brined in tea to tenderise it, then dipped in buttermilk and fried in rapeseed oil, ending up "impeccably moist (sorry) and flavoursome within, and properly crisp on the outside."
Her Heart Breaker chicken sandwich is doused in 'dripping cheese, house hot sauce and pickles', which somewhat obliterates how good the fried chicken is, so she suggests sticking to the more subtle OG, with lemon and herb mayonnaise, lettuce and pickles.
Chicken salt fries are "excellent", but mac and cheese with candied bacon and charred corn with jalapeno butter are both lacking in flavour, and on a menu as short as this "there's no room for duds". A dessert of DIY cheesecake is "quite good", with a selection of toppings to choose from, and remind her of thrown together ice-cream cakes at children's birthday parties.
She ends by saying she very much likes what Mad Egg is about: "At a time when the future of middle- market restaurants is under threat, it's down to places in the fast casual sector such as Mad Egg to up the ante in terms of sourcing and provenance." Read her review here.
More provenance praising from Lucinda O'Sullivan in the Sunday Independent, who was enjoying Irish lobster at China Sichuan in Sandyford. It came in a ginger and scallion sauce on a bed of egg noodles and she calls it "absolutely superb", allowing the flavours of the lobster to "sing through".
Her and her husband also enjoyed soft-shell crab with toasted almonds and chilli flakes, aromatic duck with pancakes, and haozan beef, which consisted of "tender, succulent pieces of mature rib-eye" pan-fried and coated in a powerful teriyaki and sake sauce. She also praised the Chinese 'turnip cake' pieces, which were "mouthwatering, light, sweet".
They skipped dessert, and for anyone thinking of going, she recommends ordering a variety of small dishes with one whole fish main and creating your own tasting menu, which would be "very hard to beat". (Review not currently online).
In The Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley is the latest critic to give 3 Leaves in Blackrock a storming review (is there anyone who hasn't?) calling the food "spectacularly good", "multi-layered" and outstanding value, with lunch for two coming to €20.
For that princely sum they ate Dal Masala - mildly spiced lentils topped with "divinely savoury" gram flour puffs, mixed veggie - a salty, spicy combination of vegetables including aubergine and potato, and an "unusual" chicken lazeez - "strikingly fragrant" chicken cooked in cream with spices that included the source of a "haunting perfume", Sandalwood.
Beef do raza had perfectly tender meat in a "rich, spicy, earthy sauce" with caramelised onion and "pretty, multi-coloured basmatic pilaf rice", and he says that a meal of this quality with a bill of €20 was "stupefying". He says that the essence of 3 Leaves is to do things from scratch, and that "this kind of vision and application, coupled with such democratic prices, is still a rarity and needs to be celebrated." (Review not currently online)
In The Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis finds the Middle Eastern menu at Hey Donna a "delight", with a "bright and buzzy" room, "friendly and efficient" staff and an interesting drinks menu. Hummus was "great", while baba ghanoush was "nicely smokey but a tiny bit underseasoned" (which incidentally is exactly what Catherine Cleary said when she reviewed it last November).
She really likes the word "dunk", and used it four times throughout the review when talking about the "dunkable" grilled flatbread, and the "lovely" whipped feta and garlic toum - which she advises avoiding if you have an early meeting the next morning - "the most garlicky garlic sauce ever created".
A Berber-spiced “chicken nugget” with cumin and coffee mayo was "really gorgeous", and seared lamb’s liver was a "triumph: perfectly cooked and full of flavour, this is the dish to change the mind of the liver-phobe in your life." The only thing that didn't hit the spot was the butter lettuce with whipped avocado, a nut and seed crumb and calamansi vinegar which was "only okay".
The single dessert option of chocolate and miso mousse was one of the nicest she's had in ages, "small but extremely satisfying" and topped with a pistachio crumb, pomegranate seeds, slivers of roasted coconut and raspberry and rose mousse. It's also vegan, using chickpea water to create an "incredible creaminess". She ends with a plea to founder Joe Macken to open a few more Hey Donna's around the city. Read her review here (subscription only).
Finally, in Cork Joe McNamee was checking out The Oyster Tavern, which is looking very shiny and new after last year's revamp, and after an initial food offering which "stumbled", he was hoping that since the recruitment of ex-Fenn's Quay proprietor Kate Lawlor, things would have improved. Unfortunately for Joe she was on holidays, and it seems to have affected what came out of the kitchen.
A trio of ‘old school’ starters contained prawn cocktail with "surprisingly bland prawns", unremarkable Golden Fried Scampi and spiced beef carpaccio which tasted solely of sugar and cloves. A main of baked lemon sole was "tasty" and "perfectly-cooked", but came with chive mash which "founders on the tired remnants of last year’s potato harvest", while an "excellent" 10oz Ribeye on the Bone was
"savoury meat with decent ‘chew’", accompanied by crispy chips, juicy mushrooms and a whiskey jus.
A rhubarb crumble for dessert was "overly sweet", and he feels that the cheaper end of the wine list could use some imagination. He wonders at the kitchen’s place in the grand scheme of things, "quite obviously second in line after the bar/beverages side of the operation", and thinks the menu reads as if assembled by committee. He ends by saying he would like to see Lawlor given free rein to make her more usual "wholesome, tasty dishes made from excellent produce."
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