This Week's Critic Reviews
We had the fingers crossed for a review of newly opened The Ivy this weekend, and trusty Gillian Nelis delivered in the Sunday Business Post. We've been expecting most of the critics to go into this one with their backs up (due to the fact that The Ivy of today is a long way from the London-institution it once was, and seems to be expanding at Jamie's Italian-style speed with over 30 locations currently and more in the planning - lest we mention that ivy-covered bus), but she loved it.
She loved the "gorgeous onyx-topped bar", the "over the top" design with its flowery ceilings and "ultra-snazzy loos", and most importantly, the food. A starter of buffalo mozarrella with (under ripe) sliced peaches, Nocellara olives, smoked almonds, pesto and mint was "a lovely summer starter", and another of asparagus came "perfectly cooked" with "top-notch" truffle hollandaise. Truffle arancini were "crispy and delicious".
Main courses sound steep with halibut on the bone in chimichurri and a grapefruit salsa costing €32.95, but GN thought it was "beautifully cooked" and "full of flavour". A 12oz ribeye came in at a staggering €33.50 with nothing but watercress on the side. Extras of "fantastic" chips and bearnaise sauce costing €4.50 each (!!) brought the total for steak and chips up to €42.50. Deep pockets needed, and she calls it "scrooge-like" to charge that much for a portion of sauce. A side of tenderstem broccoli with lemon oil and sea salt was "fine", while another of tomato and basil salad with PX dressing was "lovely".
Her all-time favourite dessert of Rhum Baba (the biggest she'd ever seen) would easily have fed two, and an apple tart fine was a "solid iteration" of a classic. She thought the young staff coped admirably with how busy the place was, and ends by saying "If you prefer your food with a side order of introspection and a dollop of self-importance, you are going to hate The Ivy. If, on the other hand, you’re after some good grub, a bit of a giggle and some top people-watching, I suspect you’ll really like it." Read the full review here.
In The Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams was close to twerking with joy after his trip to Pi on George's Street, on the back of our tip-off a couple of weeks ago. He calls the pizzas "as good as I’ve ever tasted", and by the looks of Instagram over the past few weeks it seems like most of the city agrees with him. Poor Pi are having a bit of a rubbish weekend with a chimney issue forcing them to close all day Saturday (back open today), so hopefully this perked them up.
He calls all three pizzas that they tried "glorious" - a 'Margharita' was "textbook", a 'Salsiccia' had Gubbeen Chorizo "softened by the milky richness of the Toonsbridge cheese" and livened up with chillis, and high praise for the 'Zuccha' which "made me re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about courgettes, their light subtly bitter flesh rounded out by the Salsa Verde and the ever so slightly funky Ricotta."
He says that Pi nails the key to great pizza - bounce - and also managed to avoid the all too common burnt base. He thought dessert of vanilla ice cream with olive oil was "genius", even if the ice-cream could be made creamier and more vanilla-y, and was impressed by the craft beer selection, but thought they could do with a wine fridge as the Rioja was warm to be point of being "like soup". He calls Pi "an informal but carefully conceived and wonderfully executed pizzeria", and gives the food 9/10. It's going to be hard to de-throne this one we think. Read his review here. Read ours here.
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary is on flying form when describing the setting in which she found
"probably the best street food I’ve eaten in Dublin", at Vietnom, in the back of the Glimmer Man pub in Stoneybatter. She suggests the 'beer garden' might be more accurately described as a 'beer yard', with the dominant form of plant life being tobacco, under a plastic roof that "no amount of Mayfair instagram filtering could massage into something beautiful". There are boxes of timber under seats, "as if someone's stockpiling builders' offcuts for the fires to ward off the zombie apocalypse".
It was mainly provenance which drew her to the vegetarian Vietnamese food truck, the fact that they grow some of their own vegetables, and order others from every provenance lover's fav - McNally Family Farm. The meat-free banh mi were "a pleasure rather than a penance", with honeyed mushrooms, crispy peanut shallots and pickled vegetables in "great" sourdough bread. A tostada came with "excellent" crispy potatoes and "sweet and juicy" rainbow chard.
The clincher was the organic summer roll - a fresh green cabbage leaf wrapped around carrot miso, paneer and a mild, sweet kimchi: "It’s a texture and flavour bonanza and probably the best street food I’ve eaten in Dublin." Big words, and echo Katy McGuinness' review from a few months ago where she also praised the "vibrant fresh flavours" and "feel-good food". Read Catherine Cleary's review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was revisiting Luna, with the fear that new head chef Vish Sumputh (who recently moved from Chapter One) might have messed with (or even removed) his favourite spaghetti and truffles. Imagine the carnage. Luckily it was still on the menu, and was miraculously better than before, with even more truffle - praise the lord.
The general theme of the review is one of immense satisfaction, with Tom saying "there's nowhere quite like Luna", and although he does admit it's expensive, "it keeps drawing me back". Beef carpaccio was "melt in the mouth" and came with charred white turnips and pickled quail eggs, and a watercress risotto with snails, broad beans and capers had a texture that was "in true Italian fashion, between solidity and soup", and was "quite possibly the best" he's had in Dublin.
While he thought the truffle spaghetti was well worth €30 a plate, a ragu bolognese with agnolotti was "fabulously intense" but too salty, "approaching levels of salinity found in the Dead Sea." With no desserts mentioned, the bill for two came to €160 which he admits is steep, but says that with Luna "you go knowing that it will be dear, but you also know that the cooking will be all about great raw materials that are handled with confidence born of experience." He recommends the pre-theatre menu, which at three courses for €30 is significantly more affordable. (Review not currently online)
In The Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness was at Ard Bia at Nimmos in Galway, where she found the lunchtime offering "simple, generous and executed with heart as well as skill". Summer pea, spinach and mint soup with toasted seeds and homemade soup was ridiculous value at €2.50 for a generous half-portion, and Atlantic fishcakes had good flavour and a nice balance between smoked and unsmoked fish.
A "juicy and full of flavour" rib-eye steak burger came with garlicky wedges and crunchy slaw and was "elevated by heirloom tomatoes and plentiful sorrel aioli". Some of the desserts on display were melting in the heat (forever remembered as the summer of '18) but a chocolate fudge and ganache cake held up well, and a tart of gin and almond was lacking in gin but with pastry that's "the real deal".
She ends with a plea for race-goers who book restaurant tables in Galway to please show up, as they can't afford to be burned like in previous years. And no one wants to see a reenactment of this. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent, Lucinda's lists just keep on coming (we're guessing she's taken July off). This week it's where to find the best street food around the country. In Dublin it seems the answers lie predominantly at Irish Village Markets, in their locations at Mespil Road, UCD, Spencer Dock and Sandyford, where she recommends Kerala Kitchen's "fabulous, fresh Indian street food", How Bao Now's Taiwanese bao buns, and Say Fish for fish and chips.
Also mentioned are Eatyard for burgers, chicken wings and smoothie bowls, Blackrock Market for 3 Leaves, Shaka Poké and Arctic Stone ice cream, and Veginity, newly opened on Dorset Street (which we're also eagerly awaiting a review of - if anywhere has Catherine Cleary written all over it...).
The other hot street food spots in Dublin according to Lucinda are the earlier mentioned Vietnom in Stoneybatter, and the Spillane World Markets in the People's Park Dun Laoghaire, Merrion Square and Herbert Park.
Street food in Dublin has a way to go before we can compete with the offerings in most other capital cities, but Eatyard and pop ups like Vietnom and Veginity are doing trojan work in convincing Irish people that they don't need delph and a chair with a back to enjoy eating out. The big gap in Dublin's dining scene right now is "fast, cheap, good", and that's where street food comes in. Plus if the property market keeps going the way it is, street food might be all that most people can afford soon. There's a cheery thought to end on.
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