This Week's Critic Reviews
We knew this couldn't last forever didn't we? It's been an interesting week for All The Food, as two newspapers have "politely" requested we no longer feature their reviews. So unfortunately there won't be much more of Gillian Nelis or Ernie Whalley around these parts (although it should be noted that the critics in question had nothing to do with it). So then there were five...
In The Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness had a mixed experience at newly-opened vegan restaurant Veginity on Dorset Street, which we thought Catherine Cleary would beat everyone else to. She says her review was between that and another recent vegan opening, until a friend visited the latter and sent her a picture of the "rank" nachos. If you read this site regularly you'll be able to make an educated guess about where that was.
Back to Veginity, she liked the vibe, the pleasant staff and the comfortable chairs, but found the acoustics "terrible", particularly with the shrieking diner at the next table. Home-baked ciabatta with fermented coconut cream cheese and a mint and coriander chermoula was "pleasant", while beetroot kibbeh tasted of "nothing much", but did come with pineapple bulgur, sriracha salsa and confit garlic aioli that was "standout good".
Her favourite main was XO king oyster mushrooms with fermented choi sum, kimchi Chinese cabbage and marinated shimeji. Another of miso aubergine came with delicious noodles but "slimey and unappealing" tofu, and her least favourite was a Kentucky-fried Kiev waffle with chicken nugget shapes of soy protein, mushroom gravy, confit peppers, banana shallots, red cabbage slaw and caramelised apricots. Too much on one plate according to Katy, and she never wants to see those nuggets again - "vegan's deserve better".
Desserts were a "good" brûlée citron cheesecake and a chocolate based creation that she calls a "hideous disaster" - no mincing of words over here. Overall she says "the food is not awful - and there are some spectacularly good elements", but she thinks it could be better. We've always loved Mark Senn's food so think this might just be a case of needing a few months to settle in. It certainly seems to be getting good reviews from the vegans. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was dining with the "well-upholstered, moneyed, older folk" at
Peploe's on Stephen's Green. After mixed experiences in the past, it was positive reports about new head chef Graeme Dodrill, who'd recently been persuaded to come home from Dubai, which convinced him to go back.
As a table of four they tried a good subsection of the menu, including "delightfully raw and moist" seared tuna, devilled kidneys "worthy of a very grand Edwardian country house party", a "dense, intense" foie gras terrine, and "very tender" grilled octopus. The Peploe's stalwart of spaghettini with monkfish, Dublin Bay prawns, chilli and tomato had been "brought to a new level ... 24 carat bistro cooking", while plump scallops with Comté cheese and creamy spinach was "as good as it sounds".
His fellow diner's soufflé was so good he didn't get a taste, a crème brûlée was "silky" and "vanilla-scented", and he says "there's no doubt that Peploe's has upped its game". (Review not currently online)
In The Irish Times Catherine Cleary was eating food grown a few metres away at Enniscoe House in Mayo, which looks and sounds like the most delightful country escape, and which she calls "a reminder of things almost lost, now surviving in quiet corners of Ireland." Swoon...
She went hoping to taste "this summer of summers" in the food, and found it in a carrot and cumin soup, and the green salad that accompanied a chorizo and black olive quiche and a red pepper and anchovy tart - "the simplest gathering of tasty things on filo pastry".
The best main was salmon with a lemon cream and "the best potatoes I’ve had outside of my Dad’s home-grown new season Queens", along with fresh broadbeans and "duff" watery cauliflower which should have been roasted. Summer fruits with baby meringue for dessert was a "tumble of gooseberries, red black and white currants all bursting with sweet tang and a beige meringue chewy in the middle," and should be given a glass case in a museum of food memories. She says that places like Enniscoe House, where cooks started with the question “what’s good or plentiful today?”, is where delicious things begin. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan returns to reviewing with a trip to the much-fêted Mews in Baltimore, where the service was so lovely she almost burst into tears of joy - it should be noted this emotive outburst came off the back of three awful service experiences in a row at the hands of "smart-ass gobshites in hotels".
Mews is easily in the "top 5 Irish restaurants we want to eat in" and unsurprisingly they managed to leave Lucinda mesmerised like everyone else who's walked through the door, with their "Nordic-style" foraging, fermenting and drying. We recently heard that the furthest away ingredient on the menu is Gubbeen cheese, at a whole 36km - that's some serious "eat local" credentials.
She describes it as "Noma-style", with the head chef describing each dish at the table, and it sounds like a love letter to what Cork's produce - crispy Irish kelp, wild fennel emulsion, wood sorrel, sycamore sap, wild garlic, yeast emulsion, mackerel, rhubarb compote, mussels, lamb, ice cream made from Gloun Cross milk. She calls it a "truly delightful experience", and if you didn't want to visit before you will after reading this. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee is on holidays in France reviewing Michelin-starred La Table Saint Crescent in Narbonne. He praises the "excellent" €20 children's menu (not something we've seen in a Michelin-starred restaurant before, maybe because most of the ones here actively discourage children being brought in with claims about inadequate insurance or the inability to cater for them), and he says he would have happily eaten their buttery mash, "delicious" chunks of chicken with the skin still attached, and deep-fried polenta chips in any of the other bistros they visited.
The adult set lunch comprised of a starter of sauteed mushroom and Faugeres onions in a "robust" comte sauce, topped with a barely poached and egg white foam, and had "rich, complex flavours delivered with a lightness appropriate". Sea Bream had flavours of the "soupy, salty Med" and came with roasted summer veg in a rich fish-head soup with sauce vierge. Dessert of choux pastry with "bracingly bitter" angelica ice cream, vanilla cream, strawberries and fig sauce was "pleasant, sweet but hardly earth shattering."
He calls it a lovely lunch with "sound cooking" and "good flavours", but says he could name ten non-starred Irish restaurants producing better food, with "vastly more innovative cooking of infinitely superior local ingredients." It begs the question of whether a restaurant can be accurately judged on the basis of a single set lunch, but equally should standards waver when trying to fill in the gaps between dinner services? We can think of plenty of restaurants where the standard between lunch and dinner, or set and à la carte wavers dizzyingly (not to mention those partaking in the voucher culture and the often reduced-quality offering associated with that). It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect an award-winning restaurant's standards to be at the same level at every time of the day, but when that's not the case, which should they be judged on? Their best or their worst? Read his review here.
For public interest's sake we'll tell you that Gillian Nelis in the Sunday Business Post reviews The Ledbury in London, (read that here) and Ernie Whalley in the Sunday Times reviews live-fire experts Fowl Play in the Square Ball Pub (read that here), but that's all we could possibly say on the matter. Pics below for reference but NOT A WORD MORE.
More next week.