We've been #blessed this week with not one but two reviews of newly opened The Ivy on Dawson Street, and they're more different than an exclusive celebrity haunt and a rapidly expanding restaurant chain.
The precursor to today's reviews was a tweet from Tom Doorley on Friday telling all and sundry that The Ivy had blocked The Daily Mail's photographer from taking the customary "waitress holds plates and smiles at camera" shot, or even a shot of the sign outside. Precious much? Lucky for them Tom had already filed his copy, although he did later admit he might have been too kind...
He loved the theatre of The Ivy, with its "riot of botanical design" and elaborate rituals of setting fire to desserts, and overall seemed impressed with the food. His daughter loved her crispy duck salad, his tuna carpaccio was faultless, and a roast salmon fillet was cooked perfectly - "a revival of how things used to be done" - despite the accompaniment of unseasonal asparagus.
The one item on the menu that's had us scratching our heads since The Ivy opened is the Flatiron chicken, which sounds like a dried up leathery definition of "wrong", but Tom's was moist and came with an "intense lemony jus", and "good very buttery mashed potato" (evidently a different chef cooked Leslie's). A chocolate bombe for dessert melted when hot salted caramel was poured over it (more of that theatre we always look for when dining out), and was "no hardship to eat", and he says the service was good but slower than is acceptable in a place like this.
To the other side of the coin, in a review which couldn't be more different to Tom's, Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner describes a "seriously underperforming kitchen", with "overcooked" scallops and slow-cooked lamb shoulder "devoid of moisture". The same flatiron chicken "had crispy skin but utterly dried out flesh", and he gave up chewing halfway through.
A steak tartare with Dubliner whiskey and tabasco seemed to taste purely of English mustard, some of the meat had become "cooked" from the citrus, and there was no discernible taste of whiskey or tabasco. Chips were among the worst he'd tasted in years - "flaccid, soggy, inedible, and suspiciously evenly cut" - and while things picked up with his dessert of Apple Tarte Fine, they soared downwards again with a Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae - "under-ripe strawberries, dull vanilla ice cream, meringue so dense you could break your teeth and hard-tack shortbread without a hint of butter". Yum.
A couple of things to consider here. 1) Tom Doorley was recognised, as was Gillian Nelis a few weeks previously, who also had a thoroughly delightful experience. Presumably Leslie William's wasn't, which brings back memories of Ruth Reichl's infamous double review of Le Cirque in The New York Times. 2) The menu is so extensive (almost 50 items on the all day dining menu alone) that there must be hits and misses, so to review it based on just one visit and two people dining leaves room for wild swings in experience. We imagine this is not the last we'll see of the The Ivy in the critic's reviews, so we'll wait to see who's team Tom and who's team Leslie. Read the latter's review here.
Pizza was the other big topic of conversation this week. Ernie Whalley in The Sunday Times self-sacrificingly went to five pizza restaurants to find the best margherita in Dublin. We couldn't possibly tell you the outcome (for reasons explained here) but if you want to find out you can do so here (or just hover over the link). Lucinda O'Sullivan in The Sunday Independent was also in the mood for pizza, and tried a lot of the menu (but not actually much pizza) at Pizza Yard in Ranelagh.