It's been a weekend of extreme highs and lows for restaurant reviews. On one hand you've got newbie restaurateurs finding a lot of hard work finally paying off. On the other you have a newly-appointed, two Michelin-star trained chef getting his cooking slammed for being "salty", "overcooked" and "unappealing". We hear you should always start with a positive, so with that in mind...
Reggie White, Pi's exhausted, sleep-deprived pizzaiola and grand master was bopping around the kitchen to Irish country music sensation Declan Nerney yesterday (Insta stories), after his Neapolitan style pizzas were declared the best in Dublin by Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times (you heard it here first people).
She calls them "terrific", created by "someone who just loves something and a backer who gets it", with puffy crusts as good as the rest of the pizza, and a margherita where "nothing is dumbed down, from the "truly tomatoey sauce to the higher-end cheese". She thought the veggie option with hen of the woods mushrooms, Grana Padano, fontina, spinach and sage cream was the best (we can only imagine what she would have thought of the courgette one, which we thought was even better).
The sweet, salty chocolate pot (budino) is "delicious ... like chocolate in butter form or butter in chocolate form", but despite the mammoth praise and whopper score she seems intent on getting across that she sees this turning into a chain. We're not sure how the Pi guys will feel about this, but Reggie posted a picture of the review yesterday saying "there's hope for Independent restaurants yet!". We would imagine they're soley focused on getting one location running like clockwork (and maybe giving the main man a day off occasionally) before thinking about what's next. Read the review here.
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness was left feeling confused and exhausted after a trip to The Cake Café off Camden Street - luckily the food managed to make up for a good chunk of it. She was extremely frustrated that a chef's special of 'organic potato rosti with spring onions, goats cheese, smoked bacon, organic kale and green goddess dressing', came with an option to add an egg, which she did, but then it arrived with two eggs, and the server told her it already came with one egg. *Brain-exploding emoji*. And the plot thickens... We've found a picture of said dish on their social media (below) and there is NO EGG. Oh what a mess...
Although she thought the dishes lacked presentation finesse, it was clear that the produce was of good quality, with merguez sausages "properly meaty", rashers "fine thick smoky" and chorizo "excellent". The best thing they ate was the Goatsbridge smoked trout smokies which were "rich and unctuous". The worst a sausage scramble with "heinously over-cooked" eggs and "insipid" baked beans.
Cakes were the star of the show, with a blueberry victoria sponge "a joy both to behold and to eat", and even a vegan sugar-free caramel slice is "surprisingly good". She leaves feeling "charmed ... despite the slightly chaotic service", and hopes that with a bit more time things will straighten out. (Read her review here)
In The Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley said he "loved every moment" of his meat at Hunters Hotel in Wicklow, but at certain points it really doesn't sound like it. He advises coming here if you're looking for "relatively plain food" - genuinely never - their wine order wasn't taken until after they'd eaten their starter - infuriating - and after placing said wine order, they were told to have a back up in mind as their first choice was likely to be sold out - we're probably walking out at this stage.
The food doesn't get off to a great start either. A shrimp cocktail came with some "pink-ish liquid" at the bottom of the dish, in place of actual Marie-Rose sauce, and tasted of smoked paprika. Things improved with a shiitake mushroom risotto which was "rather good", Wicklow lamb and stuffing which was full of flavour, and a 'Crispy Duo of Duckling' which was "rather better than it sounds".
A dessert of 'Millefeuilles Gateau' reminded him of Superquinn custard slices (not a compliment), and a bramley apple and plum crumble with ice cream was 'bliss'. He calls Hunters "eccentric, unique,
glorious", and we think it must be an acquired taste. (Review not currently online)
In The Sunday Independent, it took Lucinda O'Sullivan three attempts to get into the Steps of Rome, which used to be in the city centre but moved to Dundrum a couple of years ago, and it turns out it wasn't worth the effort.
The server did her best to put them on a tight table in the middle of the floor next to a "romantic couple", which Lucinda was having none of - bad start. A special of 'Alps mountains cheese' to start was actually a deep fried cheese croquette (below) with "wilted and undressed dry leaves" and a "jammy" sauce, which was "very bad value". Mains of 'grigliata misa' - chargrilled fish - and tagliatelle with Dublin Bay Prawns and cherry tomatoes were better, although the eagle-eyed Lucinda spotted afterwards that she'd been charged €3 more for her pasta than the price on their website. Rage.
They passed on desserts, settling for one affogato (which might have been good or bad, she doesn't tell us), and she thought that both the wine and the water (€2.50 for a carafe of filtered!) were overpriced. She shan't be back by the sounds of things.
Finally, uncomfortable review of the week goes to the Irish Examiner's Joe McNamee who was at the Eccles Hotel in West Cork. With a new GM and two star Michelin-trained Head Chef coming on board in the past few months, they've been on something of a publicity drive to tell the world about the "destination resort" they are creating, with "clean cooking" and "forgotten foods", and it does sound like Joe would rather forget what he ate there.
Starters are "pleasant and tasty if less than inspiring", particularly a greasy fritto misto with "tired farmed salmon", but things really rollercoaster downwards with the mains. Butter poached hake is "mealy and overcooked" in a "watery butter sauce", braised ham hock is dry and "overly salty" (not even peas, a fried egg and hand-cut chips could save it), and staff failed to address the half-eaten plates.
A rhubarb and apple crumble came with overly-stewed fruit, and cold crumble scattered on top - "desultory treatment for what is usually a simple yet splendid old comforter" - and there's a major cringe moment when the server is asked to recommend a red wine, and responds by saying she doesn't drink red, but suggests her favourite white. Joe says he'll be sticking to soup and tea next time. Read his review here.
In the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley gives us a whistlestop tour of Wexford's food trail, including an enjoyable meal at Cistín Eile - read that here - and in The Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis paid two visits to Daata in Greystones, and recommends we all do the same - you can read that here.
More next week.