If you're planning a staycation any time soon and are the kind of person who picks where to go solely based on the restaurants you want to eat in (*waves*), there's plenty of inspiration in this week's reviews. Katy's in Drogheda, Catherine's in Tipperary, Lucinda's in Cork and Joe's in Dingle, and there isn't a dud meal between them.
One person who stayed in the capital was Tom Doorley, who found himself enjoying a leisurely Friday lunch at One Pico, after hearing constant reports about how good the food is right now (we've been hearing the same reports so were glad to see it highlighted). He calls his lunch "pretty outstanding" with "key autumnal flavours" like wild mushrooms, pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke.
Cod with savoy cabbage, pumpkin, mussels and smoked yoghurt was "ostensibly simple" from a chef with confidence and with "nothing redundant" on the plate, and he says the same for the smoked rib of beef, "falling apart with prolonged cooking", with crunchy cavolo nero, Jerusalem artichoke and a single chanterelle. He also tells us that One Pico has a cheese trolley (the contents of which are in "peak condition"), which is reason alone to go if you ask us. (Review not currently online)
In The Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan managed to get a table at 18-seater Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob, after they were awarded a Michelin star a few weeks ago - not sure how she pulled that one, they're currently booked out until December. She tells us how she "got a vibe" that Cork was getting three new stars, before having "a bitch" about Michelin not doing their job properly outside of France, and then it's onto the food, which she calls "an extraordinarily elegant and delicate progression of exquisite colours, and contrasts of flavour and texture."
After a melange of mussels, seaweed and tapioca with micro herbs and caviar, she wondered "how can he top that?", but "the perfection just went on". Highlights included "seared, silky king scallops" with cauliflower, squid ink, nasturtiums and hibiscus, "crispy seared nuggets of brill" with courgette, dill and crispy kale, and venison with ratatouille, smoked celery root and celeriac purée. Desserts were a "masterclass in simplicity" and they ended with Young Buck cheese dripping in honey and pollen. She calls it "the very best food I've had in a long time, and an absolute snip for what we experienced." Definitely worth the trip then. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary's ongoing hunt for farm to fork cooking led her to O'Neills Bistro in Tipperary, after a tip off from a millionaire's chef. Despite a website "so terrible it seemed almost deliberately designed to repel any interest", she finds food consisting of "beautiful arrangements of good ingredients", like "sweet, thready crab meat" with lightly pickled cucumber, and a free-range chicken terrine with a soft poached country hen's egg.
Hake is meaty and comes with "butter-crisp skin" and a dill dauphine - "airy gobstopper-sized balls of fluffy potato made by combining pureed potato with choux pastry and lightly frying them in hot fat" - which has now become our latest obsession. Lamb is "luscious and tender" and comes with a snooker-ball sized croquette made from the shoulder, and "perfect" long-stem broccoli. She calls it "a bit of a discovery in a quiet corner of Ireland" and says it's well worth a visit. Read her review here.
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness took a trip to Drogheda's most talked about restaurant, Eastern Seaboard, and despite the disappointment that it's not actually on the coast, found a menu so appetising that they struggled to limit themselves to an appropriate amount of food. She praises the warm welcome from the staff, the effort to make the place look attractive and the glut of produce from the nearby Boyne Valley. Courgette fries were "fantastically hot and crunchy", Karaage chicken wings "a deep-fried delight", and their "famous" crab cakes were "unusually all crab" and deserving of their title.
Cripsy shell-on baby prawns were "a delicious steal" at €6.50, but an aged-beef short rib lacked flavour, and a baked Japanese style cheesecake for dessert was "grim", like something "you might be forced to eat in the home of an elderly relative". She gives it 8/10 and says it's "a restaurant making a real effort to be creative - and succeeding". Read her review here.
In The Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee is unsure what to expect when revisiting Doyle's Seafood in Dingle after a 20 year hiatus. Luckily he finds it "buzzing" with a "warm welcoming embrace", and "sublimely comforting, deceptively simple seafood". Dingle Bay crab claws are "an exercise in elemental perfection" and pan-fried scallops are "superb produce, cooked superbly". The theme continues with pan-roasted turbot - "superb fish cooked with confidence and simplicity", and he spent "a blissful spell ferreting out every last bit of the precious sweet meat from my Ventry lobster".
Even the tricolour veg impressed, "cooked with the same loving care and attention as accorded the star ingredients". Desserts of sticky toffee pudding and chocolate orange brownie were "sound" and they were very reluctant to leave, something Joe says is "another sign of a really good restaurant". Read his review here.
In The Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis finds value and "one of the best Naan breads I've had in Dublin" at Indie Spice in Sandymount (read that here), and in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley makes a plea to Johnnie Cooke to improve the food, generosity and service at his new restaurant Cooke's in Dundrum (read that here). They won't like this one.
More next week.