This week's reviews have it all, from fast food, to gastro pubs (or "proper pub/restaurants" as Tom Doorley likes to call them), to five-star hotels and Michelin-starred boltholes. The two gastro bar experiences though, were quite different.
In The Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan was trying out the new menu at Dylan's McGrath's Fade Street Social Tapas Bar/Gastro Bar - we're not really sure what it's called. It sounds from the offset like she's not his biggest fan, calling him the "Irish glowering enfant terrible", and saying that while he's a big deal in the foodie world, the new menu at the Gastro Bar was "not up to par". She's also in contention for the worst ever picture in a newspaper restaurant review, of a ransacked piece of 'BLT lobster on toast', with lobster meat "not even half the size of the prongs of the fork".
She did like the truffle pasta, calling it "delicious", and the citrus-glazed duck breast which "did what it said on the tin", but was wholly unimpressed when, after complaining about a "bland" sauce, she was told that it obviously wasn't to her taste. No critic's pics on the kitchen wall? They passed on dessert, and she calls the experience "less than ideal". (Review not currently online)
In The Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was at The Dalkey Duck (in Dalkey), lamenting the word "gastro" in the term "gastro pub", calling it "too intestinal for comfort". After a ramble about how crap Irish pub food has been over the years, he calls The Dalkey Duck a "proper Irish pub" with "a kitchen that really knows what it's doing". Despite the near fatal error of describing Young Buck cheese on the menu as Stilton (morto), the starter it came with of beets, walnuts and smoked duck breast was "lovely ... salty, sweet, tart, savoury".
White crabmeat on sourdough was "as pleasing as it was simple", and fish and chips - "a very difficult dish to get right" - was nailed, "to a point". Two out of three pieces of hake in "excellent crispy batter" were cooked perfectly, a third was "overdone and mushy", and he was so impressed by the "skinny, crisp, dry" chips he asked about them. He tells us "they are bought in, naturally, but were carefully chosen." (Are we the only ones shocked at the assumption that chips are always bought in?) The dish of the evening was Wicklow venison with wild mushrooms and bacon - "an exercise in restraint, simplicity and confidence" - and he calls The Dalkey Duck "a lovely place". (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary reviews lunch at The Garden Room in The Merrion Hotel. She gives it 7.5/10 and calls it somewhere you can go "upmarket on a budget". After months of nothing but positive reviews from CC we're seriously wondering if she's been told to "drop the knife", ever since the infamous Five Guys slating back in June. Each week we wait for the inevitable car crash meal, and it's just not coming.
Everything in The Garden Room is "good, but...". Wood pigeon is "great, hearty-cooking" but the lentils it sat on needed more astringency. Goat's cheese and beetroot is "a lovely plate", but a side dish of smoked carrots is "more watery than a November weather forecast". Pork belly is "beautifully presented" and "juicy", but the accompanying salad was worse off for having seen a heat lamp. Dessert of poached pear with ice-cream could have been softer. Despite this she says she liked it, and that if The Merrion's afternoon tea is ever booked out you could do worse than coming here for lunch instead. Read her review here.
In The Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams gives us a fried-chicken twofer, with a review split between Crackbird and Mad Egg. Crackbird's large double wings were "as good as ever", boneless juicy thighs were also good if slightly overdone, and sides of cheese croquettes and fried potatoes were "excellent", but the deluxe crunches (boneless bites of chicken) needed more crunch and flavour.
At Mad Egg, a ‘Hot Chick’ burger was "honestly some of the best fried chicken I’ve tasted", "decently spicy" with a "crispy" crumb and juicy chicken. The 'Heartbreaker' burger was also "excellent", and the sticky tenders "showed off the batter at its best". The single dessert of DIY cheesecake came with "excellent" toppings, but the crumbly cheesecake was disappointing. He recommends going, ordering the spicy options and sticking to beer from the drinks list. Read his review here
In The Irish Independent, it's Katy McGuinness's turn to write a love letter to Ichigo Ichie in Cork, one of the country's newest Michelin-star holders. Like all the critics before her, she's mesmerised by "the beautiful interoir", the "stellar tasting menu" and "the master" at work. There are so many components to their "kaiseki" and it changes so often that her review "barely scratches the surface", but she strongly advises going and experiencing it for yourself.
Their favourite course was a sashimi selection, comprising a Harty's oyster with ponzu jelly, stonebass with yuzo miso, aged halibut, squid with shiso vinegar, monkfish cured in kombu, scallop with Gubbeen chorizo and saffron, and cured swordfish that "tastes almost like bacon". A savoury egg custard with salmon roe "burst delightfully in the mouth", and chargrilled duck with "tasteless" buckwheat gnocchi was "the only blip in an otherwise faultless meal". She calls it an "utter delight, the food exquisite, gorgeous to behold." Read her review here.
In The Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis is impressed with new opening Del Fino on Camden Street, where she finds "damn good pasta" and "a really superb" dessert (read that here), and in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley finds "mute" steak and general "mediocrity" at 1909 in Dalkey (read that here).
More next week.