This Week's Critic Reviews
After a rake of glowing reviews last week, and the stirring up of a debate which provoked a lot of responses from critics, restaurants and diners, it's a rake of mediocre ones this week. Who says they never say anything bad? (FYI - The critic's responses ranged from "don't believe everything chefs tell you" to "sometimes I am too soft".)
Two very different reviews of newly opened Del Fino on Camden St in this weekend's papers. In the Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams describes his "hot mess of a meal", after having high hopes for chef Alan O'Reilly's new opening. He found the "eclectic" mix of cuisines on the menu frustrating, so went for a bit of everything. Highlights included potato beignets - "crisp and fluffy" - and "wafu beef" with fermented pimiento, before things started to go downhill.
Crispy pork croquettes lacked punch, gnocchi in tomato sauce was "serviceable" and pasta landed on the table at the same time as the starters. Calamari with fried Padron peppers, marinara, and aioli came with none of the above, instead with some scattered herbs and red chillies (which the wait staff insisted were padron), and slow-braised pork shank was "bland and characterless". The wine list didn't impress either, and there were more issues but we'll let you read the full thing.
The chef came to the table at the end to apologise for the problems, and he ends by saying, "There were flashes of excellence but this was a hot mess of a meal. Del Fino needs a massive injection of focus at both front and back of house or they won’t survive Christmas." He gives the food 6/10. Read his review here.
It sounds like Lucinda O'Sullivan was in a different restaurant, as she calls Del Fino "an Italian masterclass". Before getting into the review, she manages to give pizza, that "peasant meal" that's "cheap as chips to make", a proper bashing, as well as those "frenzied foodies" with their "twitter spats and nonsense" about where to find the best one in Dublin. (We'll just leave this here...) Thankfully Del Fino provided the higher end Italian food she's been looking for.
The "super dooper" building had a buzz, great music and comfy banquettes, and she calls it "a better class of restaurant" than most of the fast food joints and kebab shops on the street - controversial LOS. They also thought the wafu beef was "superb", and pasta with porcini and oyster mushrooms was "delicious". A half lobster and rabbit pappardelle for mains also impressed, and it doesn't sound like they had dessert but she calls them "good value" at €6.50. In another contrast to the other review, she calls the wine list "excellent". She ends by saying "who wants a pizza when you can eat like this?" Leslie Williams probably. (Review not currently online).
In The Irish Times, Catherine Cleary took herself over to furniture shop-cum-eatery Industry on Drury Street, who've recently started opening on Friday and Saturday evenings with an Ottolenghi style menu. It's "noisier than a late-night house party", but she calls the menu a "love letter" to Middle Eastern cooking, with a "nimble little wine list". A mezze plate consisted of "all the standards, done well", including chargrilled scallions ("a good judge of the kitchen"), meaty marinated olives, and the star of the plate, a lemon-infused labneh, "luscious enough to eat on its own with the great bread".
She was less impressed with the almond falafel (more mealy than nutty) and the "marinated" feta which didn't taste marinated. An Irish lamb chop came in an "odd" linseed coating, but the meat was "great, tender and succulent", and spiced, roasted cauliflower was a little underdone and undersized, but they "nailed" the flavour, with tahini yoghurt and pomegranate seeds. Desserts were "good but not cheap", the better being a bowl of "winter rhubarb" with "more of that luscious labneh", and she says that while they aren't breaking any new ground, they're doing the crowd pleasers well. Read her review here.
Over in the Daily Mail, it seems we inspired Tom Doorley to go in search of freshly made chips after asking restaurants who weren't buying them in to let us know. Lots of places put their hands up, including Chameleon, Michael's and The Old Spot, and so did Press Up, saying that all of their venues cut and cook them fresh. Despite having plenty of sites to choose from, Tom really took one for the team by heading out to Captain Americas.
While he thought the hamburgers were "very good", the bacon and cheese in particular "splendidly savoury", the chips were "a disappointment", and "simply not crisp". He did however do them the favour of trying Wowburger, another of their burger restaurants, the following day, and there found "perfect" chips, "crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside". He liked the burger too, but still thinks Bunsen is the best in town. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness was impressed with the turf, less so with the surf, at Cowfish in Bray. More sound issues here, with the hard surfaces amplifying the "screechers and guffawers", but the "abundance of foliage and plenty of warmth" sound nice. The running theme here is disappointing seafood. Crab croquettes "don't taste of anything much", and tiger prawns are "insipid", with a pil pil dressing lacking "oomph or sizzle", and she asks "why on earth not Irish prawns?"
Lamb cutlets were better, accompanied by "smoky" baba ghanoush "full of flavour", and a rib-eye on the bone was "a fine piece of meat". "Anaemic" chips had spent "too little time in the deep-fat fryer", while a crispy onion nest is "similarly pale, and greasy with it". A Bailey's bread and butter pudding was "stolid" and a tequila-based cilantro cocktail was "delicious", but overall she gives the food 6/10. (Review not currently online but should be soon here.)
In The Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley ignored the pleas from Oliveto in Dun Laoghaire to avoid reviewing them until they get to the standard they want to be at, and lucky he did as he left feeling "genuinely enthused about a restaurant that is something of a gem." Read that here.
More next week.