After a lot of average meals last week, normal order has resumed, with a glut of good reviews in the weekend papers (barring one, and spoiler alert: it was the subject of last week's difference of opinion between Leslie Williams and Lucinda O'Sullivan. Ernie Whalley is team Leslie).
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley braved the "down-at-heel streets" behind The Gresham for lunch at newly opened One Society Café (which you can read more about here), and found food that was "robust, thoughtful, unpretentious, big on flavour and mercifully low on fancypants stuff". He loved their list of "trusted suppliers" and the fact that they donate 10c from every hot drink to Temple Street Children's Hospital, and got the feeling that "these were nice people".
His gargantuan Croque Madame was "an exercise in decadent savouriness", but he would have liked a little more mustard, and his companion's brisket and greens were "outstanding". They even made kale "deliciously moreish" with the addition of their homemade almond pesto. They're due to start making pizzas in the evening soon, and he says if they're as good as the other lunch dishes he'll be a regular visitor. (Review not currently online)
Catherine Cleary was also braving some mean streets, those Saturday night tourist-filled ones in Temple Bar - the things restaurant critics do for us. She was eating at Crow Street, the recently opened "Irish soulfood" spot that's had mixed reviews. They must have breathed out the biggest sigh of relief imaginable when they picked up the paper yesterday, because CC calls it "a solid addition to Temple Bar's food scene", praising their tribute to the old Dublin classic "smokies".
She generally found things "light on innovation, heavy on flavour", with dishes like deep-fried balls of Fivemiletown goat's cheese, crispy lamb shoulder, and a special of juicy rare slices of duck with an orange flavoured duck cigar - "deft and delicious". Desserts from "the least innovative dessert list in Leinster" were the only low point - if you want to cut costs in a kitchen you ditch the dessert chef. She says Crow Street are serving large plates of well-cooked comfort food, and "in these days of chef shortages, shiny concept restaurants and flown-in food service reheats, that's something to crow about." Wonder who she's talking about with the flown-in food... Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan calls Layla's, the newest opening from restaurant super group Press Up, "a very cool spot". LOS seems to be a bit of a fan of Press Up's restaurants. The general consensus amongst the critics has been "good at interiors, less so at food", but she's given positive reviews to all of their venues, and this one is no different. She calls the building "amazing ... stunning", with a "lovely glass-fronted terrace", and the cocktails "hit the spot". Chicken livers with mushroom, pappardelle, sage and marsala was "absolutely delicious", as was a "pretty plate" of prosciutto with lardo, figs, burrata, rocket and apple balsamic.
Tempura shrimp with sweet pea and pancetta risotto was "delish", as were parmesan fries, and her only complaint was the €36 sole on the bone that she thought was tiny and "really bad value", despite the delicious melange of fennel, capers and chillies on top. They passed on desserts, and for once she diversified from the usual house Sauvignon or Picpoul to drink one of the most interesting wines on the Dublin market right now - Milan Nestarec's Czech Gruner Veltliner. The times they are a changing. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness went in search of free-range, rare breed pigs at No. 35 Kenmare in Kerry, whose grazing location so close to the Atlantic makes their diet rich in iodine, which means juicier, more tender meat. Imagine if instead of half the country turning vegan, we all committed to only eating meat like this? A lot less processed food and chemically enhanced meat-substitutes would be consumed. The sausages these pigs were sacrificed for (which came with champ mash and onion jus) is her husband's new death row meal, and she admits to scraping the plate clean.
A pulled pork brioche had "soft and tender" meat and a smoky barbecue sauce with "enough of a tang to cut through the richness of the meat", and fries were "hot, crisp, just right". They also looked hand-cut (another to add to the list). "Tender" octopus came with cubes of chorizo from the same delicious sounding pigs, and a boozy chocolate torte to finish was "a bit much at lunchtime but good nonetheless". She gives the food 8/10. Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee was trying out two eateries in the vicinity of Cork airport. The first, The Workshop, had good soups, but unsuccessful sandwiches had a "paucity of ingredients", some of which were "lacklustre". Baked offerings were "good", with an Oreo milkshake the best thing about the place. The following day he took himself to Dwyer's electrical shop, and their on site café Eden, and was "pleasantly surprised".
A calamari burger (why don't we see more of these?) with roast garlic aioli, gem lettuce and pickled jalapenos, had thin strips of well-cooked squid fried in polenta, and came with crispy fries. A maple-glazed bacon crunchy ciabatta, and a ham, cheese and onion toastie were also good, and the salad selection wass "intriguing and innovative". A piece of carrot cake was "light and mildly spiced" and Tunisian orange cake was "delicious", and while the food isn't cutting edge it's "considered". He vows to buy all lightbulbs and plugs there from now on. Read his review here.
In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis is loving the throwback fondue and "ingenious" wine list at the new Bar Giuseppe on Castle Market (read that here), and in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley has a similarly frustrating experience to Leslie Williams at Del-Fino on Camden Street, particularly with the osso bucco that wasn't. Read that here.
More next week.