This Week's Critic Reviews
It's two days before Christmas, which means all the round ups! Some critics have picked their favourite restaurants from the past 12 months, some have literally just listed everywhere they've eaten, and a few actually reviewed somewhere new. First to the new...
The Irish Independent's Katy McGuinness is the latest in the door of US-style Loretta's in Phibsborough. The smart fit-out reminded her of some Press Up venues (which is a compliment), and she says she admires the bravery involved in opening "a big, proper restaurant ... at a time when there is a chill wind blowing through the industry". Nashville hot oysters with brown butter and bone marrow sauce could have been hotter but the flavours were "dirty fabulous", and oyster mushrooms with parmesan fondue and aubergine relish were "properly tasty".
A Skeaghanore duck salad was "a gorgeous composition" and a striploin steak was "impeccable" with "excellent house-made chips", but side salads were over-dressed. She wasn't a fan of the beef and pork ragu either, feeling it had been rushed, and the black bean chilli on the side of Wicklow venison lacked depth, although the cornbread it came with was "buttery and delicious". An American style baked cheesecake to end was "a winner", and she calls it "a family-run restaurant with a very nice vibe". She gives it 8/10 for food, ambiance and value. Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee was in Green Man Wines in Terenure, enjoying the experience of "being able to stand up, walk over to a wall of wine and spend a few minutes mulling over your next choice." A lot of the review is about the wines they drank, including an Italian 'Pét Nat', a "beautifully balanced" Italian Vermentino, and a "bright, juicy" organic Italian Syrah - we're suddenly very thirsty.
Mediterranean snacks of corn kernels and lupins divided the table, while a bowl of wild mussels with parsley and garlic butter were flavoursome, sweet and nutty, but missing bread to mop up the sauce. A tender Flat Iron steak came with "terrific" bearnaise and "criminally addictive" parsnip chips - both so good that seconds of each were ordered, and he says that while the food offering is designed to serve the drinks offering, it's "extremely decent, well-cooked and tasty grub, a fine servant to some splendid wines." Read his review here.
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary is doleling out her restaurants of the year awards, and says the places that got her attention were the ones paying attention themselves - "food geeks who lie awake at night wondering how to make it better". Locks get her vote for "best neighbourhood place", for their relaxed team and "wonderful food" (read our review here), Assassination Custard take "best café" for their "small brilliance" (we reviewed them too), and Indian 3 Leaves in Blackrock gets "best value".
No doubt there will be consternation amongst the country folk for her "best out-of-Dublin" category (Restaurant Chestnut), but three out of nine of her awards go to restaurants outside the capital, which seems about right? (Luckily as this is a Dublin-based site we shouldn't get too much abuse off the back of that one). Pi takes "best newcomer", Vietnom takes "best street food", and Airfield's Overends Kitchen takes "best farm-to-fork. The full article (including those out-of-Dublin places) is here.
It's a similar story in the Irish Daily Mail, with Tom Doorley picking out the best restaurants he reviewed for each month of 2018, eventually settling on his favourite five. Etto makes the list for their "simple and brilliant" cooking and "sensational" wine list, Campagne in Kilkenny for their "sublime" food, Everett's in Waterford for their transformation of raw materials that lives on long after the last mouthful is swallowed, and Pichet for a simply perfect lunch.
He's hesitant to commit to a meal of the year, but eventually gives it to Uno Mas, "one of the most joyful experiences of the year", where he had "the best squid I have eaten anywhere". He also says he thinks he's eaten better this year than ever before, which says good things about the Dublin/Irish dining scene. (Review not currently online)
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan lists almost every restaurant she visited this year, month by month. Twenty-eight different places are mentioned (not counting her "20 best" lists which seemed to go on for most of the summer), and if you've been reading either her Sunday column or this weekly round up there'll be nothing much new in it for you.
Our personal highlights include a recount of her "train wreck" brunch in Bun Cha with their "awful beef" and out of order loos (worth noting that other critics liked it), her trip to The Grayson which included wanting to "push some of the stool-hogging Prosecco ladies off their perches", and another dig at the "non-stop nonsense of foodies on social media whining about the best pizza spot" in Dublin. Hopefully she'll unwind a bit in 2019. (Review not currently online)
Another yearly round up in the Sunday Business Post, where Gillian Nelis picks her top ten restaurants of the year, only four of which are in Dublin - Locks, Luna, 3 Leaves and Craft (read that here), and in the Sunday Times Ernie Whalley is "seriously impressed" after a visit to newly opened Uno Mas (read that here).
No critic review round up next week. See you in 2019.