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This Week's Critic Reviews

Some more new openings to get your teeth into this week, including the best fiver you can spend in Dublin right now, the dumplings not to be missed and the octopus that was thankfully killed before being put on the plate, but more on that later.

Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times found "fire and flavour" at Variety Jones, and says it's already one of her meals of the year. Quite the statement with it only being the third week in January. She describes the interior as "a bare bones decor job", but says the craftsmanship is in chef Keelan Higgs' food, and the Vietnamese Pacific oysters are "probably the best €5 purchase on any Dublin menu."

Spaghetti Alfredo was "one of the best you'll eat anywhere", and a sharing platter of venison came with caramelised celeriac, charred hispi cabbage and "fabulous" mushrooms, saying "wild meat doesn't get any better than this." She was rumbled when the chef's brother Aaron (front of house) realised that they were very distantly related, and we can only imagine how awkward that encounter was. They stuck to sparkling water, as is the status quo in much of the Times' reviews these days, and because CC won't tell you we'll have to - Variety Jones has one of the most interesting wine lists in the city right now - go and make the most of it. Live your lives. Read her review here.

Another new opening from Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent who was at Gertrude on Pearse Street (read our take on it here). She said she didn't wait long enough before paying them a visit, but we think a month is enough time to get your house in order. She praises the fact that Gertrude is "hot on provenance", and advises not to miss the bacon and cabbage dumplings (we concur), or the tonkatsu pork sandwich, which is the dish she says they'd go back for.

A game pie was generous with great pastry, but she found the duck buns too dry, the butternut squash gnocchi unexciting, and the seared lamb tartare "curiously unbalanced". Apple fritters and custard for dessert were "divine", while a brown sugar tart had a luscious filling but under-cooked pastry. She describes the wine list as "one of the most interesting I've encountered in a long time" (no sparkling water here thankfully), but she does find the mark ups hard to swallow, particularly given the more casual vibe, and thinks they need more lower priced options. She gives them 7/10 for food, ambience and value. Read her review here.

In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan reviews Uno Mas. She ate there almost two months ago in their first week of opening, so we were starting to think she'd ditched it altogether. No surprises here, she loved it as much as everyone else, particularly the morcilla, piquillo pepper and fried quail's eggs, and the chargrilled octopus with crispy kale and violet garlic aioli. She was also relieved that the octopus was served well done, and not alive on the plate as it is in Korea - apparently the suckers can stick to your throat on the way down. Hungry?

Mussels came in a "delicious" smoky sauce, and a mushroom main with chestnut, Jerusalem artichoke purée and slow-cooked egg was "a delicious combination" - lots of deliciousness. A chocolate and olive oil ganache dessert was "guaranteed to send chocoholics off their heads", and she was mucho impressed at the amount of wines under €40 on the list. She calls it "an absolute gem". (Review not currently online)

In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley jumps on the city's current pizza obsession, tracing its Dublin roots back to a café on South Anne Street in 1962. After all that digging he was hungry so went to Boco to try theirs. We've had a few people messaging us about Boco saying it's a contender for best in the city, and Tom was impressed, calling the pizzas "dead sound".

Despite taking slight issue with the fact that their tomato sauce isn't cooked down as he likes it, a combination of ricotta, fennel sausage, red onion and chilli "worked well", and another with black pudding, goat's cheese, proscuitto and rocket with Highbank Orchard apple syrup was "a symphony, cleverly judged, indulgent". The best came with roasted garlic olive oil, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, bresaola, rocket and herby salsa - and no tomato sauce. A Bean and Goose chocolate selection made to look like a cheese board was "witty and rather wonderful" and he says they left "very well fed". (Review not currently online)

In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee reckons he's found "some of the finest coffees to be drunk in Cork" at Duke's Coffee Company, over a lunch that was supposed to be child-free, until one of them feigned sickness to get out of school - nicely played. The food sounds a bit carbon copy café - Cajun chicken sandwich fillings are still a thing! - but he describes it as "very solid comfort food". Falafel with couscous and tzatziki was "a cracker", but a quiche was leathery, with disappointing coleslaw.

A strawberry sponge affair "mightily pleased" his wife, while his own ginger cake was good but was too light and gently spiced for his tastes (he should try the one at Variety Jones, there's no going back), but says the true stars are the coffees - which maybe doesn't say a whole pile for the food, which he gives 7/10. Read his review here.

In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis is in Belfast at The Muddlers Club, where she finds "a very modern and gloriously unstuffy take on fine dining". We're planning a trip just for the Wicklow venison carpaccio with beetroot slices, artichoke cream and artichoke crisps. Read her review here.

Finally in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley reviews new Italian pasta spot Grano in Stoneybatter, wondering how they get so much flavour into the wild boar tortellini. Read that here. We have our own review on Grano in this Tuesday's mail out, so if you're not already signed up you can do so here.

More next week.

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