This Week's Critic Reviews
There's a real mixture of moods this week, with some critics' lunch giving them "hope for a new future", and others downtrodden by oyster bars that feel more like a chipper.
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary calls new Gardiner Street spot One Society a farm-to-table café that's a great addition to the north inner city. She flipping loved that the beef brisket on the menu was from the owner's sister's farm in Meath (music to an Irish Times critic's ears), and calls the whole place "heartening".
A "not so classic Irish breakfast" sounds enormous but came with good sausages, smoked black pudding, caramelized apples ("just apple sauce but still good"), spiced beans, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms and her friend thought it was as good a breakfast as he'd had. Special mention for the Le Levain sourdough too. Desserts of brownie and crumble were bought in but good, and coffee excellent, and she calls One Society a "hope for a future which might not be as generic as the developments that surround it". And people say it's just food... Read her review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness admits to kicking herself for taking 25 years to get to Chameleon in Temple Bar. They recently did a bit of a rebrand, giving the exterior of restaurant a much-needed facelift, and for any restaurateurs getting worried about getting left behind with all of the new openings of later, this is a very clever idea - just FYI, the food needs to be good too or it doesn't work.
She gives a nice bit of background on how Chameleon came about in 1994 which we'd guess most people won't know, before telling us that the bao are "perfect", their favourite being pork belly with pineapple compote, but buttermilk chicken and fish and squid "fish fingers" get honourable mentions too. Short rib of beef is "rich, tender, elegant", and a Wicklow lamb and sweet potato curry "the epitome of comfort". Also getting the love was the bami goreng (noodles), nasi goreng (rice), sambal fries (yum) and kimchi (gut health ftw), and she gives it 8/10 for food, ambience and value. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan lists 12 cafés to try in "fringe locations" in Dublin, and it's a pretty cracking list. She's certainly been doing her groundwork of late. Making the cut are a lot of our favourites, including Alma, Bread 41, Gertrude and Nutbutter, and One Society gets its second nod of the week.
Also mentioned is Bowls by Kwanghi Chan just off Parnell Street, Groundstate Coffee in Dublin 8, Industry (not a fringe location but still great), Koffee + Kale just off Dorset Street, Lilliput Stores and Mooz in Stoneybatter, and The Green Bean in Dun Laoghaire. You could do a lot worse than working your way through this list. (Not currently online).
In the Sunday Business Post, Gillian Nelis visited the newly revamped Ely Wine Bar on Ely Place, finding it "buzzing". The food sounds good, with some great provenance including beef from the family farm, but there were a couple of "could do better"s including some "bland" scallops and a celeriac dish that needed some crunch. She calls the burger "one of the best in town" and they loved the desserts of poached rhubarb with rhubarb jelly and ice-cream. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley gives the new Alex Findlater & Co in Limerick a proper dressing down, by comparing their Oyster & Seafood Bar to a busy chipper, replete with the sounds and smells of deep-fat fryers on overdrive. And they couldn't even produce decent chips. The food sounds almost universally disappointing, except for a "decent enough" prawn cocktail, and "excellent" battered monkfish. A crab and salmon scotch egg (with potato to dilute the fish - why? Never mind, we know the answer) came with a "masala dressing" that sounds particularly woeful, with Tom comparing it to curry power mixed with catering mayonnaise and calling it "haunting". Just what you want from a review.
Cod croquettes came filled with the same mashed potato as the scotch egg, and the aforementioned fries were "anaemic looking and deficient in that essential quality of crunch". Thankfully the service from their "outstanding" waitress was charming and efficient, but he says if they're planning on rolling this concept out, which has been suggested in the media, they need to have a long hard think about what the concept is. Interestingly, Gilian Nelis loved their "Grill Room" (in the same building) so much that she put it in her "Top 10 Restaurants of 2018". Confusingly inconsistent. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Examiner, Joe McNamee had what sounds like an extremely frustrating meal at Greene's in Cork - it kind of sounds like he just wants to go in and sort it out himself. He'd heard they were targeting a Michelin star, but it doesn't sound like it's in reach based on this experience. Bad start when their confirmed window table wasn't available and no apology was offered in its place. Breads were "pleasing but unremarkable", and three amuse bouches (all meat) were "mildly pleasing at best". Spare a thought for his poor wife (a pescatarian) who had to settle for an "uninspiring" tomato-based soup.
Starters were better, with celeriac and Ballyhoura mushroom cigars, and Goatsbridge trout two ways (pate and cured) "delicate, precise affairs", but more issues when the sommelier didn't know one of the wines on the list, and it ended up being a big fat disappointment. Even MORE disappointment that the only non-meat dish on the menu was a veggie risotto, so his wife ordered fish without the bacon it was supposed to come with, and they accidentally took the smoked sausage out of Joe's fish dish too. God it's exhausting even recounting this, imagine being there. He makes the valid point that faults like these are more pronounced when the food is this expensive, and you can read the full postmortem here.
Finally in the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley was at Dalkey neighbourhood bistro De Ville's, where he found proper bistro food well-presented, and seemed happy to overlook some kitchen niggles due to the crackling atmosphere. Read that here.
More next week.