It's been a while, but it's official - fine dining is back - with two restaurants this week jostling for the most interesting, most creative, best tasting food in all the land.
Liath (formerly Heron & Grey) has smashed it out of the park with two stellar reviews in the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Times. Gillian Nelis in the SBP calls it a "unique, happy, buzzy space" where you'll find "some of the most interesting food currently being cooked on this island."
She had an almost identical meal to us and singles out Wicklow trout with bonito flakes, sweetcorn and a beurre blanc, a brik pastry cone filled with smoked eel, shallots, aged Parmesan and fennel pollen, and a baked Alaska with rhubarb, lime and rose - "eye-rollingly good". She warns it's not for you if you’re a fussy eater, or expecting cloches and formality - who are these people? - and warns to set your alarm clocks for 10am tomorrow when reservations for May go on sale. Read her review here.
We're not allowed discuss the Sunday Times as they're afraid if we do you'll stop buying the paper, but Ernie Whalley echoed our sentiments about Damien Grey raising the bar to a new level, and gives the food 5/5. Read the whole glorious love letter here.
More fine dining appreciation in the Irish Times, with Catherine Cleary saying that Ox in Belfast is serving "the best tasting menu anywhere in Ireland". What a week for grand sentiments. She gives it one of those rare 9.5/10's, calling it "high-art French technique with its own distinct Belfast accent", and saying that chef Stephen Toman is at the top of his game.
It all sounds very worth getting in the car for, particularly the celeriac and lovage with a "glass crisp shard of chicken skin, and a frond of black truffle", and the Chateaubriand with wild garlic and smoked carrots topped with bone marrow. She said they've always known what they were doing, but Ox "has grown into something so good that if Michelin doesn’t give it a second star soon it needs its head examined." All the fighting talk this week. Read her review here.
Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent brings us the antithesis to all that lovely food - a "depressing vegan meal" in Dublin's first vegan diner, Beast. Sure enough she's already fighting off abuse on twitter from some very angry vegans (and Beast themselves - mega cringe), for her description of the "leaden" nuggets, and the fake cheese, indistinguishable from the fake bacon.
Highlights seemed to be the coleslaw and the 'roastie fries', and her disdain for the "fake meat" that seems to be part of everything isn't hard to hear. She ends by saying "vegans deserve better" and gives the food 3/10. She should probably turn off twitter for the night till they all calm down a bit. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley is underwhelmed with the current talk of South Dublin, Oliveto in Haddington House, Dun Laoghaire. They've had three incredibly positive critic reviews up to now, but for Tom the best parts were the service, the gin martini and a dish of crisp baby calamari. After that...
He thought a starter of ricotta, pear, beetroot, honey and seeds was almost a dessert (and a bland one to boot), potato and cheese agnolotti "clumsy" and "lacking in flavour", and taglioni pasta in a lemon butter sauce came with monkfish that felt overcooked - "not a bad dish but not a hop-on-the-Dart must-eat-dish". Oh inconsistency. You will be the death of us. (Review not currently online)
Also in SoCoDub was Lucinda O'Sullivan who was in the recently revamped restaurant in the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney. It all sounds a bit "Irish hotel food" but a few notches above, with "fabulous" lime and chilli crab claws with homemade spelt bread, Dublin Bay Prawn provençale, and random dish of the weekend - black bean rissole with avocado, mint yoghurt and mixed leaves - we're nothing if not intrigued.
An "excellent" half roast crispy duck came with apple and grape potato stuffing and 'French' orange sauce (second most random dish of the week), and an Irish cheese selection sounds dull but was nicely presented with more grapes, water crackers, celery (why?) and chutney. She calls the space "intimate and buzzy" and they seem to have left very happy. (Review not currently online)
Finally in Cork Joe McNamee in the Irish Examiner weighs up two pizza places directly opposite each other: Burnt - good (ironic). Oak Fired Pizza - not so good. In OFP the bases were tight, dense and doughy, and no amount of oak firing could save them. Toppings needed work too, with an abundance of meat overwhelming one, and what he suspected to be industrial truffle oil taking care of another. He reckons there's potential, but much work to be done.
Across the road, Burnt fared much better, with blistered, chewy crusts (not burnt), bright San Marzano tomato sauce and well-assembled toppings, the best of which was the roasted garlic-herb chicken, caramelised red onion, mozzarella and basil pesto. Things went a bit askew for dessert, with a Neapolitan chocolate tart "underwhelming" and a tiramisu which "defies the trade descriptions act on many levels", but he says Cork has another good pizza joint on its hands, and gives the food 8/10. Read his review here.
More next week.