This Week's Critic Reviews
A provenance-related memo must have gone around the critic whisper network this week, as the quality of the ingredients and where they come from is the running theme of the May bank holiday weekend reviews. That and dim sum - some joyful, some watery and baggy. More on that later.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was very quick off the mark getting into INK, the new sustainable café in Dun Laoghaire which opened last week (read more about it here), and found some (hopefully) early days issues. Overall he was thrilled to find somewhere free of catering tubs of margarine, plastic-wrapped muffins and industrial cookies, that's cooking everything in the place from scratch and aiming to be as zero waste as possible.
A chicken salad came with "spanking fresh" leaves and "remarkably good" housemade burrata, but was a bit bland and in need of a more assertive dressing, but a bowl of broccoli and courgette soup was so good he'd go back for it. A fish butty with hake also sounded worthy of a return trip, but beetroot falafel on toast "needed more thought", and ideally some tzatziki. A rich, intense chocolate tart was "excellent", service was "charming" and the room "stunning", so not a bad run out for their fourth day of service, and he says he'll be back. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams is the latest critic to fall for those Lucky Tortoise charms, praising their "ridiculously cheap, hugely enjoyable food". His favourites from the all-in €20 menu were the Okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese savoury pancake), peanut chilli slaw and the fluffy char siu buns. Pancetta potstickers worked, despite needing some brain reconciling of east and west, but chicken shiitake 'pillows' and five veg dumplings were better.
Staff were excellent and efficient, despite a mix up over one of the wines, and he calls Lucky Tortoise "a joy of a place", saying "go soon, go often". He gives them 8/10 for food and drink, 9/10 for service and 9.5/10 for value. Read the full thing here.
Lucinda O'Sullivan details a less successful Asian experience in this weekend's Sunday Independent, after a "flowery" press release brought her to the newly refurbed Orchid Chinese Restaurant in Ballsbridge - obviously the same one that brought Ernie Whalley there last week. Sometimes money is better spent in the kitchen than on PR, as they've probably now realised after their second uninspired review in 8 days. She was majorly put out to find they had no early bird menu, and even more so when the dim sum started to arrive.
Crab and pork dumplings were "baggy and watery", which is about as unappetising a description as we could think of, pork and prawn wontons tasted like Christmas stuffing, and the clincher - "undercooked, slimy and revolting" scallops - 0% holding back this week. Duck was "lukewarm" and she suspected bought in, and she suggested they forgo the beautiful flowers in the new bar in order to replace the "old stained toilet bowl" in the ladies. Ever want to eat again? Us neither... (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness was lured to Longford by the promise of excellent provenance and serious kitchen talent, from chef/owner Daniel Skukalek of Nine Arches in Ballymahon. She says they ate well, but that the kitchen could do with heeding Coco Chanel's advice about taking one thing off before you go out. Case in point, the over-complicated sounding braised beef cheek with raisin chilli chocolate jam, truffle powder, onion horseradish cream, herb salsa and crisp shallots, of which the thought alone is blinding.
Rose veal tortellini were "intensely flavoursome", a 30-day aged sirloin was a "fine piece" of meat, and a rump of lamb worked well with watercress purée, fried cauliflower and bagna cauda, but Morello cherries were the aforementioned bangle that needed to be left on the dresser. A chocolate pavé with coffee ice-cream, black pepper crumble, caramel popcorn and sea salt chocolate tuille was a highlight, and she says there's serious talent here but they could do with stripping the food back and letting the ingredients shine. She gives them 8/10 for everything, and you can read the full thing here.
More focus on provenance in the Irish Times where Catherine Cleary was at The Cook and Gardener in Rathmullan House, Donegal - they had her at 'walled-garden'. She said they get on with the business of "serving up the best of food from the area without the self-congratulation", and that plates are "accomplished". Mulroy Bay mussels came in a frothy white wine cream "as gorgeous as the seafood" and Donegal scallops with a chilli chicken and turmeric broth which added heat, and parma ham for a "salty crunch".
Both mains of crisp-skinned brill and rump of Slane Valley lamb, both with local veg, got the thumbs up, and she finally got the rhubarb she was longing for in last week's review in the form of a specially fashioned rhubarb crumble for dessert (it was supposed to be apple but she made the request after seeing it in the garden - pro move). She says the The Cook and Gardener are putting all the beauty of Donegal, both wild and cultivated, on the plates, and she gives them 9/10. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis was impressed by the "top class-ingredients treated simply" at Charlie's Restaurant in The Butlers Arms Hotel in Kerry. After listing the many celebrities who've stayed there over the years, she describes what sounds like a feast of seafood, including crab au gratin, seafood pie, Valencia scallops, black sole and lobster thermidor, with "top-notch" garnishes and "very good" desserts. It was also good value at just under €56 a head with wine. Celeb food at Irish food critic prices. Read her review here.
Finally in the Sunday Times Ernie Whalley was at The Eddison, the newly reopened restaurant in The Dylan Hotel. He had gripes with the menu which featured typos and talked about local suppliers but didn't name any, and a particularly stingy soufflé, but desserts were excellent. He gives the food 3/5 and you can read the full thing here.
More next week.