This Week's Critic Reviews
There will be some very happy heads this weekend, some not so happy ones, and some probably mortified ones. Let's just say if you shout about the fact that you're doing something, you better actually be doing it.
Somewhere that clearly is doing what they say they are is Little Mike's in Mount Merrion, the new wine bar with mainly seafood small plates from the same guys behind Michael's, a few doors down. No surprise that like Tom Doorley last week, Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner loved it, giving the food 9.5/10 and calling it "some of the very best seafood cooking in the country". No disagreements from us.
He loved it all - the wines, the zaltos, the whelks, the fact that much of it was breathing just a few hours previously. John Dory was "crisp-grilled, succulent, and just-cooked", fish cakes were "rich and packed with sweet fish", and mussels and crab claws were "tender and flavourful". He ends by saying that Little Mike's may have been opened to take some pressure off the main restaurant, but he thinks it's going to be so busy that owner Gaz Smith may have to buy the whole street. Read his review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail, Tom Doorley was at Elephant and Castle in Monkstown to see if their famous chicken wings still lived up to expectations. With a headline saying "We need to talk about the Elephant in this Castle", we thought they were in for an attack on the fact that their chicken wings aren't free-range (the menu doesn't even say if they're Irish), but after reading it several times we're still unclear what the elephant was. He thought the wings were as good as ever, but spare ribs were "pedestrian" with a "why" flavour combination of molasses and ginger".
Main courses were "eminently edible" - yum - with salmon and Irish lamb both cooked perfectly, but a calamari salad was "tedium". An ice-cream sundae for dessert was "splendidly old-fashioned", but a slice of lemon tart, complete with soggy bottom, was so bad he couldn't believe it had been let out of the kitchen. So overall a decent meal, but a bit of a letdown from that tease of a headline. (Review not currently online)
Onto the more awkward. In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary says that healthy fast food chain Leon in Temple Bar made her feel sad, and calls it "food served up by an algorithm". Major cringe reading about the "Oirish" schtick on the walls, like a poster of organic milk from Donegal accompanied by the quote "if it’s good enough for wee Daniel". Dying. Food ranged from "bland and mushy" sweet potato falafel, to "juicy and flavourful chilli chicken", but she couldn't get past her irritation at the supposedly sustainable organisation serving everything in disposable (albeit compostible) containers.
Things then took a bad turn into morto-ville, when she realised that they were tipping everything into the same bin, and that it was also going into general refuse sacks, presumably destined for a general rubbish tip. She also comments on the "vague" provenance of the "Irish" ingredients, something we were told would be revealed in the coming weeks when we wrote about the opening here. Not sure what the logic is behind keeping that a secret. She says she's sure the food is healthy, but she's not sure the model of "insatiable global expansion" is. Read about her sadness-tinged lunch here.
In the Sunday Times, Ernie Whalley slates the food at new high-end Chinese The Old Post Office in Blackrock, saying it lacks authenticity, and calling it gutless and insipid. We're gagged from going into more detail but read it here. From what we've heard there may be another iteration of the same coming next week.
After Catherine Cleary's 9/10 two weeks ago in the Irish Times, Aimsir are back with another two knock out reviews, from Lucinda O'Sullivan in the Sunday Independent and Gillian Nelis in the Sunday Business Post. Lucinda says it's clear that head chef Jordan Bailey isn't after just one star, he's used to three, and she calls each course an "Instagrammable gem", with the artisan cutlery and tableware worthy of a separate article.
Standout dishes for her included milk skin rolls filled with mushrooms, Dublin Bay skate with with three-cornered leek and chicken butter sauce, and Achill mountain mutton shoulder, and she thought €105 for the tasting menu was "bargain basement" for the experience. She advises getting there fast before they get the stars (that's stars, plural) and the price trebles. (Review not currently online).
Very similar sentiments from Gillian, who said she thought it was going to be a pretentious nightmare, but found it "lovely", and far exceeding her expectations. Dishes ranged from the "really good to the sublime", with highlights including Drummond House asparagus grilled over turf, in a hazelnut miso paste with nettle and chamomile flower sauce, and the soda bread cooked with beef fat, black treacle and Guinness, with salty butter from Tipperary - "heaven". The wine list also gets a rare 5/5 from Tomas Clancy who calls it "impeccable". Read the review here.
Finally in the Irish Independent, Katy McGuinness was at Myrtle in London, the new restaurant from Dubliner and ex-Gordon Ramsay protégé Anna Haugh, finding the food "properly tasty", "impeccable" and at times "perfection". Her signature desserts including buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb jelly and cinnamon doughnuts were "immaculate", and although lunch felt expensive, she calls it "top-class cooking". Read that here.
More next week.